Chew into a curried camel pie in Birdsville

If Australia does have a national food, it’s the meat pie.  At its most basic, a meat pie is a type of steak casserole encased inside crunchy pastry, and it is usually served with a dob of tomato sauce (ketchup) on top.  Whereas the Americans have their hot dogs as the food to eat at sporting events, for Australians the meat pie is the cuisine of choice to munch on at the footy because it can easily be held with one hand, and it’s usually accompanied with a cold glass of beer in the other.  The combination of beef and beer is a match made in heaven and despite the invasion from overseas of burgers and pizzas; the good old meat pie still remains popular.

Birdsville, in western Queensland, is one of Australia’s most remote towns.  It is located on the, usually dry, Diamantina River on the edge of the perilous Simpson Desert and it has a permanent population of about 115, which expands to several thousand for the weekend of the annual Birdsville Races.

For gourmets the world over, the good news is that Birdsville also has a bakery which has re-invented the meat pie.

If you have ever had the urge to sink your teeth into a curry camel pie, do yourself a favour and head out to Birdsville Bakery (open from Easter until November – dry season only) where you’ll also discover Dusty Miller’s moorish quandong and apple pie.

Originally a radar technician with 11 years navy experience, Dusty is Birdsville’s baker.

He first visited Birdsville 20 years ago on a whim that he’d make a fortune as a mobile caterer during the famous Birdsville Races. Over a drink and a yarn with a worker from the information centre, he learned the town of 115 (and a travel population of 50,000) needed a bakery and decided to set one up.

The result is Birdsville Bakery, an unusual corrugated iron joint half way between the pub and the museum that churns out some 30,000 pies a season.

Today, Dusty’s menu includes curry camel pie, rabbit pie and kangaroo and claret pie. But it’s his quandong and apple pies that have everyone going back for more.

This year Dusty has announced that he’s expanding into evening meals and will be dishing up oxtail stew and lamb shanks.

He may not get three Michelin stars, but I bet Dusty’s till will be singing.

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