Bunya nuts grow on native Bunya Pines here in Queensland and Northern NSW. Most of the nuts are cut off the trees by local councils as they can be a real hazard to people and cars…they are truly massive. The bundle can hold hundreds of nuts and weigh kilos.
Bunya Pines grow mainly on mountains, that is where I first discovered them, in the Blackall Ranges. Apparently, they were so highly prized that the indigenous aboriginal people used to have big Bunya Nut festivals where different tribes would travel huge distances. I can’t help but imagine the happiness, dancing and singing as people gathered, reunited to celebrate the abundance. The smell of them is so fresh, and the earth under the tree rich and earthy.
They are harvested from January to March, when the ripe cones fall to the ground. I have seen them from time to time at the markets. Every January, I know it is time to keep my eyes open for the distinctive bunya pine (Araucaria Bidwillii), and sometimes I get lucky.
Eaten raw or cooked, the nut is best opened using a sharp knife at the top of the shell, cutting right through the middle. They are hard work, and to be honest, I just can’t face the thought of shelling them raw, I boil them every time – usually for 45 minutes. They are nutritious, full of protein, creamy and very special. I usually freeze a batch and use them within 3 months.
Sometimes I just serve as an accompaniment, like a salad, chopped with lemon juice, chives, salt and pepper.
My most favourite thing to make, loved by everyone in the family (very unusual to be able to please everyone), is bunya patties. I got this recipe from a really special cookbook called Wildfoods Recipes, published by Barung Landcare. These patties are the perfect vegetarian feast. For the vegans, the eggs can be left out, but you just need to be really gentle whilst cooking them. If you don’t have any bunya nuts, any nut meal, or chickpeas will do.
- Bunya nuts (cooked)- equivalent of 1 1/2 cups when minced
- 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
- 1 medium onion – chopped
- 2 eggs
- 2 T peanut butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (the good stuff)
- 2 T fruit chutney (I always use indian mango)
- oil to cook in
Place the nuts and rice in a food processor and blitz until fine (they can also be put through a mincer or pounded with a mortar and pestle). Add the onion, eggs, peanut butter, chutney and curry powder. Process/mix until well combined. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Shape into patties and shallow fry in a frying pan.
Another great use for bunya nuts is pastry. It is great for quiches, pies and sausages rolls. Extra protein for a spinach and fetta roll. Recipe taken, once again, from Wildfoods Recipes.
- 1 cup self raising flour
- 2 T butter
- pinch salt
- squeeze lemon juice
- 1/2 cup minced cooked bunya nuts
- iced water
Combine flour, Bunya nuts and salt. Rub in butter. Add lemon juice and sufficient cold water to make a firm consistency. Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
And finally, a recipe of my own creation. I have sort of adapted it from making Claudia Roden’s middle eastern orange cake for years. It is really not better than the traditional orange and almond cake, but it is still nice and moist and a melt in the mouth.
Orange and Bunya Nut Cake
- 2 large oranges
- 6 eggs beaten
- 1-2 cups minced bunya nuts
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
Boil the oranges in water for about 2 hours and leave in the water overnight. Cut them roughly, making sure to take out any pips. They can be really bitter if you miss them.
Blend the oranges, eggs, nuts and baking powder well in a food processor. Pour into a lined springform tin. Bake for about 1 hour (until it has no wobble) in a preheated oven of 190 degrees celcius.
Cool in the tin and serve with a dollop of cream. To make it pretty for serving, I will dust it with icing sugar and place a pile of candied peel in the middle. I usually make the candied peel at the same time I boil the oranges.