Preparations for the Food Challenge

So this week is the local food challenge, and a few if us in Darwin have signed up (or not and are doing it anyway) and we are challenging ourselves to eat more local food than ever. For some, like Jon, that is all of his Fresh Fruit and veggies are from less than 100 miles away (100 mile trial), others are just trying a local ingredient into each meal, and Dan is trying to eat all fresh food from walking distance away! Pretty impressive.

Coconuts yeah

Muni, Kate and I have gone for the ultimate challenge, as if marooned on a 100km island incorporating Darwin and surrounds! You never know this could happen one day and we will be the survivalists! So no food will be eaten from further away this week, as a test of what the area has on offer and our creative culinary skills. Now this may sound pretty simple coming from us local food lovers, and most, well over 50% of our veggies and fresh food at this time of year are from our gardens or the market- but there are some things that are pretty tricky. To be honest July to September is the best time for produce, with the addition of all the Mediterranean veggies like tomatoes and zucchini, but hey it is supposed to be a “challenge”  In Darwin there is no abattoir, so only home kill chicken or whatever is found around in that sense and sadly Beatrice Buffalo amazing cheeses are not being produced right now, as she is giving the buffalos a rest- so no dairy either! I love grains, lentils, quinoa, cous cous, brown rice and use flour to make doughs and sometimes pasta- but none of those are produced within 100 miles (more like 2500 miles- Tassie/ South Australia). There is wild rice, but it would take a lot to make a meal. So- what about seeds and nuts, I love a sprinkle of muesli on my fruit, or nuts and seeds in salads. But no, they are from far too. No sesame seeds in the stir fry! No soy sauce even. Uh oh! And black tea and coffee, I haven’t seen that growing around here or chocolate. I bet we could grow cocoa- but don’t know of any!!! Jack fruit nuts are a great source of protein, but right now we have none on our tree, I don’t know anyone with any and there were none at the market….

Yup it brings it all home we are quite remote, and that is beautiful and why living here is so special, we have some amazing bush and incredible landscapes, and we are not at all suggesting we should should sacrifice this for large scale food production (take note Tony Abbot- especially not for export to Asia!!) In small market gardens and our own yards in balance with native plants we can produce some amazing tropical treats- so coming up what can we live on…and yes it involves the amazing staple of the islands- the coconut!!!


Eggplant Abundance

eggplant bowlThis versatile fruit, is a wonderful vegetable (yes it is a fruit technically and a vegetable in the culinary sense) coming in all different shapes and sizes, appropriate for different creations. As they grow all year, I have come to know and love them and cook them a thousand different ways. Even at Alawa Primary School we popped them in everything and the kids loved them- grilled eggplant and mozzarella pizza, baba ganoush, curried eggplant, baked eggplant and home made pasta… ahhh the list goes on. The dish below is one of my favourites, go to Recipes tab for the secret behind this great dish, first made by Karen Cieri for Taste of The Top End Platters at last year’s Sustainability festival..javanese2

Bread Fruit and The Pitcairn story

Bread fruit is an amazing fruit, with an amazing story!

In preparation for our local food week, I have been on the look out for great ingredients in place of rice, pastas and stuff like that. I saw heaps of bread fruit at Rapid Creek Markets on Sunday and was reminded of this great story and some great recipes. I haven’t cooked with it much in Darwin, it is not always at the market, but someone has a loaded tree right now! . And wow it is delicious.

Pitcairn Island 006I was lucky enough to sail to, and hang out on Pitcairn Island- a small and remote rocky island, home to real story of the mutiny on the Bounty- which was transporting heaps of bread fruit and bread fruit plants, from the orient, to the Caribbean to be a staple, like bread, for the slaves there (in 1790). This incredible fruit never made it there on that occasion, because, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean the crew of the ship got pretty over the Captain and sent him over board in a small boat and took control of the ship!


They picked up some ladies in Tahiti and headed off into the sunset, until they landed on an uninhabited rocky island and made it home, and garden to plenty of Breadfruit (and sank their ship, so as not to be found). Above is our ship- The Soren Larsen, on which I was cook and deckhand on this incredible journey.

The whole Pitcairn story is also a bit rocky and colourful ,some deadly fights and some community making. Once the mutineers and their offspring made contact, the island became a bit of a stop off for sailing boats and food was traded, which was grown on this now garden island. The British Navy was impressed when they eventually visited  and did not arrest the last remaining mutineer and left them all to it. It really is like a garden Oasis. There were ups and downs and the story is long.

When we sailed here only 52 people remained (this is 6 years ago). We were taken out bread fruit hunting! The trees are huge beautiful trees, often too tall to climb (well bullets are cheap enough!) and the bread fruit are shot on the stem by one person, while another goes under the fruit and catches it in a net! The greatest harvesting I have seen.

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The photos above show banana leaves, and the bread fruit shooting (by the way- Breadfruit is a lot taller and a bit out of the photos!) Also pictured is the ship, Soren Larsen, I worked on for a year as cook and deckhand and learnt some of my tropical cooking skills. On Pitcairn we stayed with one of the Christian families, Carol and her children, who we stayed with and who took us some wanders, we also checked out the plant nursery, growing natives to replant, a funded initiative. We also had a wild ocean side bath. There is no airport or even sealed road on this random rockiness,  islanders sell cook books and stamps and other nick-nacks online and to passersby and they have 1000 recipes for bread fruit..

.. so back to bread fruit (Atrocarpus utilus) closely related to a Jack fruit. A tree, too big to plant in a suburban yard really, but a wonderful tree and very useful fruits. IMG_1295The flesh is rich a creamy, better than a potato I reckon. Cut off the skin and cut out the very core.  We made bread fruit chips and then “boil – up”, bread fruit, boiled till tender, then added to coconut milk (home made of course!) with onion, chili, garlic, local herbs, salt and pepper. A bit of a Caribbean classic! I added zinnia petals for a splash of colour… these  are edible.IMG_1366

These bread fruit chips were pre boiled then roasted in the oven in sun flower oil, a great side with home made mayo..

IMG_1388For more info on Pacific and tall ship sailing and the Soren Larsen visit

Guava rama!


IMG_0555Guava- (Psidium guajava) is growing right here in the top end, right now and throughout the year. This fruit is from a small tree/ large bush with shiny leaves. The fruit is sweet and has a soft inner yummy part, which is  a bright pink colour. Guavas grow in the tropical and sub tropics. They can be enjoyed, just like that- sucked out from the skin, as a jam, in salads or with cheese, like ricotta and balsamic vinegar, or with a dash of soy and lime. How about a guava, walnut and local buffalo ricotta salad with mint and balsamic- Sounds good and guavas are also high in vitamins A and D




A friend told me about this great network about eating local and sustainably. It is not based in the NT, but is a national organisation and has a great website. The local harvest challenge is between 1st and 7th April and is a wonderful idea that is promoted through Local Harvest and challenges you to eat locally and sustainably, or even more than usual during that week, if you already try. It may seem easy, but especially here in Darwin, some people may never eat a local ingredient, others may eat a few. We try and eat mostly local produce, but this time of year even that can be a challenge as there are so many other options that sometimes seem easier. I might try out the totally local challenge. Have a look below and think about joining up to a Darwin group, at whatever level challenge you fancy.


The different levels are

  • Bite-sized challengeChoose one thing for each day (7 things)
  • Meal-sized challengeChoose two or more things for each day (14+ things)
  • Feast-sized challengeCommit to eat only locally and sustainably produced food during the week.

These challenges go along with other options or commitments you can make for the week. With 100% of our dry goods coming from 1000s of kms away, the feast size challenge is really thought provoking.

To take this challenge really will underline our issues of food security {and how we would survive with out long distance freight), but also hopefully provoke great innovation and be lots of fun. I have started a group “Food Care NT” that any folks up for the challenge can join. This is affiliated with the group Food Care, which holds local food get togethers and backyard workshops in Darwin to let people share ideas. this group will be holding workshops, before the week to get ready and share ideas to stock pile and make ingredients- like coconut oil and home grown mung beans and after the event to swap experiences and recipes. The challenge is at various levels, if you don’t fancy the extreme, go for bite sized, and if you want to find about the workshops contact  and write about what you are thinking of doing in your week!!

As I said usually we try and eat mostly local fresh produce, but this is more challenging during the wet season, when I miss tomatoes and such things!  I can’t really imagine a week without olive oil or black pepper, now we could give growing pepper a crack, maybe not in 4 weeks though, but olives!!! So what would we use for oil- and protein or pulses?? Some Road Kill maybe,,,,, ohhh the ideas are coming..we can do it!

sign up under group Food Care NT