Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Western-style bush tucker

Story and photos David Hancock

Western-style bush tucker Sumptuous pink petals and huge circular leaves of the red lotus lily sway languidly in a morning breeze. Young Aboriginal people from nearby Daly River community wade through this exotic swamp, laughing and joking about crocodiles, leeches and water pythons.

The water is cool, but the stems of the water lilies are surprisingly thorny, tearing at my tender whitefella legs. In truth, there are no crocodiles - just a wicked joke by my companions. And the leeches and water pythons are few and far between.

We are collecting water lily stems, seed pods and looking for turtles much as Aboriginal people of the region have harvested them for thousands of years - by slowly wading through the swamp, picking off the stems and feeling with bare feet for a telltale bump or movement in the muddy bottom.

In an hour, the arms of the youngsters are full of water lilies and we have five long-necked turtles, so we head back to the community, 130km south-west of Darwin.

Western-style bush tuckerThe food has been collected for a special occasion - a graduation feast that combines western cookery and traditional bush tucker. Instead of being thrown on the fire and eaten out of the shell in a communal meal, the turtle is to be made into a delicious bullion and a turtle liver risotto with crispy turtle tripe.

The water lily stems will be part of a salad and the peanut-sized seeds of the lotus will make a garnish for freshwater prawns.

The dishes are the brainchild of master chef Steve Sunk, a lecturer at the Northern Territory University in Darwin. Story end

Full story: Issue 20, December 01 / January 02

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