Much of the early exploration of Australia was driven by the search for a great “inland sea” which was believed (fervently hoped) to exist, and, once found, could be used to mitigate against the terrible cycles of drought and allow opening up and irrigation of new grazing and farm land. Sadly, there was no inland sea, the centre of the continent demonstrated only its vast dead heart.
Explorer Charles Napier Sturt (1795 – 1869) was one of those who sought the inland sea. In the course of his expeditions into the often harsh interior he traced the course of several waterways which ultimately proved to drain into the mighty Murray river. In 1951, a group of enthusiasts re-enacted part of his river voyage – which brings us to our food story for the day. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW) of 17 January 1951 reported on the progress of the group:
Kangaroo Soup for Sturt Party.
The crew of the whaleboat re-enacting Sturt’s voyage down the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers had an all-Australian meal today.
The meal consisted of kangaroo tail soup, kangaroo tails rolled in emu eggs, Murray cod and wild duck.
After 10 days of tough rowing, the expedition today reached the small townships of Euston and Robinvale, on the Murray River, 700 miles from the Murray mouth.
The whaleboat, manned by six army officers and two actors, left Meilman Station early this morning and battled all day against a sluggish river and a strong wind. The small sail which the crew set up yesterday was useless against the strong wind today.
The point of this story of course is to give me an excuse, in this Australia Day week, to give you the recipe for an iconic, but rare, Australian dish:
Kangaroo Tail Soup.
Ingredients.- 1 tail, 2 lbs. gravy beef, 2 carrots, 2 turnips, 1 head of celery, bunch herbs, 1 piece ginger, 6 cloves, 1 lump of sugar, a small lemon, 2 oz. bacon, 2 quarts of water, 1 glass of port wine, and flour.
Method.- Wash and dry the tail, cut it into small pieces and put into the saucepan with the beef cut small. Add pepper and salt, ½ the vegetables cut up roughly, herbs, sugar, bacon, and seasoning; cook for two hours, then strain. Add the remainder of vegetables, cut up finely, juice of half a lemon. Simmer gently until vegetables are soft, thicken with flour and cook for two minutes; add wine and serve with small pieces of tail cut into dice in it.
Great Southern Herald (Katanning, WA) 4 September 1909
As for the famous Murray cod – it is deserving of its own post sometime in the future.