Darwin represented the halfway point of my Odyssey, as I would part with Team Fantastic in Perth. After having spent nearly three weeks in the scorching desert heat of Australia’s centre in high summer, the cut-the-air-with-a-knife humid heat of subtropical Darwin was a welcome relief. Or maybe it was the air-conditioned room at the backpacker’s. Or maybe it was the rooftop pool and bar, with the cheapest shots in town. Or maybe it was just that because of the cyclone season the tent stayed in the car for three days. Whatever the reason, Darwin was a welcome break. But more important, it was Christmas!
Now, Christmas dinner can be many things to many people, but where we’re from it consists mainly of stuffing your gut with as much pork fat as humanly possible. True, there will usually be some garnish to add colour to the plate, but that will be cooked in pork fat as well. On the day of Christmas Eve, in Norway it’s customary to eat Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and digest it on Christmas day. However, we realised that roasting a side of pork, frying up pork and lard meatballs and pork and lard sausages did not seem as tantalizing as it normally does in the sub zero temperatures of the homeland. It is tempting to explain this deviation from tradition by pointing out that the rooftop kitchen at the backpacker’s was pretty busy, and that it would be rude to the other guests to occupy most of it for the time it would take to prepare our traditional plethora of pork, but that would be a blatant lie. The truth is we simply weren’t in the right place to glut on pork. Instead, we willed to wander the way we would’ve wandered were we in Darwin. Where we were.
As it turned out, what we would have done in Darwin was to go for seafood, which we did. That was a first for Christmas for me, and that fitted neatly with the Odyssey’s theme as a whole – it was all a first. The dish we made, dubbed Random Crap in a Wok, ended up as a casserole with rock lobster, prawns and a thickened white wine sauce, complete with pasta and a side of garlic bread. As the fillum shows, cooking on a rooftop kitchen in Darwin in December was a somewhat more physical experience than what I was used to, is used to and most likely ever will be used to associate with epicurean pursuits. The previously mentioned humidity in Darwin coupled with the not insignificant heat emitted from numerous gas stoves in the kitchen resulted in one goddamned sweaty chef. Still, ludicrous humidity and ridiculous heat could not stop us from enjoying a borderline decent dinner on Christmas Eve in the Northern Territory. As is so often the case in this curious experience through time and space, the environmental challenges of that particular kitchen could be overcome with a healthy measurement of cheap wine. There you go then, Christmas dinner and chef cooked with a combination of gas and sub tropical climate in a rooftop kitchen at the friendliest backpacker’s in Darwin. Nicely so.
RECIPE: Random Crap in a Wok (serves 5 in 37.5 degree heat with 150 per cent humidity)
- 2 rock lobsters
- 300g tiger prawns
- 6 to 8 french shallots
- 1 leek
- 2 garlic cloves
- 4 carrots
- 1 broccoli
- 1 glass dry white wine for the sauce, probably a bit more
- An additional glass of dry white wine for the chef, chilled
- 1 punnet of light cream
- Juice from 1 lemon
- More wine for the chef on the final stretch
- Plenty of dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Ever so slightly with sugar (you know, for the shallots)
- Fresh pasta
- Garlic bread
Best served with chilled White wine (if there’s any more left).