Delicious local flavours from Stradbroke Island

There's something very special about Straddie, the name locals and visitors have given to the island paradise of North Stradbroke Island.

It's only a short journey via ferry from bustling metro Brisbane, but it's a world away when it comes to lifestyle.

Just when you thought this island couldn't get any better, photographers Angie and Stuart who have made Straddie their home, have discovered it's also a food bowl filled with the most delicious fresh produce.  Their book, Eat, Drink and Be Straddie, will show you how to turn local Straddie treasures into delicious meals.

Here's what they had to say about island life, their favorite recipes and the perils of publishing.

What is your favourite hidden gem on North Stradbroke Island?

Angie: The Basin is my favourite secret spot on the island. To get there I step out the front gate of my Amity beach shack, walk for 10 minutes, past koalas, kangaroos and maybe even an echidna, go through some bushland and hidden mangrove tracks and then have the beach all to myself. Well, myself and the soldier crabs, stingrays, dolphins, turtles, and more.

Stuart: I think it is probably the abundance of life under the surface and in the waters around Straddie. There’s always something to see. Whether it’s turtles hatching on the beaches, soldier crabs on the mudflats, dolphins, and whales off the headland. There are diving sites such as Manta Bommie, which is considered one of the top 10 dive sites in Australia, with an incredible diversity of marine life, from bull rays and leopard sharks to octopuses, nudibranchs, and even the odd whale shark.

Which is your favourite recipe in Eat, Drink and Be Straddie and why?

Angie: Hmm, tough one. I use recipes such as the chunky guacamole and Napoli sauce all the time, and the mango and macadamia toasted muesli is my breakfast staple. I have also had dreams about the pipi chowder, and if I want to show off a bit to guests I make them Moreton Bay bug pies. When they’re in season, I really can’t go past a cumquat caipirinha as a fancy, refreshing drink to have while sitting with friends watching the sunset over the ocean.

Stuart: Definitely the papaya salad. It’s so easy to prepare and reminds me of trips to South East Asia, with the bonus of using locally sourced fresh ingredients. It’s the perfect combination of flavours and textures in a dish. Also, Ann’s mullet curry is a standout because it’s so simple to create, but tastes amazing.

What would be your perfect Straddie three-course meal?

It really does depend on the occasion, but the menu we have picked out for Christmas Day lunch with all of our family (both Stu and me, eek) is:

Well it is Christmas Day, and Christmas means seafood, so traditionally Prawn Cocktail is a must (I know, I know, so 70s, but we love it). So the tried and tested recipe with a twist Wasabi Prawn Cocktail’ Pg 65 is a nonnegotiable, we will have these followed by Bloody Mary Oyster Shots (because who doesn’t love a little Christmas morning buzz)

With 14 people in our little beach shack mid-summer, firing up our awesome but huge oven is not an option. So we will be making the most of the ‘Fire Up the BBQ’ Chapter and it will be Grilled Moreton Bay Bugs (pg 94), Barbecued Stuffed Squid (pg 98), Prawn Skewers Three Ways (pg 102) and Bacon Wrapped Snapper (pg 62). There will be a couple of salads including another Christmas Day staple Simple Prawn and Mango Summer Salad (pg146) and (my sisters ‘Straddie famous’) Rustic Potato Salad (pg 149).

A couple of hours later, perhaps after a nap. Ice Cream (pg 84) with Fresh Fruit.

The most surprising food ingredient on Stradbroke is ...

Turkey. Not many of those guys hanging about on the island, but Straddie has an interesting link to these domesticated (but tasty) birds, involving the American supply ship Rufus King running aground off Amity Point on the South Passage Bar.

In 1942 it was en route from Los Angeles to Brisbane carrying goods for American World War II field hospitals. Flotsam, including turkeys destined for Thanksgiving for the troops, washed up on Straddie’s beaches. We have a fantastic recipe on Turkey Bites from Amity local Megan Neville in there, seriously, I cannot get enough of this recipe, a weekly event in our household.

What makes you stay on the island?

We love a good adventure and have both done quite a bit of traveling, I started my relationship with Straddie in 2005 when I landed on the island to visit my sister, I intended on visiting for one night but ended up staying for over two years. Eventually, I left for another adventure, but Straddie had made its way into my heart.

I met Stu and told him about ‘this place.' A couple of years later we returned from overseas, and all it took was a sunset beer on Cylinder Headland for Stu to ask “What do we need to do to make this our home?” And, now here we are, we own a little beach shack (which we are currently renovating) with views of the bush and ocean with koala living in the trees across the road, kangaroos jumping past often and dolphins visiting daily.

We love this island. The landscape is obviously amazing, and if you like anything to do with nature (like we do), the diving and marine life is world class. The surf is incredible, beaches amazing (and for the most part, empty), there are incredibly interesting history and aboriginal culture, breathtaking bush walks, and the most fantastic community. We are delighted that we have found our own little piece of paradise. We chose an island to live on which brings its own disadvantages, it is often difficult to arrange your life around a ferry timetable, but you do get used to it, and it is part of it.

Favourite moments from working on the book?

Angie: For me, it was getting an insight into the lives of the local producers, where things that are an everyday occurrence for them are new and exciting for me. As Stu says, it’s like looking through a window into someone else’s life. I was even stung six times while visiting with beekeepers, but the three weeks it took to recover were totally worth it.

The whole experience actually left me in awe of the skill, passion, and vision of the producers who take such care to bring food to our tables. I mean, when I look out to sea, it’s just the ocean, but the mullet fishermen we spent time with can look at it and read the movement of the fish, so they know just when to cast their nets in. Ditto for the oyster farmer and prawn trawlerman who generously opened their lives to us. I don’t think people realise how much care – and sometimes danger – can go into delivering food to their plate, so that’s something I really hope people take away from this book.

Stuart: Definitely spending the night at sea on a prawn trawler, 12km off Main Beach. Getting to see the crew in action and then eating prawns straight from the boiler, fresh from the ocean, was an unforgettable experience.

Want to know more about North Stradbroke Island.  Here are my 10 top tips.  

I'd love to know your favourite things to do on this beautiful island.  Please share them in the comments below.

Eat, Drink and Be Straddie is a self-published, 200-page hard cover book containing over 100 recipes. It sells for $50 plus postage. A big thank you to Angie and Stu for sharing these wonderful photographs from their book.

Disclaimer:  Eat, drink and be Kerry has been gifted a copy of Eat, Drink and Be Straddie.