Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Cartoon by Tony Turton

Red Wine Marinated Emu

Large Emu egg...in comparison to chicken eggs

Lake Elphinstone

Lately, it would seem, I’m unable to get off the subject of emus…but I will after this...I promise you.

There is no denying Australia is a country filled with many weird creatures.  Some (probably quite a few) would say that I comfortably fit into the “weird” category …but that’s okay with me.  I don’t mind being a step outside of the “norm”.  I look forward to becoming an eccentric old lady…I may have already achieved my goal!

Out of the blue one day when I was the chef/cook at “Lorikeets’ Restaurant”, Glenden back in the early 90s, upon unpacking and storing away my ordered stock that had been delivered from the Head Office of Morris Corporation/Catering, to my surprise, I found amongst my meat order a few kilos of emu meat!  I hadn’t ordered it; and, to be honest, I didn’t particularly want it.  But there it was as fresh as the day was long – waste not; want not. 

I’d never cooked emu meat, but I wasn’t going to let that faze me!  Always up for a challenge even if I wasn’t too keen about it, I pondered upon my dilemma for a while. 

I didn’t have Mr. Google to guide me towards a recipe, so I forged forth and made up my own as I went along.  Having no intention of putting emu permanently on my menu, I decided the best thing to do was get rid of what I’d received that night, if I could, by putting emu up on my “Special of the Night” board; and then that would be that – done and dusted.  Emu no more!

Some feather dusters are made with emu feathers; so, too, are ornate earrings. The emu I received had already been plucked, so I wasn’t faced with that problem.  Emu eggs are preferred for ornamental use; I never cooked with them because they took up too much room in the pans!

Emu oil is claimed to have many healing health benefits; research is ongoing in that department.

According to historians, emu oil was, and probably still is in some area, an Aboriginal traditional medicine. The then unadulterated oil was used for bites, cuts, sores, bruises, fevers, aches and pain. An all-purpose solver of problems it would appear. Nowadays it’s not as “pure”, of course, with additives added to the mix; but its healing uses and benefits are many, according to some “experts”.  The jury is still out in some instances.

However, when confronted with a parcel of fresh emu meat that day, the healing power of emu oil was the last thing on my mind.  

I’d cooked kangaroo meat; and crocodile many times.  A very popular entrée on the restaurant’s menu was Crocodile Kebabs.  To my taste there were (are) far more interesting and tasty foods to eat than crocodile! Crocodile isn’t on my list of things I want to eat; although I have tried it, of course.
I cut the croc meat into approximately 1-inch square pieces before marinating the pieces in brandy, garlic, fresh ginger, a pinch of chilli, a splash of soy sauce and some other spices just to infuse a bit of flavour into the blandness; and then I’d thread it onto skewers, alternating with similar sized pieces of capsicum/peppers and onion.  Crocodile meat not marinated tasted like cardboard drink’s coaster, I reckoned. Using a coaster would’ve been cheaper! 

However, as the saying goes…”there’s no account for taste”…who am I to questions the reasons why so many diners ordered my crocodile kebabs…and enjoyed them?  And doubled up and ordered them again when they re-visited the restaurant…..

Figuring emu was a very lean meat similar to kangaroo meat I decided to treat it similarly.  In other words, close my eyes and hope for the best!  What did I have to lose…just a few diners!

I cut the meat into serving-sized fillets, and then I marinated the “steaks” in a quality red wine, either a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon – one or the other - crushed fresh garlic, freshly-cracked black pepper and some chopped fresh herbs; whatever I had on hand and ones I felt suitable to what I had in mind.  My intention was to grill the fillets briefly as the orders came into to me in the kitchen that evening.  Over-cooking would not do.

I then lived in the hope the dish would be ordered.

I wrote it up on the “Specials of the Night” menu; I invented a suitable description for my creation; and the rest was in the laps of the Gods…hopefully not in the laps of the diners!

One of the restaurant’s bookings that evening was for a table of some of the “big bosses” from MIM…Mount Isa Mines…the owner/operator of Newlands, the large coal mine just outside of Glenden.  Along with the MIM hierarchy were local top drawer representatives from the Newland Coal Mine; all of whom were playing host to visiting financiers and bankers from the US.  

After gathering for a somewhat brief interlude at the restaurant’s cocktail bar for pre-dinner drinks the party converged upon their table, with their appetites intact.  

Soon their meal orders flowed into the kitchen and were stuck on the spikes above my cooking range.  All systems go!

I’d struck it lucky!  Every one of the overseas visitors, plus some of the Aussie hosts ordered the emu! 

By the end of service, I had not a sliver of emu left in the restaurant, in the kitchen or the cold room, for that matter!  They’d depleted my stock.  I was so grateful and, out of the sight of others, proudly gave myself a pat on my back.  My emu dish had been received like first prize in the lottery!

Accolades were passed onto me from all and sundry. I humbly and graciously accepted the generous praise sent my way. 

Next day I phoned Head Office and told them never to send me emu meat again; in fact never send me anything I’d not ordered ever again.

On the subject of the crocodile kebabs - another night and another diner from the US – said diner stopped me as I passed his table to ask where I got my crocodile meat from.  Without missing a beat and with a very straight face, I told the inquisitive, quite naïve gentleman that every Sunday, my day off, I grabbed my rifle and headed off to one of the nearby local creeks; but I steered clear of Lake Elphinstone because it was too big and always filled with water skiers.  Once there I’d find a likely spot; take aim and nab my prey.  His host, one of the restaurant’s regular diners almost choked on his meal and tried to slide under the table out of view. 

His guest believed every silly word that had spilled out of my mouth.  And then, I just continued on to the kitchen, leaving our US visitor wide-eyed in wonder. 

I wonder how many people he repeated that story to!

It’s marvellous what you can get away with if you keep a straight face!

One day I did tell a tourist  to save fuel I sometimes hitched a ride on a kangaroo...and hopped down the mountain road, and then along the motorway up to Brisbane to do some shopping.  It was handy in a couple of ways because I could store my purchases in the kangaroo's pouch.

Well....I keep telling you I shouldn't be let out amongst the madding crowds....


  1. Great stories Lee. We were once told by an American that he had met an Aussie whose job it was to hunt down and remove rogue kangaroos from suburban gardens. Aussies love telling tall stories !

  2. Oh...I find it very difficult sometimes, Helsie...if someone opens the gate for me...I just have to go through, boots and all! And, there's little else you have to do other than keep a straight face all the while! :)

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  3. Ron caught and killed a ground hog and was determined to taste one. He cleaned it and brought it in for me to cook. What?!!! How?!!! Well just fry it like chicken. So I did. I tasted only a small sliver but....YUK! He took the rest to his coffee drinking buddies at the Grain elevator to enjoy...NOT! He said, "Well, I can try this because I heard from a woman once in Australia that she who goes out every Sumday and shoots the crocodile she serves in her restaurant...." LOL

  4. Oh and Lee, you must see the movie CHEF. I think you would love it.

  5. Girl you are definitely in the wrong season - lol!

  6. Hiya Grannie Annie...I guess the groundhog kept repeating on you! :)

    Boy! Tell Ron I'll take him out on a croc hunt when you two visit the wonderful Land of Oz! I'll hitch up a couple of 'roos and emus!

    Thanks for dropping in. :)

  7. No, Sandie...we're in the right season down this way...spring it is...of that there is no doubt. And before we know it, summer will be in full swing.

    Thanks for coming by. :0

  8. I wonder if croc tastes a lot like alligator tail, which reminded me a lot of frog legs.

  9. Probably, Jerry...it's a white flesh. Many say it's similar in taste to chicken, but I don't think so. To me it's pretty tasteless; that's why I always marinated it. And, it doesn't intrigue me at all to cook for myself; and I never did cook it for myself...and I never will! lol

    We served it at times at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island; that was the first time I'd ever used it; and it was popular with some of the guests...more as a curiosity than anything, I'd say.

    But the entree on my menu at "Lorikeets" was a very popular dish...so there you go. You never know which way the public will go sometimes.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  10. I've never tried emu or crocodile, but when the kids were still all at home I'd buy kangaroo meat and mince from the Central Market and use it for casseroles and burgers, it was so much cheaper than beef. Now it's in the supermarkets it isn't as cheap anymore, but I don't have to feed four kids either.
    It sounds like you did the right thing with the emu, the marinating and the spices.

  11. Hi River...the emu recipe turned out very tasty, but I think the novelty of it with the US visitors was what really caused it to sellso well. They would've loved returning back home with the story that they ate emu while visiting Oz. :)

    I think I was lucky, too, that night that I had those US diners; without them, I wouldn't have sold it all, I'm sure.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  12. Dear eccentric old lady,

    Please don't work in our local fish & chip shop......
    I'm not too sure about how you would claim to obtain the fish!

  13. I just remembered in the the London days a butcher in Notting Hill began selling sausages of unusual beasts, Crocodile, ostrich etc.
    I did not go in when I saw the prices. I wonder if he still exists.

  14. How did we get recipes before Google??? So glad the emu dish was well received - I love that you ran with it!

    Alligator meat is common in recipes in the south - more often Florida. It's pretty good, but the thought of what I'm eating creeps me out a little.

  15. I have never eaten Crocs or Emu, or...Even Frogs legs or Squid...I am very "chicken" when it comes to trying new foods, and always have been---especially certain meats and things from the sea.....I ate Mussels once in the South of France, and was sick as a dog! It was at someone's home and I had no choice----but if I had---Those Mussels would never have passed my lips!

    I am so impressed with your wonderful cooking imagination, along with everything else about you, my dear Lee...You have lived a most interesting life!

  16. G'day Adullamite...that butcher you mentioned probably is no longer...I think he could have been overcome by his stock! ;)

    Re - working in your local fish & chip shop...it'd wouldn't be how I caught the fish that you'd need to worry about...it would be how I dealt with some customers! Hehehehehe!

    Thanks for popping in, Mr. Ad-Man.

  17. Hey there Lynn...yep...I think there are better things to eat than crocodile...they don't discriminate, though, when it comes to their dinner! ;)

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  18. Hi Naomi...when I was working in a restaurant in Brisbane many years ago...it served French-style food...the head chef was French, too, I did try Frog's Legs and they were very sweet and tasty...very much like chicken. That was the only time I tried them, though. I've eaten snails, and thoroughly enjoyed them, but I've not had them in a long time.

    I adore seafood of all description - and especially when it's fresh from the sea.

    Seafood played a big part in my childhood...so I've always loved it from a young age. I love oysters and I love mussels. I'm sorry to learn you became ill on them the time you tried them - perhaps, you never know, they might have been "off"...and that was why they made you sick.

    Nice to see you, Naomi...you, my dear, are the one who has lived a most interesting life, surrounded by interesting people. I love your stories. Take good care of yourself. :)

  19. I have never been inclined to try crocodile or kangaroo or emu. Does that make me unAustralian I wonder?

  20. Nope, not at all, Carol.

    I've tried them all, just to have tried them and because I was cooking with them; and I've always said and believed you can't truthfully say you don't like something until you've actually tried it.

    I don't like them! :)

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  21. Another great story. I guess the emu tasted like Chicken or at least that is what we Southern like to say about wild meat. Love the croc story. LOL I have often heard Emu Oil is good for old Arthur. Again, I love your humor and the last line of the second paragraph. LOL Peace and have a wonderful weekend.

  22. Hi Lady Di...no, it wasn't like chicken...it was more a dark meat...between me, you and the emu...it didn't make too much of an impression on me.

    Thanks for dropping in...you have a great weekend, too. I'm off now to nab myself a croc! ;)

  23. I do like the shot of the Big Red just relaxing in the sun!

    Australia world life does have a tendency to be a bit noisy!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  24. Hey, Stewart....yes...he's a beauty that big red! I'd stay well clear of him if I crossed paths with him.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  25. Ha, great story! Similarly, we Texans tell outsiders how we have to hitch the wagon to horses and go to town once a week to fetch supplies.

  26. Hi Dexter...I think there are a lot of similarities between the Texans and the Aussies...telling tall stories is only a part of it! lol

    Thanks for coming by...by wagon and horse, of course! :)