Advance Australia fare

Australia is the ‘lucky country’. We are renowned the world over for our sunshine, our laid back lifestyle, our sporting prowess and our ability to charcoal a range of produce at the annual Australia Day backyard barbecue. To top it all off, we’re officially allowed to take the day of work to celebrate our good fortune. Yay!

But with so much good food on offer in this country, what should we be consuming that truly demonstrates our ‘Australianness’?

If you’ve been watching the television we have been lambasted (literally) by Sam Kekovich on the true Aussie meat, while others stand staunchly in support of Australia’s seafood industry, and let’s not forget the country’s ‘favourite dessert’, the Pavlova. It’s our national day, a time to celebrate, and there’s no better way to do that with a few Australian classics, some with an added modern-day twist.

Lamb burgers:

Grab yourself about 1kg of lamb mince and add 1 tablespoon of Middle Eastern spice (we’re embracing multiculturalism). Get your hands dirty by mixing it together until it’s well combined and then divide the mixture into portions of about 10cm in diameter. On a hot barbecue plate (medium heat) spray a bit of olive oil cooking spray – this can be quite entertaining if you’re working with the grill – and cook your lamb patties for about 5 minutes on each side, making sure they are cooked through. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Continue the Middle Eastern theme of this dish by substituting stodgy burger buns for pocket pita breads, filling them with rocket (love that peppery taste), sliced tomato and a lamb patty. For added flavour, drizzle a bit of Greek-style yoghurt over it. Dig in!

If you’re looking for a drink to match with this dish, try a Pinot Noir, or a red wine with hints of berry and a touch of earthiness. Prefer beer to wine, sources tell me that an ale is the best way to go for this one due to lamb being more of a ‘gamey’ type of meat, the other option would be a stout, if you wanted something with a little more character.

Spicy prawns:

Combine 1 finely chopped small brown onion, 2 tbsp of chopped coriander, 2 tbsp of chopped flat-leaf parsley, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tbsp of ground cumin and 3 tsp of paprika into a large bowl. Stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add 1kg of prawns (get yourself some decent sized Australian prawns, otherwise what’s the point?) that have the shit removed and have been peeled leaving the tails in tact, and toss until the prawns are well-coated. Let them marinate for about 1hr. Preheat your barbie to medium-high heat and place half the prawns in a single layer on the hot plate. Spoon over some of the marinade and cook the prawns for about 2 minutes or until they turn pink. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat until all the prawns are cooked. Serve while hot with lemon wedges.

White wine will always be the pick for seafood, and given that this dish is a little spicy it is recommended that a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer (if you can get your hands on one) are the best matches. Prawns also go well with wheat beers or pilsners.

Can’t eat prawns (and some poor folk like me love them, but can’t)? Try this dish.

Stuffed squid:

Take 2 finely chopped ripe tomatoes, 1 finely chopped brown onion, 1/3 of a cup of breadcrumbs, and 1 tbsp of chopped parsley and mix in a bow. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into at least 3 large (and clean) squid hoods and close the ends with toothpicks. Preheat the grill of your barbecue, and then on a rack, cook the squid for about 5 minutes on each side or until just tender and brown. It’s really that simple!

The same wine and beer varieties above for prawns will also work here. You could also try a lager.

Mango and passionfruit pavlova roulade:

For those who don’t know what ‘roulade’ means, it’s French for ‘to roll’. If you want to make your pavlova from scratch, there are plenty of recipes online that will help. Personally, I prefer the gloriously simple and slightly retro ‘Pavlova Magic’ – I know, gasp! Once your pav is in the oven (it will take about 35-40 minutes) slice a mango on either side of the seed and finely chop the flesh. Beat 250g of mascarpone, and then stir in the mango. Whip 150ml of cream until thick, and then fold it into the mango mix. Halve 1 passionfruit, scooping the inside and setting it aside. When the pavlova is cooked leave it for about 10 minutes before putting it on a cooling rack, paper side down. When the pavlova is cold, turn it paper side up and peel off the baking paper, but don’t throw it away. Spread the cream mix over the pavlova and then drizzle the passionfruit on top. Use the baking paper to roll the pavlova and then wrap the roll in alfoil and put it in the freezer. To serve, remove from the freezer and thaw in the fridge for about 1hr before slicing.

It’s our national day, a time to celebrate, so set up your deck chairs around the pool, light up the barbie, crack open a bevvie or two, and crank up Triple J’s Hottest 100 (possibly the most democratic vote in the world)… Does it get any more Australian than this?

First published January 25, 2012

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