Thursday Island: Happy Trails.
Life changing events (of the intentional kind – not the accidental variety) require guts and courage – a step into the unknown and a grappling with all that is new and scary. A recent move to the very top end of this big island, and here I’m not referring to Bruny Island, or even the ‘mainland’ of Tasmania, but that bigger bit – the rest of Australia, has seen Brunyfire’s boundaries extended when eldest offspring and family undertook a new job on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.
No sooner had Brunyfire and Co returned from their Sri Lankan sojourn, when we were off again.
A distance of 3657.3 kilometers (according to infoplease) is a long way to go for a drop in coffee (thank god for facebook) and so when Brunyfire and Co finally get to visit their youngest granddaughter, it’s an excuse as usual to celebrate through food.
From Bruny to Thursday requires a stop over in Cairns for the night, so for the best in local Aussie tucker, it had to be a chow down at the Ochre.The Ochre Restaurant specialises in fresh, seasonal, local produce, but what is particularly exciting, is the range of native game and bush food tucker available on the menu. The best value for money Aussie tucker tasting experience was a couple of Ochre’s tasting platters. We had the Australian Antipasto and the Seafood Compilation that gave us a good all round sense of place through taste. To start with………….……….wattle seed damper with local Queensland peanut oil and a native dukka. This was followed by the Australian Anitpasto platter – first taste of which was…..……….green ant ocean trout gravalax. Brunyfire was a little unsure of what actually constituted the green ants in this dish, but wherever they were, the overall effect was pretty tasty.
Apparently it is the abdomen of the Green Tee Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) that is edible. As a traditional source of bush tucker, it is high in vitamin C (it tastes like lime) and was used by indigenous Australians as a remedy for coughs, colds and fevers. Found throughout the World Heritage protected Tropical Rainforests of North Queensland, and in many top end local gardens.
(Image from edible insects).
Next on the platter was the lean white meat of crocodile in the form of deep fried, rather than steamed, wantons (in the foreground) – these particular crocs are farmed just south of Cairns. The wanton texture created a gratifying crunch – a satisfactory tactile sensation with the superstitious thought that by devouring some of these little suckers would provide a preemptive mantle in the event of meeting any live crocs on Thursday Island. Crocs are an occupational hazard for residents in the Torres Straits, ike this facsimile of one in the form of a metal wire sculpture from the 2013 Gabi Titui Indigenous Art Awards held recently on Thursday Island, created by Secondary School student, Wajo Weno from Horn Island who sees crocs on a daily basis.In the background, finger lime labnah with pepper leaf lavosh. An interesting combination here of the soft, velvety texture of the labnah (yoghurt cheese) with its sharp contrasting zing of the finger limes on the back of the tongue complemented by the crispy nature of the lavosh. Lime fingers (Citrus australasica) or known more recently in gourmet bush tucker terms as ‘lime caviar’ are high in vitamin C with the fresh vesicles from inside like little pearls, which when consumed, have the effect of tangy effervescent explosions of tart flavour.
Next on the agenda – emu carpaccio……… ………and finishing off the meat platter with juicy roo rumps with a Thai style green papaya salad.The Seafood Compilation comprised of ginger wild lime sauce oysters with bloody Mary pearls…………………..Pippi’s in coconut lemon myrtle tom yum, secret spice calamari and chilli lemon myrtle tiger prawns.Then to complete the meal, we just managed to squeeze in a Quandong creme brulee with hazelnut tuille. The result…..