26 January 2021

Great Southern Land

Posted by the Cake Shop

We would like to acknowledge and pay our respects to the traditional custodians across Australia: the Aboriginal Elders and Elders emerging. 26 January is the day that marks the arrival of the first British fleet in the colony of New South Wales. Terry’s ruminating on her own memories of the Australian coast, and the long history of the land before colonisation.

20 years ago this year, a wind lifted me up and deposited me on this little island. Many years before, my dad also took a one-way journey and left Belfast with his mum and twin brother. They disembarked upon the fatal shore and settled in Boonwurrung, Kulin Nation, a huge swathe of land that encompasses the coastal area of Melbourne  down to the peninsula and beyond. The Kulin tribes comprise at least 30 tribes that shared a connecting language.

My dad loved the coastal peninsula where we lived and spent his childhood roaming by the sea, ditching school to explore the vast terrains of swamp, tea-tree and scrub. When he became a father, he shared his awe and wonder with me and my sister. Our favourite trips were to the middens – indigenous open air kitchens which have occupied the same sites for more than ten thousand years. Or rather, one particular midden: a shell kitchen high up on a cliff, not far from the outer suburb of Melbourne where we lived.

This ancient cook site was composed of thousands of years of shell and fire debris. People still gathered and made fires, cooked food and told stories together, looking out over Nairm, or what is commonly called Port Phillip Bay. Down on the shore, we would go fishing, collect fresh mussels and gather seaweed, then bring back what we had found to cook. My dad told us to give everything a try.

These outings were a gift, awakening a sense of what the collective experience of food could be. The flavours are still with me today: freshly cooked squid straight out of the sea, eaten in the open air, salted by the ocean breeze. ‘You’re part of a generation of kids who were conceived by this coast,’ my dad used to laugh – and it’s true, most of our generation were conceived on rugs or in the back seats of cars overlooking the shore.

I carry that light of those afternoons with me, an inner light – the glow of the embers of the cook fires. I’m not saying I don’t get the January blues; we all find ways to keep the sun alive in us during the darker times of the year. Naturally, I choose food, but I’m also buoyed up by meditation, classes and music… Today I’m going to invoke the heat of the sun by means of the glut of citrus imports we receive each year:  through the vibrant colour and intense tang of blood orange and passionfruit juice.


Quick Blood Orange and Passionfruit Shrub
(with a hint of ginger, if you like)

5 blood oranges (grate off and reserve the rind)
5 passionfruit
A little grated ginger (to your taste)
100ml Chardonnay vinegar
180ml organic apple cider vinegar
200g golden caster or coconut sugar

We like to keep a little skin on the citrus to retain the bitter tang – just a bit.

Slice the orange into rounds. Slice and scoop the goop from the passion fruit. Pop the fruits into a bowl, coat with caster sugar and leave overnight until the sugar dissolves, checking occasionally – gently move the fruits to encourage the process. Next morning, pour over the vinegars and gently stir through. Move to a jar or airtight container, label, and put in the fridge for five days. Check in occasionally to stir and taste.

Longer version: zest off the orange skins and reserve for another purpose. Slice the oranges and put them into a wide-mouth preserving jar. Add enough vinegar to cover, close the jar and give it a really good shake for 20 seconds. Make sure the fruit is pushed down under the vinegar, to maximise flavour and prevent bacteria. Cover the jar with cheesecloth and securely attach a rubber band. Leave at room temperature for 7 days, removing the cheesecloth, replacing the lid and giving it a vigorous shake daily. 

After 7 days, pour the mixture through a strainer in to a bowl. Set the fruit aside for another use (cocktails, salads, desserts...). Return the liquid to the jar, add the passionfruit and sugar, cover, and shake until dissolved. Chill for a further 7 days for the flavours to develop – give it a regular shake to ensure the sugars are dissolved. Keeps for 4 months – gets nice and syrupy! A delicious addition to hot hibiscus tea with a slice of orange zest.

Terry’s favourite aperitif THIS week

25ml blood orange and passion shrub
25ml Everleaf Bittersweet Aperitif (non-alcoholic, an infusion of 18 botanicals including saffron, gentian, voodoo lily, orange blossom and Madagascan vanilla)
A slice of fresh blood orange and a good squeeze of juice
Pinch of salt
A few cubes of ice

Top with soda water and SWIZZLE.