Top Shelf: Rusty’s weekend market offers taste of Cairns’

Jan 13, 2020 by Timothy MacDonald

Top Shelf: by Chef Tim MacDonald

If 50 years on the Haight-Ashbury were an ashtray in a jumble sale, Cairns would have bought it. Gateway to the Daintree Tropical rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, the small town is steeped in a free and easy spirit long-embraced by the hippy community. 

It’s dominated by loose, free-flowing Ganesh-imprinted clothing, leather sandals, frankincense, and more backpackers than a Greyhound bus station. Littered throughout the mix are Southeast Asians who arrived long ago to ply their trade, and the odd man out – the white Australian bushman.

All positive observations when the end result is Rusty’s weekend market. The only other market that comes close in my book is the Seattle market. But I don’t think Seattle has the edge on Rusty’s.

Chinese, Malay, Viet, Indians and Thais trade side-by-side with the hippies selling all sorts of organic exotica. There’s no flying fish here, but the Southeast Asian element dominates.

Raw bamboo root; black sapote tropical fruits; rare Southeast Asian greens and fragrant herbs, such as Vietnamese mint and Thai basil; artesian sourdough bakers wearing beads and sandals; the sole Italian cannoli seller; and the token German-meat-in-tube-form trader – all compete for the local and tourist dollar.

It’s a tropical climate and the temperature is a brutal 32 C at mid-day – and that’s spring! There are too many choices to write about. A beautiful French girl has virtually stepped straight out of the Manon des Sources film set, and her Provincial blue eyes sell the macaroons before I’ve spotted them. The Viet Banh Mi baguettes, Aki Maki’s Hokkaido cream buns, Bazza’s local ginger beer, Bing Lee 7’s juice wagon … 

The chocolate pudding fruit, or black sapote, is a natural choice. The soft cinnamon-spiced pulp mashed with orange zest/juice sits at perfect harmony under a baked chocolate mousse.

Neither can you reinvent the wheel nor will there be another Marco Pierre White. His chocolate tart recipe is the “Book of Matthew” in my bible.


Pastry ingredients

  • 2.5 cups soft flour
  • Butter
  • 1/4 cup fine caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with water 

Filling ingredients

  • 500 grams best quality plain chocolate, broken into small pieces (plus extra for the chocolate curls, if making your own)
  • 3 medium free-range eggs
  • 200 milliliters milk
  • 350 milliliters double cream
  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pulp of 4 super-ripe black sapotes


Pre-bake a rectangular shell with the pastry ingredients. 

Make the chocolate filling by melting the chocolate with milk and cream, then add the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. 

Keep the sapote pulp separate. 

Line the base of the shell with the ripe black pulp, then cover with the chocolate filling. 

Place into a pre-heated 160 C oven, and then immediately turn the oven off and bake the tart for about 25-30 minutes only. 

A larger, deeper tart would require 30-45 minutes.

Tim MacDonald ( has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for Yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome below.