Seasonal Side for a Tropical Christmas

So are you enjoying a sweaty or stormy Christmas in Darwin this year? I hope so..

I love Christmas here, it’s quite and you get to hang out with friends in the yard, in the bush, or the pool with friends, family, cocktails, beer or all of the above.

One thing that should be definitely on the menu is the sharing of some delicious dishes-  healthy and locally grown. I love that celebrations bring people together and whatever your religion, culture or origins this festive season should be celebrating friends, family, he wonderful place we live and of course the local produce we can grow (and eat).

I recently put together a workshop for “Healthy Darwin” of City of Darwin for Darwin residents and 20 participants came along to learn about what is in season around Christmas time, how you can grow it in urban spaces, or where to buy it AND how to make it into fantastic seasonal sides for Christmas (or just sweaty season) celebrations-

So here goes- (a short list, more pictures added later)

A yummy pimento pineapple salsa 

Pineapple salsa one

Great to accompany that fish you caught, any meat dish or on roasted local roots. Pineapples are ready around Christmas- so perfect! You can plant the top to grow more! Use local thai coriander and local peppers.

A raw pumpkin salad with snake beans and an Asian twist

Pumpkin salad grated

Jicama and watermelon salad

Jicama and watermelon salad

(watermelons are just hanging on around Christmas time)

This is a great crunchy and refreshing salad using the versatile jicama root and great local herbs.

A snake bean and butter bean salad with ginger, chilli, lemon and salt. 

Snake beans grow all year and make amazing dishes, including this one with local ginger and lemon (you can also use lime if you like)

Grilled Eggplant with a miso dressing

Another fabulous all year easily grown veggie with a great dressing and some sweet leaf thrown in.

An Amaranth salad with Coconut and Chilli sambal

Amaranth  and coco salad

JAckfruit nuts roasted with lime peel and sumac (or chilli powder)

Jackfruit nuts

Just following the above instructions and add any fab flavourings as you roast. If you have got these from your own jackfruit you make a great fruit salad or juice from the fruit too.

Mango and cucumber salad (with mint and chilli of course)

mango smaller.jpg

You have to add mangoes to as much as possible as this is their time to shine and mango madness rules.

And some drink ideas

Rambutan and Thai basic tonic with a hint of ginger

Rambu thai


Rambu top 2

Lemongrass, ginger, honey and mint iced tea

Chilled grapefruit, lime and cucumber water.

Starfruit spritzer with mint.

Mango and lime smoothies

Hibiscus, lime and honey tea.

Chilled rosella refresher


Pickled fish- Darwin deviants of Namas

So Namas, nummus, or pickled fish is a bit of a Darwin classic and many people have their favourite recipe. In Darwin its origins seem to come from SE Asia or Japan and is another great influence into Darwin cuisine.

Well I don’t eat fish too often, and only if it is caught by a friend or local fisherman, as I also like to keep a lot of fish in the seas, but man this has to be my favourite dishes and I keep it for special occasions- like Christmas and birthdays!

This is also called Ika Mata, Kokonda (Fiji), Poison Cru (Tahiti and surrounds) and Ceviche in South America. I first came accross it in the PAcific Islands when I worked cooking on sailing boats and it came drenched in coconut milk- I loved it. I have since adapted a Darwin version with pawpaw, cucumber, mint and onion in.

Earlier this year a very talented Ashleigh, a travel food and blogger stayed with us and was more into cooking and photographing our local produce than I have been and it was also her favourite dish- so we had a pickled fish “namas off” for a twist on  this Territory favourite. We tried to make as many of the plant ingredients as local as possible.

all namas 3

I am inspired to write about it as I am just about to run a cooking class in Darwin “Season sides for a Tropical Christmas” and couldn’t go without including this indulgent gem. We also came up with 4 different local roots to accompany and styled it all in the backyard!

namas all oo

So in Ash’s words- “Here are just some ideas for the endless flavour combinations for pickled fish. So many cultures and countries around the world have their own versions, and it’s so easy to make up your own using your favourite flavour combinations and the accompaniments are also exciting. It’s all about the balance between the acidity of whatever you use to pickle the fish, along with some fresh elements, some sweetness, heat, spice, salt, and a yummy side.”

All namas 2

Basically the fish is cooked in limed juice or vinegar or a combo or both, so raw but marinated- the acidity “cooks” it. It changes white in colour but stays firm, then the iquid is drained off. I have always covered the fish with lime juice or vinegar for a few hours, but it can be perfectly cooked through- if you leave it too long it will start to fall apart. Fresh fish is best and a firm fish like Jew fish-

Soy, ginger and coriander- Darwin classic

served with Breadfruit wedges 

Soy namas

Marinated with half white vinegar, half lime juice

Combine- Sugar, Garlic Chives, Ginger, Coriander, Chilli, Spring onion, Salt and Pepper

Coconut and Lime served with a pineapple salsa-

served with Taro cakes

Coconut namas

Marinated with- lime juice

Combine-  Coconut Cream, Chilli, Coriander, Sugar, Salt and Pepper

Salsa- Pineapple/Mango/Avocado, capsicum, red onion, chilli, lime juice, salt and pepper

Coriander, onion and chilli-  South American style

with a side of tortillas

Soth American for real namas

Marinate with lime juice


Red Onion, Chilli, Coriander, Tomato, Salt and Pepper

Mango, cumber and mint

with a side of cassava wedges

Pawpaw cucumber namas

Marinated with lime juice


Papaya, Cucumber, Mint, Chilli, Coriander, Red Onion, Salt and Pepper

All Namas 4

What an addition to a seasonal feast- and using practically 100% local ingredients, including friend caught fish and garden produce.

Open GArden at Lakeside Drive Community Garden

There are some wonderful community gardens around Darwin where you can meet knowledgeable people who grow veggies during the whole year and value community.

This Sunday Lakeside Drive Community Garden is hosting an Open Garden.

Anyone is invited to come along and check out the garden, meet members, work for the dole participants and express their interest in joining.

Some cultural poles have been placed in the garden by the City of Darwin Council and there will be an opening ceremony too.

There are some plots that will be made available to the community and if you are interested you can register.and find out more about how to get involved.

There will be garden tours, a quick snapshot of what to grow in the wet season and some local garden tea making demos by the GULP project.

So please come along