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FOOD…

Finding the ‘special’ foods that make Queensland different…

Queensland is home to some really great food, and there are lots of cafes for coffee, teas and cakes, and also lots of great restaurants too, both in the city and also in the suburbs too.

Queensland has an abundance of fresh food and being a tropical climate, all the tropical fruits are grown here – including Pineapples, Bananas, Mangos as well as many of the new exotic fruits but also water melons and rock melons, strawberries, Blueberries, and stone fruit too grown in some of the colder mountain areas. Plus of course an amazing array of vegetables!

Queensland also has a growing number of wineries, and a large cattle and sheep industry – so lamb roasts, steaks, traditional English bacon and eggs breakfasts, bar-b-cues and pub lunches are all part of everyday life in Brisbane and Queensland.

To be a Queenslander, you need to drink XXXX Beer, and being a hot climate, drinking a “middy” or “A Seven” (small beer) or a “Pot” (big beer) on a hot day in a hotel ‘beer garden’ can make the day. You could even order a “jug” if you have a crowd of people to share with.

There are a few what we would call “Queensland Specialties” and here we are providing you with an introduction to some of them –

Moreton Bay Bugs

Moreton Bay is made up of a number of small islands – Moreton Island, North Stradbroke Island and many other smaller ones – and the mouth of the Brisbane River is located here too. There are lots of tidal mudflats and mangroves, which are ideal growing areas for small fish, yabbies and other sea life. Moreton Bay Bugs (bigger than a prawn, but smaller than a lobster) are found here, as are mud crabs.

  • Queensland Mud Crabs – these are a large crab – up to around 1 kg in weight, and have a hard shell and strong claws too that can crush a finger if you are not careful in the way the crab is picked up. Only male crabs are caught by crabbers, using crab pots – a special metal cage with mesh sides, which are baited to entice the crab in, but trap them at the same time. Female ‘muddies’ are released, and there are strict limits on the size and numbers of crabs that can be caught.
  • Queensland Prawns – come in a number of types and may be farmed or caught in the wild. There are Tiger Prawns (big striped ones), King Prawns (2 types) Red Spot Kings or Eastern Kings, Endeavour Prawns and Banana Prawns- all coming in different sizes depending on the season.
  • Queensland Barramundi – The Queensland Barrier Reef and islands are a mecca for fish, as is the gulf area in the far north. There are a number of fish varieties caught in Queensland waters, but one of the most favoured fishes is Barramundi, which is a large fish and makes excellent eating.
  • Queensland Angus and Wagyu Beef – Traditionally Beef cattle were Herefords, but over a number of years many other cattle types have been introduced, and Angus is now one of the most favoured breeds of Beef Cattle. Also in recent times, Wagyu has found favour too. Wagyu means “Japanese Beef” often referred to as ‘Kobe Beef’ in Japan, and it is largely grain fed as opposed to grass fed. A Wagyu Steak is judged on its “marbling” (colour and the evenness of the fat sinews that run through the meat – with marbling scores 1 to 12 being a rating system on the quality of the marbling. The higher the score, the more you pay, but generally a score of 6 or 7 is what you will mostly see.

COOKING TIPS

1. CRABS and BUGS – Crabs can be cooked by boiling them in salty water for about 20 minutes, OR for something really special try Chilli Crab or Salt & Pepper Crab. Google either of these names to see lots of different recipes. Bugs are a little like Lobsters, and can be bar-b-cued by cutting into two halves, and placed shell down on a hot plate bar-b-cue to cook for a few minutes, with lime juice, pepper or a sauce added for extra flavour. Google for recipes.

2. Prawns – Queensland is one of the leaders in Aquaculture and prawns may be farmed or wild catches. They can be eaten by themselves, or with a sauce, with avocados, curried or used in combination with other seafood. If you are on the coast or in Brisbane look on the menu for a “seafood basket” or “seafood platter” – a great way to experience the best in Queensland seafood. Another choice is a “Surf and Turf” – where you will have both seafood and also steak served to you.

3. FISH – including Barramundi – Barramundi can be cooked in a number of ways – steamed, fried, grilled or oven baked – and again there are lots of recipes available. The trick is not to overawe the subtle taste of the Barramundi with other stronger flavours.

In Queensland – you will also see what is called ‘Beer Battered Fish’. There are lots of variations on the way the batter is made – but basically it is flour (self raising or plain + Baking powder), a touch of salt and a little olive oil and a beaten egg (optional) mixed together adding beer and not water to the mix. The batter is then put in the fridge for about 30 minutes or longer to cool, whisked and is then coated on to fish filets, before deep frying the filets until crisp and golden. The batter can also be used to coat Calamari or Pineapple Rings (to make Pineapple Fritters.

4. Cooking Wagyu and Angus Steaks – When looking for a steak to buy, the tendency is to select one without the fat, but the fat is what adds the flavour! When buying or selecting a Wagyu steak – what you want to see is lots of even marbling (fat sinew lines running unevenly criss-crossing the steak). To bring out the flavour wash the steak in clean water, then add sea salt to both sides of the Steak and then place the steak on a very hot griddle or frying pan with a little oil – so that the steak immediately sizzles and the salt almost caramelises. Only flip the steak to the other side when you see the juices coming to the top surface of the steak. Remove from griddle or pan – and allow it to rest before serving. The same technique can be used with other steaks too.

DESSERTS -
With the number of fruits available throughout the year – probably the simplest but also nicest desserts is a “Fruit Salad” – which can be any mix of fruits – and the more variety the better – try a mix of mangos, strawberries, blueberries, passionfruit, orange, water melon, sliced grapes and serve just the fruit salad itself, or with ice cream or for a total indulgence serve it with Pavlova (an Australian favourite). Pavlova is a freshly made dessert, with a crust of meringue and filled with whipped cream and topped with tropical fruits – and often Passionfruit and Kiwi Fruit. Google – Pavlova recipes to find some variations on ways to make it.

DRINKS
There are lots of bottled milk, fruit and soft drinks that you will find anywhere, but Queensland has one soft drink that you won’t find in any of the other states of Australia, and that is Sarsparilla, commonly called “Sars”. It is an acquired taste – looks like Coca-Cola, but has the unique taste of Sarsparilla – more closely tasting like a cough medicine than anything else. In some beer gardens or traditional pubs – you might even ask for a “Beer with a dash of Sars”.

The other better known and wildly loved drink is ‘Bundaberg Ginger Beer’ – and if you like the taste of ginger, you will also like this too. Bundaberg is a town north of Brisbane. The town is also where Bundaberg Rum is made and again a ‘Bundy and Coke’ is a real Queensland institution. Definitely worth trying! The other lesser known Rum brand is Beenleigh Rum – made in the town of Beenleigh (Eagleby), half way between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The Beenleigh Rum Distillery is the oldest Distillery in Australia.

Milk shakes – are also popular drink too – and come in a variety of flavours – Vanilla, Strawberry, Caramel, Chocolate and others. They are made with milk, a spoonful of syrup flavouring, and ice cream added in, whipped and blended and then served in a tall glass to drink through a straw. Also try a Mango Smoothie – real fruit mixed in with milk.

In Brisbane you will find food wherever you go, but hopefully the above small list will help you enjoy a real “Queenslander” experience.
Cheers!

Happy Travelling!

Geoff Stuart

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