Seasonal sides for a Festive Feast

Back by popular demand – Seasonal Sides for a festive feast; plus Gifts from the Garden.


Are you sweating it out in the Top End this festive season? Well come along and learn how to make the most out of local produce, growing now in gardens or in Darwin region farms and turn it into delicious seasonal sides and gifts from the garden for your festive feast…

The session will be lead by Emma Lupin of Taste of The Top End at Karama Primary School kitchen.

The session will go through delcious ingredients growing now and ideas how to use them and then you will get to prepare dishes in the workshop to share and taste. These will include healhy and tasty side salads and veggies, drinks, tasty root dishes and more. There will also be a session of creating home gifts from the garden using seasonal produce..

The cost is $20 ($15 concession)- bring this along. There are limited spaces. So book by emailing or phone 0448 214 716

Drinks ideas and more posts about the awesome content of this workshop coming soon……

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.

Wet Season salad mix

So for those of you that thought growing salad mix in the wet season just wasn’t happening, here is some inspiration… (maybe the wet season is what isn’t happening, so I don’t want to be too confusing, but hey you know what I mean, that humid sticky time of year that many plants don’t like, like rocket, that often it rains a lot and sometimes it doesn’t- that time of year- you can still grow these awesome greens!!)

Wet season leaves boardA while ago I always bought “interstate” salad mix in the wet season – things like rocket, baby spinach and baby kale. These and so much more grow well here in the dry season, but what about the wet?

Well I discovered with the help of a very good green grower (Aweganic Dan) that lots more leaves can be used as tasty greens in salads and lots of them grow in our wet season, in fact were my garden already!

Here are some wonderful and easily grown greens that grow all year and are great mixed together to make a salad mix or add into any delicious local salad…

From left to right-

Amaranth (purple)- Amaranthus sp. – Popularly grown as a grain. Great leaf, loved in Indonesia.

Amaranth (green)- Amaranthus sp.

Egyptian spinach or salad mellow- Corchorus olitorius Watch this one, it has popping seeds and comes up everywhere! Very popular in the Middle East (hence the name)

Kangkong (baby leaf)- Ipomea aquatica (TOP) Water spinach- loves a bath and thrives in the wet season. It is used in stir fries as a larger leaf or with the stem. From South East Asia.

Cosmos– Cosmos caudatus- (BOTTOM) A tropical cosmos, often planted as a companion plant or ornamental with pretty orangey flowers turing yellow, fresh and slightly bitter taste. Native to South America.

Purple Basil- Oscimum basilicum  (TOP) Basil- the easiest grown wet season herb in the world- adds a little floral zing to the salad, also can use Thai basil.

Sweet Leaf- Sauropus androgynus (BOTTOM) A wonderful bushy plant that is perennial and can be shaped into hedges. It has a sweet pea tasting leaf, grows easily from cuttings and is originally from SE Asia. It has high levels of Vitamin A, B and C. It is also cooked in Asia, but is so good raw I don’t know why you would- makes great pesto too!

Wild Pepper Leaf- Piper Sarmentosum (TOP) This is a great ground cover and certainly wild- it can take over if you don’t watch it. It is not the same species as the pepper used as spice (Piper nigrum, which grows more upright) and nor is it Betel leaf (Piper betel) although the leaves are very similar. This leaf, when young is great in salads and gives a fragrant peppery taste. It is also used to wrap food, as the leaves get large (4-5cm)  and can be added to rice for flavouring.

Young sweet potato leaf- Ipomoea batatas  (BOTTOM) is also really fantastic as an uncooked salad green- pick the youngest leaves, you will have heaps in the wet season.

And finally the flower of  Cosmos– Cosmos caudatus- petals can be used in salads and add coulour too!

Also you can use Gota Kola, Ceylon spinach and Brazilian Spinach

pesto omlete landsc 2

True Top End style- Buffalo Burger and breadfruit fries with banana ketchup

OK, so I haven’t posted for ages, a combination of not being able to think clearly through the heat and being busy cooking and working on GULP (Growing and Using local produce) Banana projects, community worshops and more!

We try and use as much local food as possible at home and during the wet season this often means a lot of ingredients lending themselves to curries and Asian dishes. Now personally I could eat curries everyday, but for some people (like my partner) that is a bit much and he prefers some more, lets say European style dishes like pizza and pasta, oh and burgers!

burger meal far

So to appease the wish for food diversity, I created a burger meal- as local as possibly. It was inspired by the banana festival (which I will be writing about) and becoming the keeper of a whole bunch of very ripe bananas which I wanted to make into something for later and decided Banana ketchup would be awesome, and then pondered what would to go with it!

The chips are made from Breadfruit (click here for more breadfruit info)  which is a tree fruit and used more like a root veggie- it is a very beautiful (but large) tree. The fruit is starchy and pretty damn tasty! These chips were from firm fruit, cut into wedge shapes and par boiled and then coated in oil and baked in the oven until soft with a golden crunchy coating. This makes them more healthy (and just as yummy) as frying.

Breadfruit chips

The burger is made from Buffalo that is very very free range- pretty much wild, from Gunbalanya station– just inside Arnhem Land, an indigenous enterprise assisted by The Indigenous Land Council and currently the only abattoir operating in the Top End. The burgers have been made at Fannie Bay butchers (A locally owned business at Fannie Bay shops).

The salad mix in the bun is a mixture of sweet leaf, Brazilian spinach, Thai basil, Pepper leaf and sweet potato leaf. There are some awesome greens to make up wet season garden grown salad mix.

burger close good

And finally the banana ketchup! Sounds crazy? Well apparently this became very popular in the Philippines, when there were many many bananas but a shortage of tomatoes! I rearranged a recipe that i found after tasting a version of this from a once only market stall at Rapid Creek Markets and thinking it was quite lovely! It involves onions, garlic, vinegar, honey, nutmeg, cloves and of course bananas and banana chillies. I will post the full recipe soon, so you can bottle your bananas or other local bananas before they disappear in the awfully unfair eradication. (more about that too soon)

There is a ciabatta  bread involved and yes we can’t grow wheat flour it is true, but the bread was made in Darwin and sold at Fannie Bay shops. I am trying to think of bread alternatives, and Kate has made a bread from Cassava, but a flat bread not a burger bun, so this may have to be from wheat style flour.

The obvious choice of beverage for this drink is a nice cold beer and luckily this is accompanied by some 99 home brew (locally brewed in Darwin, under our house using Alawa rain water from our roof), other beer ingredients obviously not from our roof- but hey the contents of beer is a lot lighter to transport without water!

jon eats burger bestThe meal went down very well and bits were saved for later in the locally grown beard!

Uplifting Tumeric tonic

Tumeric tonicWow, it has been so long since I last posted. I am now working with the conservation of our incredible native landscapes and seem to be quite absorbed in it! It is quite the fight in a place where the Government seems to be pushing their own growth agenda, with little community engagement or respect to our amazing environment. Anyway, that is all a bit depressing, so instead I will post an uplifting few posts and an uplifting health tonic!

Sophie and tumeric drinkThis health tonic was demonstrated by the fantastic Sophie Edwards, as part of GULP (Growing and Utilising Local Produce) back in the sustainable living festival and I have been making versions of it ever since…

Tumeric is amazing and has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is wonderful for settling an upset tummy. Interestingly, when served with black pepper the  bioavailability of curcumin – its active ingredient – is enhanced 1000 times.


It can also be very easily grown- it does prefer a sunny spot and plenty of water and really thrives in our wet season.

 So here it is-

1 tsp powdered turmeric or 2 Tbsp fresh grated turmeric
3 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
A handful of freshly cut lemongrass (2 Tbsp of dry lemongrass tea would work too)
1 tsp pepper corns
2 Litres boiling water

Place all ingredients in a large bowl or glass jug. Pour over boiling water and allow to seep until cool. You will end up with a rich tonic that you can then store in the fridge. To serve, add around 2 shots of tonic to 1 cup cold water or mineral water and squeeze in some fresh lemon or lime.

Also found on the recipe page here

tumeric sm


12 and a half ways to crack an egg (dish)

I am not sure if this is slightly inspired by Easter and conversations and traditions arising about eggs, but I have had the urge to share the wonderful things you can do with eggs. I personally did not grow up with egg traditions (or religion) at Easter, beyond hunting for chocolate eggs. My interpretation of these happenings is that in the northern hemisphere Easter and Spring coincide and Paegan or general celebrations of new beginnings entangled themselves with the story of Jesus, feasts, some rabbits and chocolate. Well whatever you believe, I believe it is always good to get together and share food- and that’s what we did! So back to eggs-

A bowl of eggsIt is so good to keep chickens and with some love, a good house, some perches , you can have protein converted from your veggie scraps and some extra grain and some furry friends that you know are treated well. I have written all about suburb chooks here- ..

There are no official commercial egg producers in the Darwin region (The Berry Spring Eggs are only packed there!) So they journey a long way if you don’t find a backyard grower or orchard producer. Greenie has eggs that work in a system fertilising his lime orchard, and you can do the same integrating poultry and fruit production !.

IMG_2536 Because we have 12 and a half chooks (one is bantam), of all colours and none are too old to lay, we get about 5-6 eggs a day (they produce less as they get older) and along with a lot of (not so local) grains and a hint of cheese and kangaroo, this is our main source of protein. So in honour of our 12 and a half chooks, I have come up with 12 and a half of the most simple and delicious ways to use an egg or two and I found a great stash of photos illustrating all of these-


1)   Boiled and then steeped in tea

Egg art feb- for webBoiled eggs go a really long way, but how about cracking then gently and then re- boiling them in tea and leaving them to cool and steep in the tea. This has amazing effect, adds a little tea hint to the eggs and is fun (and a little fiddly) These are known as Chinese Tea Eggs


2)   Boiled and then curried

Curried eggs 2There are so many variations of this, but one the best ways is with fresh chilies, ginger, garlic, sugar and tomatoes.

3)   Boiled and then added to awesome salads and sandwhiches

egg in wrapHow about this wrap- home made flat bread, and seasonal (this was dry season) roast veggies, like pumpkin tomatoes, heaps of herbs and a dash of spring onion- oh yeah!


4)   Boiled and then pickled

Pickled eggs best smThis is actually a huge tradition in the UK, where in every good traditional pub there and fish and chip shop there is a jar of pickled eggs. In the pub you have them in a bag of crisps (chips) with your pint. I love them and when we first got our chooks and had less dogs to share our eggs with we would pickle the excess. You can toast up pickling spices (star anise, pepper corns, all spice, cumin and coriander seeds) and then add to apple cider vinegar to be really flash. Put the cooled boiled eggs in , in a preserving jar and leave. The flavours and vinegar seep through to perfect pickling perfection after about 4 weeks. I was under the impression that pickled eggs could be pickled forever, but in Darwin where that noted ‘cool dry place’ is often hard to find I think 6 months could be the maximum for pickling. When I worked at Alawa Primary the students and I pickled eggs and then forgot them, a couple of years later, they had gone past their best and king of dissolved. Having said all this I highly recommend this amazing snack.

5)   Fried

fried eggWho can resist a fried egg, especially on a Sunday morning. My localizing suggestions are to add local garden greens, like Amaranth, cosmos leaf, Basil and many more depending on season. I have had home made baked beans made with Jackfruit seeds in tomato sauce, but these are not the ones in the picture and yes this fried egg has a funny form, it is fried just not too an oily crisp! Don’t forget the cup of tea- garden tea if you fancy.
 6) Poached

poached egg 2The more healthy option over frying, use vinegar or lime juice in the water and twirl it into a little vortex so that the egg stays together, it only takes a couple of minutes in boiling water until cooked enough and still retaining the dripping yolk. Don’t forget the garden greens and a splash of olive oil, lime juice and or soy sauce, chilli is also a great topping.

  And in the later dry season, with local tomatoes, garden basil and olive oil!

poached egg and tom on toast

6.5) Poached with hollandaise, served on splat- chat sweet potato

hollandaise 2This is one of my favourite decadent breakfasts. And below is a dish I served on Christmas day- a great day for a fancy breakfast, with champagne (must explain the slightly dodgy photo) Hollandaise is basically butter melted in a pan and then added to whisked egg yolks, which are whisked while being heated over the stove, then when it all becomes really thick and fluffy, lemon juice is added, along with pepper and salt. Its all very rich and involved heaps of eggs. The whites can then be used for meringues, or even Jon’s favourite- Whisky sours (a cocktail with egg whites, whisky and lemon!) which happened this day, as it was Christmas.

hollandaise christmasI used to make this dish all the time and serve the eggs on what is known as ‘Chat potatoes’ – Boiled potatoes, smashed or squashed flat, so some of the middle splats out, in an oven tray with olive oil, slat and herbs and then roasted. This is then the base for the eggs and topped with sauce. WE cannot of course grow potatoes, so our local root of choice for this is sweet potato. I got small (orange) ones and did the same and it was delicious and sweeter and yummier (but not quite as crispy) as with potatoes and I served it on wet season salad greens, including cosmos. You can also use steamed local spinaches (Ceylon, Brazilian etc) which is also fabulous and has some fancy name like “eggs Florentine’ but of course this is a sweet potato Tropical twist, so we need a new name, like eggs Darwinese…

7)   Scrambled eggs

scrambled eggsOk, so before we get into anything too fancy, the old classic, whisk all eggs in a bowl, and pour into a pan, move around, turn off while still not quite soild (in colour) and they will finish themselves off. The best local twist on this is to add heaps of home made garden basil pesto and herbs- yum!

8)   Frittatas

local food week frittataFrittata, possibly also known as Spanish omlete, and with a pastry bottom known as quiche. Basically eggy slice type thing, with yummy veggies. These can be made in the pan or oven. Fry, saute, roat or all the bits that go in (eg onion, spinach, pumpkin, eggplant, etc. Then iin the pan add in eggs whisked with milk and spices, add cheese if you wish and finish off in the grill, or pop the whole thing in the oven (in a baking dish) after pre sauteing all the ingredients. Alternatively grated veg can go in raw and will cook much faster because they are smaller.

Frittata warm 9)   Egg in Soup

Egg and loofa soup

Asian styley- add into clear broths, whisked first and allow to cook in soup, like this egg and loofa soup that the Burmese ladies taught us to cook through My Sister’s Kitchen and the GULP project.

10)  Asian omelette – thinly sliced

asian noodle saladEgg in stir-fry dishes or noodle salads. Whisk eggs with tamari and rice wine vinegar and cook thin simple Asian Omelettes, slice thin and add to stir-fries, noodle soups and even add to Sushi or rice paper rolls.

Rice Paper rolls

 11) Omelette

pesto omlete landsc 2Pretty much anything can go in omelettes, whisked eggs, in a pan over pre sautéed filling. Allow to cook through and then fold in half or roll. Below is a very simple pesto omelette with feta. Other fillings can be feta and spinach, roasted veg etc.

 12)  Crepes/ Pancakes

The simple crepeA batter of eggs, flour and milk is made, in different consistencies make crepes or pancakes- crepes poured thin, pancakes fat- sweet or savory! Your perfect opportunity to fill them with local fruit, below a simple crepe with Red Dhakka banana and local honey filling.

Below was an experiment for the local food challenge, using only local ingredients, so no flour. I used home made coconut milk and coconut fluff- it was quite rich but pretty good!

cocnut pancake fluff


12 and a half?) Don’t forget the mayo!

MayonaOk so we may have gone past 12 and a half already, but you can’t forget this classic and pretty easy to make. I am still perfecting getting this thick, but it is egg yolks, olive oil and lemon, whisk whisk whisk. Perfect with Cassava chips!


Bush Tucker (Super) smoothies

I recently wrote about the abundant Terminalia ferdinandianawhich is a wonderful commonly occurring tree in our Savanna woodland, that is fruiting right now. It is well known to contain really high amounts of vitamin C.

plums in hand 2 The Conservation Land Management Students, studying with Yvette at Greening Australia had been collecting the seed to save and propagate in the following year. Above one of her students, Aaron, from Belleyeune community, is showing the great fruit. (Thanks again for your hand modelling!).

Yvette had told me that Leonnie Norrington had suggested putting them in smoothies and they were really great. Well I set off collecting, to a very well laden tree, not too far from the airport stadiums, guided by my friend Cassi. I have eaten heaps of them, but never attempted to make anything with them, although great jams and sauces can be made.

Plums branch 2It is best to collect fallen fruit, so that you can be sure it is ready or shake the tree. The fruit should be just soft. I am not surprised it is made into powder form, as they don’t last very long at all out of the fridge.

Cassi plumsWe make a smoothie most days, not being very good in the morning, we make it the night before and then put it in a jar in the fridge for a great breakfast take away! Usually we put frozen or fresh bananas and pawpaws from the garden, mango, frozen if not in season, lime and some yoghurt, cinnamon, cardamon and occasionally some greens or psylum husk powder. It is such a wholesome drink, and even more healthy with added green plums. The fruit needs to be soft, and then you just de seed it and put in the whole fruit with skin into the blender. Because they are pretty sour I used it as my my lime replacement and it was pretty good.

Kakadu plum smoothie


The fruit will keep coming for a month or so, and I will try and keep collecting and hope next year the tree on my nature strip starts to fruit!

Kakadu plum leaf