You don’t often find kangaroo tail in the meat aisle at the supermarket, but Aboriginal people all over Australia have been eating the tail for tens of thousands of years. They know the tail has some of the juiciest, most tender meat around.
On the islands I come from, when we cook an animal we make sure we eat the whole thing – waste not, want not – and so at Mabu Mabu, we make our pepperberry kangaroo bourguignon with the tail, because sometimes the best bits are the bits other people don’t want.
Meriam woman Nornie Bero is the owner of Mabu Mabu – a cafe, as well as a catering and food business – based in Yarraville, Melbourne. She’s on a mission to get Indigenous fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices into every Australian kitchen.
Mabu mabu is a term from the Torres Strait, where Bero comes from, that means “help yourself”. Traditionally, a mabu mabu is a banquet, shared table or big family meal that’s put out for family gatherings, weddings, funerals and tombstone openings.
Nornie Bero’s pepperberry kangaroo tail bourguignon
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 4 hours and 15 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
2kg kangaroo tail (see recipe note for where to buy in your city)
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 sprig thyme
1 tsp saltbush (see recipe note)
1 tsp ground pepperberries (see recipe note)
3 cups red wine (the heavier the better)
4 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups tomato puree
1 tsp whole pepperberries (see recipe note)
1 tsp salt
1L vegetable stock
1kg Japanese pumpkin (kabocha), diced
3 large silverbeet leaves
Place a heavy-based pot over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil and kangaroo tail. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning as necessary, until the kangaroo tail is nicely browned all over.
Add the garlic, thyme, saltbush and ground pepperberries. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add the red wine, cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste, tomato puree, whole pepperberries, salt and stock. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 4 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
Roast the pumpkin in a moderate oven for 40 minutes until mushy, mash and set aside.
15 minutes before turning off the kangaroo, add the silverbeet to the top (do not mix in) and cook until tender. Serve immediately, with a side of pumpkin mash on each plate.
Kangaroo tail is available at specialty butchers and online retailers, including those listed below.
Something Wild, Adelaide
Sam the Butcher, Bondi (ships Australia-wide)
Saltbush is found around the world, in deserts and other saline environments. There are some 60 species unique to Australia, but only “oldman” saltbush (Atriplex nummularia) has been commercialised. It adds a mildly salty, rosemary-like herbaceousness to food. Buy online through Mabu Mabu, The Source Bulk Foods, Gewurzhaus or The Essential Ingredient. All four retailers have physical stores across Australia, though only The Source services Western Australia.
Pepperberry, also known as Tasmanian pepperberry or mountain pepper, is endemic from Tasmania to central New South Wales. The small dried berries have a similar appearance to black peppercorns and add a sharp, distinctive peppery character to food, not unlike Sichuan pepper (though without the numbing aspect). The flavour is notably long-lasting, lingering in the mouth for a few moments after each bite. Buy online or in person at Mabu Mabu, Gewurzhaus or The Essential Ingredient.