It’s been a couple of weeks since I ran into Camel Man’s Wife and begged for a fillet of camel to play with in the kitchen but to date they have yet to deliver. The camp dogs have done better, with the Camel Man’s Boys dropping off enormous sections of back bone at various places around the community for them to chew on. We had one little dog drag a stinking piece of hump fat at least twice his weight into the arts centre last week in an effort to keep it for his own exclusive pleasure. He was most indignant when promptly chased back out.
I have nevertheless managed to get my paws on a little bit of dromedary on the sly. A friendly sparky called Richard had been staying with the Camel People while working on various jobs around the community, including fixing our hot water system (we had endured over two weeks of luke warm showers). Over coffee one morning before the sun had much of a chance to warm the day he offered me some freshly dried camel jerky. Marinated in sweet chilli sauce and coriander seeds, it was among the most tender, tasty jerky I’ve eaten – and having lived in Namibia for a couple of years where biltong from all kinds of bush meat is a fav snack, I’ve tasted quite a bit. Nice work, Camel Man. I almost forgive you for being so tight about providing meat for the rest of us.
Ever wondered what a camel’s oesophagus looks like?
Despite the lack of camel there have been some other unusual menu items to get excited about. Roo tails are a favourite camping meat out here and can be purchased frozen at both the community store or road house for $7 a pop. Surprisingly there is considerable variety in the quality of tails – I am reliably informed by a long time connoisseur that the black ones sold at the road house are a little tough.
Roo tails are prepared in the manner described in my last post, by first singeing off most of the fur in the flame of a hot fire then wrapping them in silver foil and buried in hot coals. If silver foil is unavailable, they are just buried directly in the ashes. Silver foil is, I have come to appreciate, the single most important cooking aid for camp cooking other than matches. Almost everything cooked on the fire is wrapped in foil: roo tails, emu, damper, lamb chops, potatoes and bananas (that last one is my idea). The only exceptions are traditional bush meats such as tirnka and marku (witchetty grubs), that go straight into the ashes. (Forgetting the foil is an almost unforgivable act of negligence and results in grumpiness all round when a great meat meal is ruined by the presence of grit on the cooked flesh. Forgetting the salt is also a sin, and forgetting both will get you permanently labeled incompetent.)
On this particular trip I forgot the foil, but as the provider of both the tails and the salt was promptly forgiven. Lucky someone in the other car had some foil tucked away under a tarp in the back of his troupie. I turned up late, so most of the women had already taken off looking for tirnka. I was left with one of the older ladies and her ten year old grand daughter and promptly instructed to cook all the meat I had with me despite the fact the other women wouldn’t be back for hours. I was given responsibility for fur removal and handling the shovel but was under close supervision lest I create an unevenly cooked tail charcoaled one side and raw and hairy on the other.
Breaking out the foil …
Getting bossed around (note the crow bar – a multi-purpose tool that no bush woman can do without – in fact it was one of the first modern tools taken up by Aboriginal women out here – a welcome if some what less personal improvement to wooden digging sticks of old).
The final product. Served with salt and eaten dexterously with a sharp knife. The meat is stringy but tasty, the flavour coming mainly from the lovely sticky fat between each of the tail bones (think ox tail stew, without the stew).
Given that few readers of this blog are likely to be able to find themselves a tail down at the local supermarket (unless, of course, you are in Alice Springs), I instead present below a recipe for roo and bean stir fry, courtesy of my mate Matt, the handsome tradie from earlier entry. Not only handy with a hammer, Matt has proved himself a bit of a gourmet in the kitchen and recently whipped up the following dish while out camping. Note the only implements he had with him at the time was a pocket knife, a fry pan and a (hopefully washed) lid from a can of dog food bent into the shape of a spoon.
Matt’s Roo and Bean Stir Fry
Stir fry a fillet of kangaroo, cut into fine strips, with chilli, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Add some mushrooms, bacon and a tin of smoky barbeque baked beans.
Best eaten directly from the fry pan while sitting on your swag under a clear winter desert sky.
Pamela’s journey continues here.