Oliver James, the owner of Caffiend, Guyala and Tattooed Sailor Coffee Roasters shares his passion for sustainably sourced meats.
An old friend reached out during the COVID lockdowns last year and asked if I wanted to join an adventure looking at wild harvest food in Cape York.
Mike Winer wanted me to lend some industry knowledge and host a soft launch of a wild beef product, Bush Beef.
He knew food adventures are my thing, and that I have a particular interest in the food, people and culture of the Cape.
It all began in 2003 when I was involved in the design and build, and eventual redesign some years later, of a remote outstation on the beach past the pure white sands of the Cape Flattery sand mine.
Camping and working alongside the Bowens, a local family from Hopevale, was an awesome experience for me on so many levels.
However, my strongest impression was of making spears on the first day of setting up camp, and hunting for lunch on the reef that extended out from the beach.
Every day we dined on whatever we could catch - fish, squid, shark, mudcrab, crays, shells from the sand, and stingray.
Stingray wings were my favourite - slow braised, cooled on eucalyptus leaves to extract the aromatic oils, pulled like rillette and folded back through its own fatty liver.
The result is like a rich, decadent duck rillette, but with a subtle taste of the sea. Served on a campfire damper with bush lime and salt, it was epic.
Fast forward to a few months ago, when I met the cousins of the Bowen family at Normanby Station in the traditional homelands of the Balnggarrawarra, north-west of Cooktown.
Normanby is over 30,000 hectares, with many sandstone escarpments containing extensive rock art paintings.
Vince Harrigan and his two brothers run Normanby Station, with healthy and sustainable land management at the core of their efforts.
One feature of this management is removing the roaming wild cattle, which cause erosion in the many escarpments.
Bush Beef are these wild cattle. No hormones, feedlot fattening, chemicals or sprays, this beef is organic.
Eating them has a positive impact on the land at Normanby. I was super excited to try it!
After slaughtering and hanging two of the wild cattle for a couple of weeks, I joined Vince and the team at Bushy Creek Butchery in breaking down the full carcasses into smaller cuts, an insightful experience of its own.
Butchering has changed the way I think about buying meat and really shifted me toward more sustainable ways of using meat products in my cafes.
Back at the big kitchen at Caffiend, my team and I broke the beef down further, in preparation for the launch at Guyala, to showcase the different cuts.
We made sausages, pies, soup with oxtail and jus with the bones. We slow cooked the cheeks and braised the tongue. We brined one brisket for corned beef, and smoked another.
The marrow bones we roasted and the tomahawks marinated and barbequed.
Needless to say, the small group of industry peers invited to the launch enjoyed the meat, and the opportunity to meet the Harrigan brothers!
Aside from the awesome story of its provenance, Bush Beef is really yum, with a clean gamey taste and texture.
It tastes somehow more beefy then regular beef.
For now the Harrigan brothers are busy building yards and infrastructure at Normanby in preparation for the official launch after this wet season.
Until then, Bush Beef has been making an appearance on the specials boards at Caffiend and Guyala, make sure to have a try!