• Explore holidays, Part 3

    Well the adventure was coming to an end, but not before I had a chance to learn more about our history of the indigenous people of Australia. Making my way back to Melbourne I learned about the history of a local aboriginal clan’s summer ritual and saw evidence of where a canoe was carved from.

    In Bainsdale, Victoria, Australia, I came across a “scarred tree”. This is a tree that was used by the Brabawooloong clan. Scarred trees were used to create objects such as canoes, shields, infant carriers, bowls and gunyahs (bark huts). Toe-holds were cut into the tree to enable them to climb high into the tree and also look for bee hives and possums as well.

    To remove the bark, Aboriginal people would use stone axes to cut an outline of the shape they wanted. The bark was then levered off in one big piece. If the bark ever broke or split it would be useless, so great skill and careful preparation was needed.

    Once the bark was removed it was then heated to allow it to be easily shaped.

    Unfortunately many of the scarred trees were destroyed after European occupation through land clearing, development and bushfires. I am happy that these trees are now protected.

    In the warmer months The Gunaikurnai people would migrate to the higher areas of the Great Dividing Range, Mount Hotham, the Bogong high plains and other areas in the Alpine region. The different clans in the Gunaikurnai tribe would gather here to coordinate marriage ceremonies, corroborees (an event to interact with the Dreamtime through dance, music and costume), to trade and feast on the Cori, the Bogong moth.

    The moth was a tasty treat full of protein. They would cook them in hot ashes, then remove the head and any remaining legs. The body and the wings were eaten whole.

    Maybe I can try this next time in nature’s wonderful bushcraft store!

    I hope I have inspired you to take an explore holiday, or even a gap adventure!

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  • Explore Holidays, Part 2

    As a continuation from my trip to Merimbula (part of my explore holidays) you would have thought I would have had enough of shellfish… but my appetite for bushtucker is insatiable!

    An explore holiday is the type of holiday where you are not just being a passive observer to the place you are visiting but actively searching and learning. So to continue to explore and learn was part of the fun.

    I took a couple of trips to collect mussels. One of these was at a beach in a place called Eden. I made an early start so I could dive for the mussels while it was still low tide, making the job much easier. I started at 8:30am and by 9:00am I had collected my limit of 50 mussels. I cooked them in an Italian pasta sauce, guided by my Italian friend Sam.

    Here is the recipe for Delicious Italian mussel pasta sauce:

    Put some olive oil in a pot along with some chopped garlic and onion and fresh lemon juice and the lemon peels. Add the mussels. Keep turning them over until they open. If there are any that don’t open, don’t force them to open, discard them. The mussels will release moisture while cooking.

    When they mussels open take them out of the shells and place them in a separate bowl. Keep the liquid that was released when the mussels were cooked. Strain this liquid as you will use this to cook the pasta in later.

    Sauté onion and garlic in another pot with olive oil. Add two cans of chopped tomatoes, about a tablespoon of vegetable stock and a teaspoon of sugar and cook on low till the sauce thickens, about 20 to 30 mins.

    Meanwhile cook the pasta in the left over stock from the mussels and add extra water, so you have enough liquid for the pasta to cook in.

    Add the mussels and fresh basil until the mussels heat through.

    Drain the pasta, add the sauce and top with parmesan cheese and some fresh basil.

    Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  • Explore holidays, Part 1

    On a recent visit back to my native Australia I had plenty of time to explore my country, its bushtucker and our indigenous history. I call them “explore holidays”. The types of holidays where you are not just being a passive observer to the place you are visiting, but actively searching and learning.

    My explore holiday took me to Merimbula in NSW. The bushtucker opportunities were great. One of my favourite ways to gather food in the wild is while I am snorkelling.

    My first food gathered was abalone. I love gathering them as it’s quite a challenge and adventure. First you have to locate them among all of the sea weed and they are very good at finding small crevices to hide in. When they sense danger, they suction hard onto the rocks, making it very challenging at times to pry them from the rocks.

    During my explore holiday I was lucky to meet Steve, a local who dives for abalone and collects cockles commercially. He was kind enough to take me out onto the local lake to show me where he collects the cockles. His haul was 200kg! Steve and his friend Brian send them to the markets in Melbourne and Sydney. Brian is Aboriginal and Steve spoke with admiration about Brian’s fishing skills. He told me how he can spot ripples in the water and know how many fish are there and the type of fish.

    Steve found a large mud oyster in the lake that was as big as my hand (although my hands are quite small, it was big nonetheless!) You can it eat raw, although it’s very strong and some people prefer to cook it. After trying a small part raw, I decided to follow Steve’s recommendation for cooking it.

    I tried to steam it open, although that didn’t really help. So I pried it open with my oyster knife. The size of the meat was outstanding, measuring about two inches long. I coated it in a beaten egg, rolled it in bread crumbs and deep fried it. The oyster was in the hot oil for only a few seconds before it looked ready. It was absolutely delicious with a bit of squeezed lemon over the top.

    I also tried the rock oysters while I was there. A nearby section of beach exposes a lovely expansive sand bar. At low tide I took a stroll over the rocky sections and noticed hundreds of oysters clinging to the exposed rocks. The next day I took my oyster knife, gloves and some lemon to have fresh oysters off the rock while admiring my beautiful surroundings.

    See my next blog entry for the recipe for a simple yet delicious Italian mussel pasta sauce and hear more about my explore holiday.

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