Toad legs- the new delicacy in feral food?

toads in a heapIn the past the GULP team have discussed the various contents of the cook book that will emerge from this wonderful community based local food project.  We would like to set the book out to be produce focused and look at the ingredients that we grow, then from this the recipes are written, and include a ‘star rating’ of how local the recipe is overall. The subject that has arisen a lot, is if we should include meat. Aside from the fact a couple of the team are veggie, semi- veggie, we want the book to appeal to all tastes and reaslise and a lot of people do want to eat meat. The problem is at the moment in the Top End there is no abattoir and the Brahmin cattle that are run in the bush are  (sadly) live exported overseas.

 Many people keep chickens and we would like to include how you can kill and eat these. Many people catch fish and wonderful local fish and seafood is available, so we would love to include this and what ‘sustainable’ seafood is. From here though the two other sources of meat are wild hunted and road kill- unintentionally killed animals, native or not that can make good tucker. In the Territory and Top End there are many feral animals, buffalo, pigs, even goats and donkeys further towards Mataranka- all fair game for hunting and eating (OK- so you need permits, heck out the land you are on etc. but you get the drift). One feral animal that is often overlooked as something to end up on your plate is the cane toad.

Cane toads,  (Rhinella marina) formerly Bufo marinus, are native to South America and were introduced to Australia as another awesome idea at the time, but now disastrous for our biodiversity, introduced by Australian Government in 1935. The department of Sugar Experiment stations  was responsible, trying to keep the cane beetle under control in Queensland. Unfortunately these unfortunately ugly beasties went feral, covering the whole of Queensland by 1980 and reaching the NT in 1984 in South Kakadu, they made it to Darwin by 2004. There are reports that they are spreading further and further and studies show they are more numerous than ever before dispite various programs to stop their spreading and breeding and have just made it over the WA border. These ugly fellas parotid gland produces milky toxic secretion or poison that is dangerous to many species (bufotoxin) and kill other native species such as Northern Quolls, goannas, frogs and snakes. They outcompete other frogs and reptiles and are pretty detrimental to a lot of native animals.

So these guys are pretty easily disliked, adding to that is the fact they are dam ugly too, maybe it is their reputation that adds to the ugliness. People swerve to run over them, get them with spades, you name it, it’s kind of iconic or  ironic (especially in Queensland apparently)

Anyway friends of GULP live further from Darwin, outside Adelaide River and have always been keen on experimenting with the cooking of road kill, including snakes and wallabies and also had an interest in the use of these ugly toads as food.

 

Every year, at a wonderful ‘Fire Party’ social gathering that involves fire management- an early burn off in selected areas to protect later more intense fire, much great food is prepared and is often a bit of a focus. It is great to share food with friends. This year it was encouraged that meaty road kill or feral animals were prepared.Amongst the amazing dishes prepared were buffalo and wallaby stews and an array of toad dishes.

 

There are just so many cane toads it is mind boggling, but they are also surprisingly easy to catch. The most humane way reported is to catch them by the back legs and whip them into a dark airtight canoe bag and freeze them, you don’t want to stress them out, so after you have a few (they only have little legs) pop them in the freezer. After sufficiently frozen thaw these guys out. With a meat clever or sharp knife, cut off their legs.

toad leg cutting Because of the fact these creatures contain poison in their back (and skin) you want to skin them and avoid the upper body. Apparently the more stressed, the more the poison is dispersed, so give them the most calm end possible! Anyway we discarded the body and put it in a hot compost- great blood and bone! Then we skinned the legs- which is really easy.

leg skin one

Several recipes had been made with the GULP team, I tried marinating them in soy, garlic, ginger and chili. marinating legsAfter a couple of hours (in the fridge) I sautéed them in sesame oil and served them with heaps of local (Vietnamese coriander) and random salad greens, including sweet leaf and rosella leaves.

legs on plate

Other recipes include –

 

Salad of toad legs with Kang Kung and galangal (Cole)

8 toad legs with skins removed
4-5 knuckles of galangal, finely chopped
3 leaves of Thai coriander, finley chopped
2 large handfuls of kang kung, washed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
Splash of soy sauce
Salt and pepper to season

Method

Heat sesame seed oil in a wok on a medium heat.
Fry toad legs for a couple minutes, add galangal and coriander, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes stirring continuously.
Add kang kung and mix with plash of soy sauce until stems cooked.

 

Serve as an entre for 2 people or meal for 1.

Canapés of toad legs in garlic butter (Rod)

8 toad legs with skins removed

2 table spoons of butter
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh baguette sliced
Garlic chives, finely chopped

Method

Melt butter in a heavy based sauce pan and fry garlic until soften
Add toad legs and cook in butter until tender
Lightly toast the baguette
Serve two toad legs on a piece of baguette, drizzled with garlic butter and garnished with chives.

mmm on a platter

 

So guys, don’t just get out there and swerve for them or shovel these guys, if you are going to try some pest management, you might as well get some protein from this unwanted visitor. Just remember, allow them to have a quick death and treat them well, it isn’t their fault they were bought here!  Secondly don’t poison yourselves, be very careful with skins and dispose of the body in a closed compost bin, away from other animals.

la cane toad

Oh and what do they taste like- well a bit like gamey chicken.

 

Disclaimer- GULP and members of, take no responsibility for people licking toads, these are cooking suggestions and we are just sharing our story. If you try, well that’s up to you!

Cane toad licking

Catching Rain

As I am writing this the rain is once again pouring outside, and as promised from the last post I will write some useful information about how you can have even more rain in your life, by catching it. With so much rain, not many people do this and rely on damns, and strangely treated water or bores, and often like to then sprinkle this water over their driveway. To me this seems a little crazy as wonderful pure rain water, can be harvested straight from your roof and used there and then, or saved for a bit later when the rains have stopped.

Wet gardenOf course, as it doesn’t rain for a few months , it is hard to save enough to go through the whole dry season, but the less people relying on the mains supply, the smaller the dams have to be, or less need for more dams. As soon as a watercourse is changed like that in our landscape, it is changed forever. The hydrology of our greater landscape is complex and beautiful!

LagoonwarmerBore water is an alternative, but the more people and farmers using this leads the artesian basin drying up, and this basin feeds out somewhere, so there is always a knock on effect. And there are some pretty special places that rely on water not too far away!

Tree house 2Any how I don’t have to bang on about this, the rain falls on us, so with little infrastructure, we can use it right at our house. Fresh rainwater is so good to drink, no added chlorine, fluoride or other odd energy added , just rain and to shower in rain water feels so different, soft and wonderful!

courts and water


Nearly 3 years ago now we put in our rain tank. It is 25, 000 litres, green and plastic- manufactured in Humpty Doo by Practical Plastics. 3m tall, 3.8m wide, now priced at $3100 (at the time there was a moderate rebate, but it has since been scraped). I of course took ages weighing up the pros an cons of the different style and materials of rain water tanks, there were expensive steel ones, made far away and transported in, concrete ones, possibly made in the territory (concrete is not a very sustainable material though!) and the plastic ones made in Humpty Doo. The pros of the plastic one were it was locally made, easy to transport, long lasting, relatively inexpensive and the plastic is recyclable after use. The negative is that there is a chance that even though food grade solid plastic, it may after heat and time break down and seep in very small amounts into the water. Even though there maybe a chance in the 3 years we have had the tank there is absolutely no taste of plastic at all, and the tank is in a very shady protected position, so should last a long time.

raining tankWe bought a pump which maybe was just over $800, but I can’t recall exactly and Jon rigged this up with soft pipe to be able to plumb the washing machine and outdoor shower, that already drain into banana circles, which filter the water and further use it to irrigate the garden. The shower is in fact in a banana circle, surrounded by a bamboo screen and it seems like the best shower in the world! Another bonus is no bathroom cleaning, just bathroom mulching! To find more about banana circles click the link.

Jon sexy shower shotThe tank also goes to irrigation solenoids, so in times of patchy rain we can water the veggie garden with rain. As the dry sets in we slowly go back to mains water over several months, keeping the rain shower and a tap to fill up our little drinking tank as long as possible. Last year we still had rain in the tank when the next rains set in and so drank only rain all year!

Over the dry our ‘waste water’ still runs from upstairs and down into banana circle pits and keep a bit of moisture going on. We do not let kitchen water straight out, as you really need a grease trap.

Washing clothes

Our washing helps the bananas grow all year round- pretty awesome!

Next week we are very excited that at last we have saved and arranged for Mark (The little Plumber) at a very good rate, to come and rig up the upstairs plumbing to our kitchen sink, upstairs shower and toilet, so we can choose to have no mains water over the wet season!

rainwater jar

And a top totally local drink that beats them all- chilled fresh rain water from the roof, a slice of garden lime, herbs from the garden- Thai basil and mint and even a little slither of local cucumber. The best!

GULP project released!

Image

Our GULP information, in a flyerCheck out the website, face book page or contact us for more details!We starting spreading the word about the project at the food share for Eat Local, Feed Global, a fundraiser for Oxfam, hosted by the Mulch pit! Photos and more info coming up. So get in touch if you want to share your recipes with this community based local produce knowledge sharing project!

Permaculture Ukelele

A friend of mine, Charlie, who truly believes in permaculture, has raised money to produce a great rocking ukelele album all about the principles of permaculture.. He has performed some of these funky tunes at Woodford Folk Festival and The Eclipse festival. He is recording the album right now to spread the word. You can donate if you want, or buy the album later…  spreading the word through great tunes

Check it out- http://permaculturesongs.com/about/

Charlie

Waste of The Top End

So as much as organic and local food is the way to go, one of the most important things for us not to do is waste our beautiful food! It is estimated that the average Australian family throws away 20% of the food that they have bought! (ozharvest 2012) That is a lot of food, and that is just the waste at the very end of the supply chain. And I haven’t tracked down any firm stats but I guarantee it must be more up here in the sweaty Top End. We can minimise waste by buying local or growing our own which cuts on transport waste and outlet waste but keeping an eye on what is in the fridge and knowing how to use your left overs is the key!

To draw attention to this I have started a photographic project called “Waste of The Top End” it is fur-tography at its finest. So if you find any monsters in your fridge contact me and I’ll be there with my camera!! Some of the final shots will be on exhibition at CDU 26th October.

Recipe-  

Buy a few cucumbers with a delicious salad in mind, from the market- or better still grow them for 2 months, put the cucumbers in the veggie tray of the fridge

Leave the cucumbers in the veggie tray for a few days

Think about making the amazing cucumber salad, but go out somewhere instead/ make something else instead. Leave the cumbers in the veggie tray for a few more days

Forget about the cucumbers

Clean out the fridge and find the cucumbers at the bottom

Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with equally off sprouts, allow to stew in their juices. Enjoy with a glass of wine (white is recommended!, maybe a riesling)

Complement with a side dish of carrot, driven 3000kms, sold in a supermarket and then prepared with a similar technique to the cucumber dish, garnish with some slimy lettuce lingering in a refrigerated plastic bag…. ENJOY..

Below are well matured eggplants and snake beans… you can probably improvise the recipe by now, but don’t forget to add in the good intentions and then busyness for maximum results..

Check out lovefoodhatewaste….