IMBB6 Dam and Lambnation – Yabbies and Chops over Mallee Roots

Whitefellah makes a big fire…

This IMBB6 turned from bewdy to bugger within the shakes of a dog’s hind leg.

Aussies and barbies. Australian’s use of fire predates Prometheus. We travel the world telling people it is our food. Visiting Presidents are hosted at them.

But

the

truth

is

we

suck.

We don’t grill or barbecue, we pan-fry outdoors. Recent immobility combined with an ancient tradition of bushfires have meant you’ve as much chance seeing a burning bit of wood as a Landcruiser with mud on it. Prophylactic hotplates were the start, then the wood got replaced by gas, and then the a grill was placed over the gas as a nod to progress, wood shavings sit in the shop waiting for a few obsessives. Haven’t seen a Weber outside of a garage sale in years. True, things have advanced since the dark days of “the barbie pack” (sawdusty sausage, a pounded steak, and a chop that would be cooked to carbon), but only because somebody was bullied into buying a bit of fish by a TV show or a glossy mag. I’m 35 and my smell memory tells me it was different once, did I have tears at BBQs because of a sookier childhood or was there something else?

A clue was found in the Culinaria France with racks of snails and meat over glowing bits of wood. That was it, if the French could do it, then so could I. All I needed was a place on the fringes, away from the prying eyes of civillisation, where the nearest law was 30 miles away. I picked up the phone, asked the operator to put me through to Mick (yeah yeah little Tony, no, no, yes, not yet, maybe one day)…Dad, I’m coming up to Munty. Can you sort me out for some meat and wood?

Getting

EAST! Over the hills, the shops vanished, the earth flattened, people waved when they saw another car. Fresh road kill offered opportunies but did I want us to be known over the world as a land of Skippy munchers?

Three hours – radio was fuzzy and all talk, iPod on its fifth cycle, just one last dead straight stretch and I’d be there. My Dad wasn’t – forced North to tend his sheep. Instead, I met Gavin – giant of a man, from Corrigin. He’d help me get local food. His wife, Sally, had cooked on fire as a girl. Their daughter, not used to strangers, clung tight to her Mum.

The lamb was waiting for me in the freezer. Chops of on-site born, saltbush fed and dispatched Dorper. South African, rather than the traditional Spanish Merino. Inspired and latitudinally consistent, I bought an LP sized spiral of Boerewor sausages at Mondo Di Carne.

.

Yabbies, freshwater prawns/crayfish/lobster, were left to chance. With over a dozen dams spread over 15,000 acres, four traps, and yabbies in at least one of them – it’s your classic pea and thimble. That done, I went to the pub where, as an outsider, I was allowed to have full-strength beer on the condition that I told no-none and gave none away. The years meant no-one recognised me but I did stupidly show someone my licence – they laughed and said last we heard of Anthony Georgeff he’d run off to Asia. I laughed too and then went home to bed, hoping.

I needn’t have worried, second dam. Bingo! Not many, but big buggers said Gavin – I took his photo with them.

Third dam, a dozen more.

Next, the wood. Mallee roots were gnarly before skateboarders had even begun to tire of the word. They sit on the edge of paddocks, the trapped souls of land clearing, waiting to be released. A few Jam tree branches and that was done.

The final job was to make the racks. I drove up to the farm tip. Rumour has it that somwhere, under that huge pile of agricultural detrius, lie my Dead Kennedy albums – who knows. I salvaged some old oven racks and wire and that finished the getting.

Ignition

I piled the wood, and then lit like all Aussies once did – a quart of petrol and a match. Shifted the jerry can and the ute and left it to reduce to coals and went back in to the kitchen.

Prep

The lamb chops were briefly marinated in olive oil pulverised with garlic. Sausage – just oil. Aoli made to have with the yabbies. The yabbies were sent to sleep in the freezer before removing their heads. Knife ready for the ikijimi at the slightest wriggle. Pooh tube removed with a twist of the middle tail and a yank. Tails in a bowl with some more olive oil. The oil was really just to prevent sticking. Nothing fancy – wanted to keep the number of flavour variables low.

Womenfolk prepared the vegetables while I chucked more wood on the the fire.

Back for the final prep. Placed the sausage on a rack, surrounded it with chops, placed the other rack on top and wired it up with fencing wire and a few twists with some pliers. Yabbies placed on one half of mesh, folded the other half over and wired that shut too.

Time for a beer and a think. This was rooted. How could the chops and sausages have the same cooking time? How would I control the temperature? What if someone wanted theirs well done? Who’d want yabbies coated in ash? F**k ’em, I’d done worse, much worse.

Cooking

First on were the veges in the camp oven. Coals underneath and on top.

Next a few bricks and the meat rack on top. Yep, yep and fhoooooof – up went the dripping oil and fat. Shit, shit – do I get water, can I start it again, did we even get any water this year? I looked for help – we grabbed more bricks. Up another level, the fire settled down. A bit of shovel work let me decrease and redistribute the heat. Chuck a glass of wine in the camp oven. Then we flipped the whole thing over. On went the yabbies, they were quick and the shells could go on the coals. Four minutes tops. Off they came. A little longer and a little faster and off came the meat.

That underutilised kitchen utensil, the bolt cutter, opened it all up.

Eating

I sliced the sausage up like a pizza. I popped a bit in my mouth. It was a little charred on one side but the centre was cooked through. I grabbed a few more bits – it was magnificent. I ditched my planned apology.

Defying my fears, the lamb chops had cooked perfectly – just ever so slightly rare and very juicy. The yabbies peeled easily and were done through – the shell imparted some sweetness and the muddiness had gone. Only the camp oven veges, neglected in all the hullaballoo, were overdone.

We left the cutlery on the table, and sat around the fire, eating silently, working through some red wine (some more than others), and chucking in the empty shells in the fire. I went back for more, but the cold had sucked the life out of the meat, it was the briefest of pleasures. Instead we continued our way through some bottles of red, keeping warm by the fire and laughing at those who tripped over in the darkness.

The fire was at my feet, the universe at my head.

Did you know the dark patches in the Milky Way are an emu? True.

17 comments

  1. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    Wonderful post. I’ve never had yabbies, but I was told that they are very nice. Love the sausage and lamb bit. Glad you got to make this, even though you had to drive really far to do so….

  2. Anonymous’s avatar

    Yeah, that’s dedication. I like the vague ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ feel of the first half especially.

  3. Santos’s avatar

    *great* post. why do i hear drums?

  4. Anthony’s avatar

    Reid,
    Cheers – almost didn’t thanks to a dodgy alternator. Yabbies are pretty good but you don’t want to see the water they’re in. Only a 200mile drive – a mere commute over here.

    Mark,
    I’m sure Dr Thompson would have been very impressed with my Swedish wagon and carton of beer : )

    Santos
    When drums stop………….guitar solo start.

  5. Andy’s avatar

    wonderful post
    reminds of my childhood when we used to catch yabbies with a ox heart tied to a piece of string, then they were boiled up in an old wood fired copper. Are these the same yabbies as we have over here or are the WA marron (not sure about the spelling)?

  6. Anthony’s avatar

    Andy

    Beautiful memory of yours. Great fun as a kid, shame the time and motion experts took over. Used to practice hypnotising them by rubbing their backs.

    Marron are bigger and sweeter and are, in my opinion, better than crayfish. Our dam of them got cleaned out.

  7. Jeanne’s avatar

    Anthony, my son, as far as you are concerned, I take back everything I say in my IMBB6 post http://cooksister.typepad.com/cook_sister/2004/07/imbb_6_stuffed_.html about Aussies and barbecues. (However, I stand by them as far as the rest of the nation goes!!)

    That sounds truly magnificent – brings back childhood memories of barbecues on the beach with boerewors, chops and fresh mussels off the rocks, boiled in seawater and then done with garlic butter on the half shell on a grill, in a land where you could actually see stars. I’ll make you a deal – you can come to our next braai if we can come to your next barbie??

    And I am very impressed with your almost wall-to-wall South African ingredients. I must admit, somewhere around the middle there I was beginning to hum “Awimoweh, awimoweh, awimoweh, awimoweh” etc etc… In the outback, the mighty outback the emu sleeps tonight?

  8. Anthony’s avatar

    Oi how *dare* you insult our nation by saying the valuable info our ex-pats provide on BBQs is “not doing anything”. Cook sister!: IMBB 6 – Stuffed beef fillet on the braai – essential reading on meat and fire.
    Aussies are masters at stealing food from other countries and I’m pretty happy for it.
    It’s a done deal on the braai trade and those lyrics are copyrighted you know.

  9. Santos’s avatar

    damn straight about that song being copyrighted. a friend of mine *sub*titled a song with a similar title and still had to shell out the rands….

  10. Anonymous’s avatar

    Marvellous. This is how and what citystuck folk like myself wish we were able to cook. I will hopefully be bagging a few aquatic munchies myself in the Shetland Islands in the near future. Hopefully the gods of IMBB7 mean I can spin them into suitable posting fodder then. Keep it up.

    pieman
    http://www.noodlepie.com

  11. Anthony’s avatar

    As long as it’s nothing with ponies… we on the other side of the fence miss the exotica. Hope you’re feeling better and a safe trip to the Shetland Isles.

  12. Anonymous’s avatar

    That was a very fine post Mr g, and it has cheered me up before a frantic week.

    it’s david t. by the way…

  13. Anthony’s avatar

    It’s a good thing to hear, good luck with the frantic week, and thanks for the link – the doorway from your site has been swinging like the proverbial dunny door.

  14. language-school’s avatar

    Good job.

  15. Anonymous’s avatar

    Mate, I live in Mallee, Lamb and Yabby country. Yet I have still got to do at least 200 Km round trip to get the Wood the Yabbies and the Lamb together.
    Mallee roots are becoming hard to find lying about for the emu-bobbing. Every bit of Mallee that could have been cleared has been.
    Yabbies are not so abundant as they used to be and I blame the chemicals in the water.
    As for saltbush fed lamb, the buggers have overstocked and killed all the saltbush, planted introduced weeds…

  16. Bryannan’s avatar

    great job keep it up

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