Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kangaroos are friends... AND food!

Let me start off here by reiterating how kind and generous most Australians are. One of my mom's students, Jodie, and her husband Drew, showed us great generosity and hospitality, even though they only knew us for a couple of weeks. Drew offered to take Patrick and I kangaroo hunting one weekend with him and his son. Of course, we accepted.

He picked us up at about 3 pm on a Saturday, a few days after my birthday, and we drove about an hour out of town to a pine tree farm called Alaska. Drew knows the owner and has permission to go hunting there. We parked in a clearing, slung a couple rifles over our shoulders and started walking. You walk to hunt kangaroo, not sit and wait like hunting deer. We walked around 5 kilometers and spotted about a dozen kangaroo, but they were all hopping away through the trees, making it too difficult to get a shot at. Here's the ironic part - just as we were coming back to the car to take a break and get a drink, we spotted a mob of them right in the clearing where we parked. Patrick, Jacob and I hung back a bit while Drew crept close enough to get three shots off, two of which hit their mark. There was one more still hanging around as we all walked closer, and Patrick got to take a shot at it, but missed. We cut their necks to let them bleed out and had a cup of tea while we waited, then butchered them and packed the meat in a cooler. By that time we still had a good hour and a half before the sun went down, so Drew let us have some target practice at some pine cones and a cow skull. We got plenty of meat from the two, so we got to keep some, which I cooked later at the alpaca farm.

The best part of all that, I think, was getting to add another animal to my list of "have-seen's". While walking through the trees, trying to be quiet and keeping both eyes up and open looking for a good shot, Drew suddenly shouted 'Tiger snake!'. I was walking just ahead of the rest of them, so I first looked back to them, then to where they were pointing, at the ground only three or four feet to my right. The snake was maybe a little over a meter long, with black scales and a bright, vivid orange belly. A beautiful creature, really. It's too bad that one bite can inject enough venom to kill ten grown men.

Did I mention the generosity of Australians? Drew and Jodie invited the three of us to come to lunch and snorkeling with them the next day at a little-known spot right on the ocean. Drew, a professional chef, cooked an excellent kangaroo curry for lunch, and Jodie baked an apple pie for dessert.

There was no sandy beach at North point, the snorkeling spot, only boulders and masses of rock that gently sloped into the ocean. We donned out masks and snorkels and slid into the crystal clear water. There were plenty of fish of all different size, shape, and color, though I was only able to name the zebra fish and the grouper. Forests of sea weed covered the large boulders and coral, with swaths of white sand between them. After swimming for a while, I spent some time climbing around the boulders and exploring the coastline, and a cave carved out by the waves that went into the cliff a good 20 meters in different directions. 

My step dad John arrived late at night the next Friday. We all spent the next day swimming at the beach, and packing and preparing for the next big move. All four of us would be heading to Pentland Animal farm, just outside the town of Denmark, about an hour's drive from Albany, to WWOOF for the next five weeks. I, having moved to a new 'home' a dozen or more times in the past six months, was packed up and ready in ten or fifteen minutes. The rest of the group, however, was a little behind; understandably so, with a mixture of jet lag, stress, and nerves hindering the process. It was quite a task to fit all our gear into the car. Two bags or suitcases each, plus a big handbag for mom, plus several boxes of food and provisions for the stay at Pentland, plus a couple boxes of art Mom's art supplies, plus four bodies, all crammed into a four door sedan. The sight was quite comical once we fit it all in.

... Did I mention the generosity of Australians? A friend and student of Mom's very generously offered us the use of her car while we were away at Pentland, which has made things much, much easier for us. 

We're at Pentland Alpaca Stud now, taking care of all the critters large and small. We've got horses, donkeys, cows that moo; foxes, dogs, llamas and emu. Galahs, weiros, and aviary birds, with all these animals, comes plenty of turds. Ferrets and parrots, goats and sheep, lots of alpacas, and pigeons that peep. A pig and a camel, the humpbacked mammal. Guinea pigs, rabbits, and kangaroo, lots of chickens and plenty of poo!

Along with feeding all the animals twice a day and cleaning pens and cages, we have also been putting up a lot of new fence. Previously, the goat pen's fence had become rather beaten and worn over the years, and goats were squeezing through and under the fence. We were catching goats a good dozen times a day to put them back inside the pen. Now we've torn all that out and sunk big new timber poles in the ground and put up new wire fencing. Only Fudge, the most notorious escape artist, can still find a way out.

I have been keeping in touch with one of my WWOOF'er friends, Marcel from Germany, that I met on the first farm in Merriwa. He and a couple other travelers have bought a car and are driving across the country, and they just happened to be passing through Denmark while we're here. He and his mates stopped in for a while and we caught up while I showed them around the farm. They've found paying work now on a winery somewhere in the area.

I cooked with kangaroo for the first time while staying here at Pentland. I used the leg meat and back strap that Drew gave us from the hunt, and cooked it with a peanut satay sauce. It. Was. Delicious. My improvised version of the recipe is at the bottom of this post.
We have fairly limited internet here, and it costs a pretty penny if you go over the data limit, so I'm not able to upload all my pictures this time around. But don't worry, there will be a flood of pictures once I can access a better internet connection. 

Satay Beef (kangaroo) Wraps
600 grams is about one and a third pound

600g beef, cut stir-fry style
2 tbs kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
2 cloves garlic, fine chop
1 red onion, fine chop
1 long red chili, seeds removed, fine chop (we could only find short red chili which were a bit hotter, and I left the seeds in, but I think the spicy-ness was just perfect)
1 lemongrass stalk, finely grated
2/3 cup roasted salted peanuts
2 tbs brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup coconut milk (we used regular milk, worked fine)
2 cucumbers, finely shredded
1 cup coriander sprigs, chopped
1/4 shredded coconut (we skipped that)
8 mountain bread 'tortillas' (we used Lavash bread which was great, I think Naan would be just as good)
Olive/sunflower/whatever oil

The recipe says to marinate beef in 1 tbs kecap manis and half the garlic overnight. I made a marinade with kecap manis, worcestershire sauce, and garlic, then oven roasted the kangaroo for ~3 hours

Satay sauce:
Cook onion 4-5 in frypan over medium heat
Add chili, lemongrass, garlic, cook 2-3 minutes
Crush peanuts in food processor (we just chopped them by hand), then add to pan with brown sugar, lime juice, coconut milk, and 1/2 cup water. Simmer 8-10 minutes until thickened and reduced.
Stir in 1 tbs kecap manis

Beef:
Heat oil in separate fry pan over medium-high heat. Cook half the beef, turning, for 5 minutes. Add 1 tbs satay sauce from above, cook another 2 minutes. Repeat with rest of beef and another tbs satay sauce.
^seems a bit pointless to me. If the pan is big enough, I would just do it all at once. Since we cooked the roo beforehand, I just threw it all in the satay sauce pan to get it back up to temperature.

This is meant to be served as a wrap in Mountain bread, with the cucumber, coriander, onion, shredded coconut, remaining satay sauce, etc. We piled it on lavash and got messy instead.

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