Imagine a land where the soil lies burnt and crimson beneath a crystal blue sky, punctuated by the searing sun and a changeable band of dusty green and grey vegetation. A land of deeply dark-skinned people with wide, white smiles. A land of heat and humidity that settles like an heavy, sticky blanket, morning and night.
This fabulous Australian bushland, at once stunning, confronting, surprising and challenging, is my home for five weeks. I’m lucky to have been accepted into Jawun’s first indigenous corporate partnership program running in the Northern Territory’s Northeast Arnhem Land, along with 15 other professionals. We’ve all temporarily abandoned our usual workplaces to lend a hand at a bunch of local non-profit groups.
We spent much of the first week out bush, camping at a remote Aboriginal homeland community of the local Yolngu people. Biranybirany is a bone-rattling three-hour ride south from the larger mining town of Nhulunbuy, a place only four-wheel drives dare venture. Come the wet season, the red roads turn to slush and Biranybirany and its 24 neighbouring homeland communities become accessible only by air. Biranybirany itself is a tiny place with just seven extremely basic houses for about 40 people, including a hoard of beautiful children who attend the community’s small school three days a week.
We were there to work with the community on some much-needed maintenance and spent two sweltering days chopping trees, cleaning yards, painting houses and relocating a shadehouse, sleeping in tents and cooking our meals over a fire or a gas camping cooker.
Most of us are ordinarily city-dwellers and it seems you just can’t take the urbane out of some, no matter how hard they work or how exhausted and completely filthy they become. Our group was thrilled to discover Michael had brought along his tops cooking skills and a spirit of inventiveness that left us with meals far too gourmet for any normal camping trip.
Here Michael shares his famed Biranybirany frittata recipe, essentially a Spanish tortilla with a Parmesan edge. We gobbled the lot down for brekkie but it could easily pass for lunch or dinner if topped with a salad.
What goes in:
2 red onions, diced
2 waxy potatoes (such as Desiree or red rascal), cut into roughly 1cm cubes
½ cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
A dozen large eggs
Salt or one vegetable stock cube (Massel is a tried and true brand)
About 1 cup of water
How you do it:
Throw the onion and potato together in a non-stick frying pan or skillet and fry in olive oil for about five minutes without taking on too much colour. Add the stock cube and water and reduce until almost all the liquid evaporates.
In the meantime, whisk the eggs together then add the Parmesan and pepper.
Add the egg mixture to the skillet and give it a vigorous stir then let the mixture sit on the heat for about a minute until the bottom forms a bit of a crust. Flip the frittata onto a dinner plate to allow you to put it back on the heat upside-down to cook the opposite side. Feed to the hungry, hot and sweaty masses!