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Olympic menu has global flair

Australian recipes stir in a taste of spices and other ingredients from outside Down Under.

When it comes to eating, Australia and America are divided by a common ritual: the barbecue.

Australians love to grill meat in their back yards or on communal braziers in pubs where customers do their own cooking. But when they speak of throwing something on the barbie, Aussies don't necessarily mean the open-grate grills most Americans use. (And they certainly don't mean the slow-smoked meat we love in the South.)

The proper Australian barbie is essentially a gas-fired hot plate, the firebox usually covered with a solid cooking surface. It is almost always tended by a man with long tongs, short pants and a tinnie of beer.

The carefree image may be better than the reality. "We love our barbecues, but the food isn't as flavorsome as yours," says Fred Mitchell, a winery representative in Adelaide who lived for three years in Marietta, Ga. When he returned home, he took a Coleman grill back with him.

There's a lot more to Australian cooking than the barbie, of course.

Marshmallow Pavlova

Many Australians consider Pavlova their national dessert. The story goes that a hotel chef in Perth created the dish in the 1930s, naming it for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The whipped cream topping is supposed to recall her swirling skirt. Terri Steel of the Australian Catalogue Co. in Marietta makes this version for dinner parties.

4 egg whites

1 cup granulated sugar

{ teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 pint whipping cream

2 bananas

2 tablespoons lemon juice

8 ounces strawberries

2 kiwi fruit

2 passion fruit

3 tablespoons seedless strawberry jam

To make the meringue: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition until all sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla and vinegar; beat 1 minute longer. Spread meringue into greased, paper-lined 11-by-7-inch baking pan that has been lightly dusted with flour. Bring paper over sides of pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until meringue is crisp and has a hard shell. Lift out carefully on to wire rack to cool. (You will notice the top of the pavlova has fallen slightly, giving room for the topping.) Trim edges with sharp knife.

To finish the pavlova: Beat } of the pint of whipping cream (reserving \) until soft peaks form; spread over meringue. Peel bananas, cut into diagonal slices and put into the lemon juice to keep their color. Hull and halve strawberries. Peel and slice kiwi fruit. Remove pulp from passion fruit.

Heat strawberry jam in small saucepan; brush over strawberry halves to glaze. Arrange banana slices, strawberries and kiwi fruit decoratively on top of pavlova; spoon passion fruit pulp over bananas. Whip remaining cream and pipe decoratively around edge of pavlova.

Makes 8 servings.

Kangaroo Fillets With Quick Mustard Sauce

Like bison or venison, kangaroo is a lean red meat that can be quite tasty if properly cooked. That means medium rare over high heat. Anything more, and the meat takes on a faint liverish taste. We don't know of a retail supplier in Atlanta, but we were able to get frozen kangaroo fillets for $8.95 a pound (plus shipping) from Broadleaf Venison, a California game supplier that's happy to ship small quantities to individual customers. It also supplied this recipe, which we highly recommend. (800) 336-3844; http://www.broadleafgame.com.

For the sauce:

} cup heavy cream

2 green onions, sliced diagonally

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Salt to taste

For the fillets:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound kangaroo fillets

To make the sauce: Place cream, onions and mustard in a saucepan; bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Season with salt to taste. Keep warm.

To cook the fillets: Heat oil in a frying pan and cook fillets over high heat for about 2 minutes, turning once during cooking. (Or cook on an outdoor grill.) Transfer to a warm plate and let stand for 2 more minutes. Slice fillets and serve with warm sauce, baby potatoes and snow peas or beans.

Makes } servings.

Seared Sea Scallops With Blue Cheese Polenta

Luke Mangan started cooking at 15, when he was tossed out of school for "being cheeky," as he puts it. Now 29 years old, he's the chef at one of Sydney's hottest new restaurants, Salt. You'll probably see him cooking on the U.S. morning shows during the Olympics. His food is an intriguing mixture of modern Australian and traditional French. This dish, from the menu at Salt, appears in his first cookbook due out this fall, BLD (as in breakfast, lunch, dinner).

6 ounces instant polenta

3 tablespoons heavy cream

3 ounces blue cheese (such as Stilton), crumbled

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

{ to } cup finely sliced shiitake mushrooms

1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

} pound medium-large sea scallops (about 12), roe off

Truffle oil (optional)

Watercress, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, combine the polenta and cream and stir over low heat until cooked according to instructions on the packet, usually 5 minutes. Crumble in the blue cheese and stir until melted through. Season with salt and pepper.

Blanch mushrooms in boiling salted water for about 30 seconds. Drain.

Just before the polenta is ready, heat a medium, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, then, when hot, add the scallops and cook until they have just lost their translucency, turning once. This may take about 10 to 12 minutes. Take care not to overcook.

On each plate, dollop about 2 heaping tablespoons polenta and flatten, then top with watercress. Place three scallops on the bed of watercress and top with the shiitake mushrooms. Drizzle with truffle oil, if desired. Serve with champagne.

Makes 4 servings.

Crab Omelet

This fusion stuff can get confusing. The reigning champions of Pacific Rim cuisine in Sydney are Tetsuya Wakuda, the Japanese-born chef of Tetsuya's, and Neil Perry, a native Australian who cooks like he was born in Asia. Their restaurants feature cross-cultural dishes like this stir-fried crab omelet, a mainstay at Perry's flagship, Rockpool. He has another restaurant called Wockpool and a new cookbook titled Simply Asian.

For the broth:

} cup chicken stock

3 tablespoons palm sugar (found in

specialty shops carrying Asian and/or Indian products; substitute granulated sugar if unavailable)

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the omelet:

5 eggs

1 tablespoon palm sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

6 ounces white crab (Spanner crab if available)

3 ounces (~ cup) bean sprouts

{ cup snow pea sprouts (found in specialty stores and Asian markets)

15 Chinese yellow chives, washed and halved crosswise

{ cup peanut or vegetable oil

4 tablespoons oyster sauce

To make the broth: Combine chicken stock, sugar and fish sauce in a pot. Bring to a boil, pour in the sesame oil and keep warm while making omelet.

To make the omelet: Beat the eggs in a medium-size bowl. In a small container, dissolve the palm sugar in the fish sauce. Add to the eggs and whisk well.

Pick through the crab meat to remove any cartilage and shell. Add the bean sprouts, snow pea sprouts and chives. Mix well.

Place the oil in a wok and heat until it is very hot and smoking. (Otherwise, the eggs will soak up the oil.) Pour in the egg mixture (it should puff up). Cook for 3 minutes, then place the crab mixture in the middle. Cook for 3 minutes more and remove from the heat.

Pour off excess oil. Fold the omelet and place it back in the wok for a minute. Turn off the heat and rest it near a heat source for 2 minutes more.

Remove the omelet from the wok with a fish lifter and place on a board. Trim off the ends and place in a large bowl. Pour over the hot broth and top with oyster sauce.

Makes 2 large servings.

Ian and Nathalie's Asian-Australian Shrimps

Nathalie Dupree picked up this dish when she traveled to Australia for a TV show. She adapted the recipe from Ian Parmenter, host of the Australian Broadcasting Co.'s show Consuming Passions. He used prawns; she went with shrimp.

{ cup honey

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

{ cup sherry

1 teaspoon sesame oil (preferably light)

Ground black pepper to taste

{ teaspoon five-spice powder

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 piece ginger, about the size of a

quarter, peeled and chopped,

about 1 teaspoon

2 or 3 hot chiles, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and

deveined

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, preferably lightly toasted

3 green onions, bulbs and greens, chopped

In small bowl, make a sauce by mixing honey, soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, black pepper and five-spice powder. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add ginger, chiles and garlic and cook gently without browning for about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Increase heat and add shrimp, a few at a time, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, undercooking slightly. Add more oil as needed. Remove shrimp and keep warm until all are precooked. Put ginger, chiles and garlic back in pan, add sauce and reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Taste and add additional soy sauce, salt and pepper as needed. Toss the shrimp in the sauce until coated and cook thoroughly, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and toss. Serve topped with chopped green onions.

Makes 4 servings.

Potato and Peanut Salad With Lemon Myrtle Oil

When the downtown Atlanta Hilton scheduled an Australian brunch, executive chef Louis Spost decided to serve crocodile fritters, some kind of kangaroo and this potato salad, which uses lemon myrtle oil, an intense lemon-lime flavoring extracted from a tropical tree native to Australia. We found lemon myrtle at Spicehouse International in Hicksville, N.Y., (516) 942-7248. It's pricey _ $29 for about 4 ounces.

15 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons butter

1 tablespoon water

1 pound gold potatoes (or 3 large)

1 pound red potatoes (or 3 large)

1 pound sweet potatoes (or 2 medium)

{ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small yellow pepper

1 small red pepper

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 cups unsalted roasted peanuts

\ cup balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons lemon myrtle oil (or, for a similar but not identical flavor,

substitute zest of 1 lemon)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel loose skin off garlic. Separate cloves and place in small baking pan with butter and water. Roast in preheated oven for 1 hour (or until soft), adding more water as necessary. Allow cloves to cool, remove skins, mash and set aside. While garlic is roasting, wash, peel and dice potatoes. Place in large roasting pan. Mix with oil, salt and pepper to taste, and roasted garlic. Roast potato mixture during last 35 minutes of roasting time for garlic until potatoes are soft. Set aside. Broil peppers 4-5 inches from heat for 15 minutes on all sides until skin is charred. (If oven is in use, this can also be done by holding over a gas flame or on a grill.) Remove from oven and place in a closed paper bag to cool. Remove charred skin, stems and seed from peppers. Cut peppers into small pieces. Toss potatoes with peppers, onion, peanuts, balsamic vinegar and lemon myrtle oil. Mix thoroughly and serve at room temperature.

Makes 9 cups.

Anzac Biscuits

These aren't the kind of biscuits you split open and fill with country ham. In Australia, as in England, biscuits are cookies. These oatmeal treats probably came from the large number of Scots who migrated to the young nation. The name dates to World War I, when people held bake sales to show support for the Australia New Zealand Army Corps.

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup oatmeal

1 packed cup shredded coconut

4 tablespoons boiling water

{ cup (1 stick) butter

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, oatmeal and coconut in a mixing bowl. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil and add butter, stirring until it melts. Add corn syrup and baking soda. Then, add liquid mixture to dry ingredients, stirring until mixture holds together. Place rounded teaspoons onto a greased pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.

Makes about 3{ dozen.

This recipe, by Victoria chef Alla Wolf-Tasker, comes from the collection Australian Food: In Celebration of the New Australian Cuisine (Ten Speed Press, $24.95) by Alan Saunders. We used New Zealand lamb, a nearly identical substitute available from some local butchers.

Barbecued Lamb Loins in Spicy Yogurt Marinade With Tomato and Chickpea Salad

For the marinade:

1 teaspoon cardamom pods

1 teaspoon cloves

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cloves garlic

{ teaspoon salt

5 small red chiles, stems and seeds removed

1 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried

1 pint plain yogurt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 (8-ounce) lamb loins

For the tomato and chickpea Salad:

8 ounces dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

{ onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

3 bay leaves

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 large shallots, finely chopped

{ cup cilantro leaves, washed and finely chopped

4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

Lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the marinade: Roast the cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns in a dry, hot frying pan. Grind the roasted spices in a spice or coffee grinder, or use a mortar and pestle. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender, adding the yogurt and oil last. Coat the lamb in the marinade, cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the salad: Put the chickpeas in a saucepan, cover with water and place over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and bay leaves. Cook for at least 1 { hours, or until the chickpeas are tender. Allow to cool in the liquid, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan or skillet, add the garlic and shallots and cook gently until softened. Remove the frying pan from the heat and allow to cool partially, then stir in the cilantro and cool completely. Combine with the tomato and adjust the flavor with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the chickpea mixture and mix throughly.

To cook the lamb: Preheat a covered kettle-style barbecue or the oven to about 425 degrees. Place the lamb on the grill or on a baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes for rare. Remove from the heat and tent with foil, to keep the meat warm, and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

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