Heralded in by the the blossoming of Melaleauca paperbark trees and the WA Christmas tree, the landscape during Birak is coloured by reds and oranges. Banksia is in bloom ready to be steeped for a special drink. Birak is the Nyoongar season of the young, often referred to as the First Summer.
During this season, the days are hot and dry, with easterly winds during the day and strong south westerly winds from the Indian Ocean in the evening........ I try to get to the beach before the wind picks up. Traditionally, this was the time for controlled mosaic-style burn offs by Nyoongar people, opening up the forests and long grassed areas after the rains. Such traditional fire controls have all but stopped due to hotter summers and restricted fire bans. These changes throughout Australia have put many native food sources, such as the Pindan Walnut, under threat of extinction.
Reptiles come out of hibernation during Birak, shedding their old skin. Frogs start to grow into adults. Shingle back lizards, goannas, snakes and an array of marsupials emerge. Goanna fat in particular is considered a delicacy. The estuaries and coastal fishing areas are full of fish and seafood especially during the salmon run.
Birak is truly the time to enjoy the extensive choice of seafood we are lucky enough to have along the west coast of Australia as well as in estuaries further inshore. Particular RiverMint Dining favourites include Spanish Mackarel, Pink Snapper, Red Mullet, Dhufish and Fremantle Sardines. To celebrate the approaching end of Birak and its abundant seafood offerings, here's a quick but delicious recipe for two using sweet Sand Whiting and desert limes.
Steamed Sand Whiting, Desert lime Macadamia butter and Sea lettuce
- Chop one shallot and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add a handful of chopped desert limes and saute until light browned and fragrant. Pour in the juice of 1 orange and 100ml fish stock. Reduce until nearly evaporated. Slowly add 200g of chopped cold butter whisking until melted. Add a handful of chopped macadamia nuts and season. Allow the butter solids to clarify before skimming.
- Take two Sand whiting fillets, skin and tails still intact, and halve down the middle. Roll each strip from head to tail end, leaving tail part unrolled and secure with a toothpick. You should now have 4 rolled fillets.
- Preheat oven to 190°C. Heat oil in a cast iron pan and fry rolls over medium heat until lightly browned. Place in oven for 2 mins to finish cooking.
- Take fresh sea lettuce and thinly sliced garlic and toss lightly in hot pan with butter and 1tbsp yuzu juice. Set aside. Any this point you can also use any dehydrated sea lettuce that has been made.
- Take fish, arrange on plate dressed with desert lime butter and garnished with sea celery. This dish goes nicely with a tabbouleh-style salad.