Award-winning chef, James Viles, shares his culinary journey from wild and unpredictable Tasmania to the stunning Gulf of Carpentaria.


Tonight will be our last night on mainland Tassie and we plan to stay in the Bay of Fires, which has been on my wish list for a long time.

The drive to St Helens is majestic – we go through a lot of small coastal communities, the kind of places where you could just forget all of your troubles and live a simple life. We spend the morning in St Helens having a look around, go for a drive to the Bay of Fires to find a campsite, and lock one in – it’s magic, right on the water.

We’re here to meet a guy called Dave Allen, who’s super passionate about anything that comes from the ocean, and has supplied seafood to some of Australia’s top restaurants. Adam and I head into town to see him, but he’s running late so we decide to get some supplies to make a celebratory dinner, in anticipation of actually catching some abalone.


Fishing for Abalone in St Helens, Tasmania


Eventually we find Dave. Almost a decade ago, he pioneered sea urchin processing in Tasmania, at Goshen, just inland from the Bay of Fires, and his enthusiasm for sea urchins is boundless. Soon we discover that we also both have fondness for the southern mud (native) oyster.

Dave grew up in this area and knows it like the back of his hand. His seafood is great, and he really knows his stuff, but it can be a precarious way of making a living. He takes us a little further north for a dive. Adam goes in as well and comes up with a bag full of abalone – the smaller ones we put back, and the rest we keep. Dave comes back with us to share our last-night dinner. 


Cooking abalone over the fire


Now abalone can be a real bitch to cook, especially if all you have is a fire, but I think the best approach is to keep it simple: just fire, abalone, garlic, butter and beer.

You need to beat the abalone with a rock or the back of a heavy frying pan until a small crack appears on the top of the shell. Place the abalone in the pan, cracked side down, then add a little garlic and a dob of butter. Add enough beer to cover, as well as a massive fistful of butter. Cook for about quarter of an hour, then remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave it for half to three-quarters of an hour. Go for a swim or something, or just settle back with a few cold ones – the beer of choice for the abalone is Boags XXX or Furphy.

Now cook up some linguine, slice the abalone super-thin and then toss them and their juices through the pasta. So tasty – especially if you’re in the Bay of Fires, looking at one of the prettiest sunsets imaginable. 


Abalone linguine


More about Due North

Due North is a photographic journal capturing the epic road trip from Tasmania to the Gulf of Carpentaria undertaken by award-winning chef, James Viles. This unique Australian food adventure investigates where our produce comes from, how it’s grown, tended and harvested, and how it flourishes in the most hostile and breathtakingly beautiful parts of Australia. 

Due North is available for purchase online and in all good bookstores.

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