OK so I have started exploring TI on the ‘company mountain bike’ (yes I get a company bike!). On my circuit of the island I have discovered a scattering of community gardens with chili bushes, lemongrass, paw paw, pineapple, some immature orange trees, watermelon, pumpkin and taro.
Thursday Island is a difficult place to have a garden – poor soils, prone to waterlogging in the wet and baking in the heat, not least of the challenges gardeners face. Local identity George Ernst, who has lived and worked in the Cape and Torres Strait region for many years, has developed a garden system that has proven to produce fruit, vegetables and flavourings and can be adapted to ornamentals, medicinals and other plants.
The ‘donut garden’ name extends from the round mound of mulch and compost that reduces weed growth, retains moisture and breaks down to provide food for the plants. The distinct shape and relatively small size, between 3 and 4 metres across, also helps to define these gardens.
One of the gardens is next to a rocky beach, where I spotted some other fellow foragers, small reef sharks patrolling a couple of metres from the shore. This area is called Quarantine Point and it is where Islanders slaughter the dugongs they hunt.
As the name suggests they are for anybody in the community, so I grabbed some fresh chilies and lemongrass to spice up my dinner.
It was dark by the time I got home and when I entered the house and turned on the light I realized I had picked up a tiny hitchhiker sitting on my arm.
He must have crawled out of the clump of lemon grass I picked.
I figured I had enough protein with the fish I caught recently off the pier. So the gecko got a reprieve from my skillet.
The fish is something mob here call ‘blackfish’ – apparently a tasty little morsel with poisonous spines on its dorsal fins. The only cure, I am told is to either piss on the wound or rub the fish’s liver on it – needless to say I was very careful to gut it.
So my new impromptu recipe:
Chilli and lemongrass blackfish
- couple of red chillies, finely chopped
- two lemongrass sticks, finely chopped
- a crushed garlic clove
- splash of Hoisin sauce
Fry the spices in oil, chuck in the Hoisin sauce and stir. Add fish, frying both sides till crispy and serve with the fried spices on top.
I’ve heard a great meal needs only four principle flavours to make it work, I guess its true.