I’m in lovely Warakurna community at the moment, located at the base of the Rawlinson Ranges in Western Australia. The remote Giles weather station, located just up the road, was built in 1956 and was the first permanent colonial occupation of the area for hundreds of kilometres in any direction. Many older people living at Warakurna now were children at the time, their families living independent existences centred around the myriad of rock holes and hunting grounds scattered throughout the ranges.
By virtue of its tenure as a piece of Western Australian Aboriginal reserve excised by the Commonwealth government fifty years ago, the weather station is the only place in the entire Ngaanyatjarra Lands where alcohol can legally be consumed, and officially only by the station’s six employees. Have I considered dropping into the weather station to say hi and flashing my big blue eyes in the hope of a cold one? Not for a moment. My research permit is far too valuable. Luckily for us, Coopers make a convincing birell (brewed without alcohol) that tastes great straight out of the freezer. While barbecuing steaks over our fire pit on Saturday night, for a brief moment I almost forgot it wasn’t the real thing.
With some time on my hands over Easter, some of the ladies organised to go out hunting for tirnka (little goannas). Armed with crowbars as digging sticks and billy cans as shovels, 8 women and 2 dogs packed into a troopie and made our way to tirnka country.
We wandered through the bush for a couple of hours, stopping to dig at holes where there was evidence of recent action. It was a very successful hunt in the end, with eleven (!) tirnka bagged. We made a fire, sat down with a cup of tea and proceeded to cook up the catch. The preparation process involves removing gut then burning off the skin in the open flame for a couple of minutes. The lizards are then buried in coals and left to cook for about twenty minutes. The cooked flesh is delicious – pale white, smooth and tasty –hints of chicken (!) and fish and just a little bit smoky. No salt required. We got back to town on dusk, the ladies subsequently missing the Easter Sunday prayer meeting and making me three hours late for a sausage sizzle being hosted by the neighbours. Not good manners, but at the end of the day I think we were all where we really wanted to be.
One of the ladies left this little fella on her handbag on the dashboard while she continued hunting:
The meals I’ve been cooking for myself and the occasional guest in the donger have been far less exotic but nevertheless delicious. I’m very excited to present my first blog recipe below: creamy corn fritters. The recipe comes courtesy of Ed, who prepared them on this occasion and who has spent a great deal of her four years living in Warakurna devising new ways to make tin foodstuffs interesting. She insists that the cream corn is the magic ingredient in this mix – without it, the fritters have trouble hanging together.
Creamy Corn Fritters
1 tin corn kernels
1 tin creamed corn
½ cup self-raising flour, but might need to add more depending on consistency of batter
a little bit of milk
1 onion, finely diced
Garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
A handful of fresh coriander (an option only available if you’ve been food shopping in Alice Springs recently)
Fold mixture together until dry ingredients are wet. Make sure batter is thick. Don’t over mix. Fry over medium heat until cooked through and golden brown. Serve hot and drizzled with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and a spoonful of home-made tomato relish on the side (in this instance made by Waikerie “Cobwebs” ladies). Best appreciated in the company of a handsome, hungry tradesman.