Australians typically enjoy a cosmopolitan cuisine as a result of immigration and influence from Europe and Asia. Major cities are awash with French, Italian, Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants, and most locals are adept at preparing their own pasta or stir fry dishes. However, traditional Aussie ‘tucker’ remains a much-loved staple of many diets. It is simple though hearty fare that hearkens back to Colonial days, when a hot and filling meal would be prepared over a camp fire or in a bush oven.
Australia has long been blessed with an abundance of fresh produce all year round, and this is reflected in traditional cooking: lamb or beef stews and casseroles served with jumbuck dumplings; kangaroo steaks with red wine sauce; balmain bugs (flat crustaceans with a mild, white flesh) served in a mango sauce; plus poultry, fish, breads and cheeses, finished off with a fine Australian table wine.
Some foods are more than belly fillers, however. They are so popular and easy to make that they become part of the national consciousness. Three examples of this are Bush Damper, Anzac Biscuits and the famous Aussie Meat Pie.
An Australian bread, best eaten warm and fresh. During colonial times the dough was made from easy to carry dry ingredients that were wrapped around a stick and cooked over hot coals. Damper is traditionally served with lashings of butter or ‘cocky’s joy’ (golden syrup). Add ¾ cup of grated cheddar for a variation on the following recipe.
Ingredients – 3 cups self-raising flour; 2 teaspoons salt; 45g butter; ½ cup milk; ½ cup water
Preparation – 1. Preheat oven to 200 C. Lightly brush an oven tray with melted butter or oil. 2. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in combined milk, water and melted butter. 3. Mix gently with a knife until a dough is formed. 4. When the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl, remove and knead gently for about 20 seconds. 5. Transfer dough to greased tray and mould into a round shape 20cm (8 inches) across. 6. Bake for 10 minutes at 200 C. 7. Reduce heat to 180 C and bake for a further 20 minutes or until golden brown. 8. Tap the bread. When cooked, it should sound hollow.
There are several famous Aussie treats: lamingtons (sponge cake squares dipped in chocolate icing and coconut); pavlova (meringue coated in fresh cream and strawberries or tropical fruits); and these tasty biscuits. Anzac biscuits were first made in Australia during World War One. They were packed in tins and sent to soldiers fighting at Gallipoli or the Western Front. Although they are still enjoyed all year round, it is a tradition to eat them on Anzac Day (April 25th)
Ingredients – 1 cup plain flour; 1 cup rolled oats; ¾ cup desiccated coconut; ¾ cup brown sugar; 125g butter; 2 tbsp golden syrup; ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda; 2 tbsp boiling water
Preparation – 1. Preheat oven to 150 C. Brush two oven trays with melted butter or oil. 2. Combine flour, oats, coconut and sugar in a large mixing bowl. 3. Combine butter and golden syrup in a small frying pan. Stir and melt over a high heat, then add soda mixed with boiling water. 4. Add syrup mixture to the flour and oats. Stir until combined. 5. Shape mixture into walnut sized balls and flatten onto greased tray. Be sure to leave a 2 inch space between each as the biscuits will expand when heated. 6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. 7. When cooked, remove from oven and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes on a wire rack.
Aussie Meat Pie
Although meat pies are enjoyed in many countries, Australian pies are typically sized to be hand-held single servings. They are traditionally topped with tomato sauce and served with mashed potato and peas. The pastry is a shortcrust base with a flaky puff pastry lid.
Ingredients – 2 tbsp oil; 1 finely chopped onion; 500 g lean minced beef; 2 tbsp plain flour; 1/3 cup tomato sauce; 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce; 1 1/4 cups beef stock; 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley; Salt and black pepper; 4 sheets ready-rolled shortcrust pastry; 4 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry; 1 egg, beaten
Preparation – 1. Preheat oven to 200 C. 2. Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Add onion, stir until soft. 3. Add mince and stir occasionally. Cook on high heat until browned. 4. Sprinkle flour over meat and stir. Add tomato and Worcestershire sauces and the beef stock. 5. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so meat and sauce don’t stick to the pan. 6. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. 7. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
8. Using a small plate as a guide, cut out four circles from the shortcrust pastry and line four small pie tins. (If no small tins are available, make one large pie.) 9. Add cooled meat mix. 10. Using the same small plate, cut out four puff pastry circles. Moisten the edges of the shortcrust with water and top with puff pastry circles. Press together and trim the excess pastry. 11. Brush the tops with beaten egg. 12. Cook at 200 C for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180 C and cook for a further 20 minutes or until golden brown.
There are many slight differences in various recipes for these delicious Australian foods. Some ingredient quantities can be modified slightly to change texture or taste.
Although legend has it that a Western Australian chef invented pavlova in order to honour the great Russian dancer, new Zealanders claim that they were making a similar dish many years earlier!
For many more great Australian recipes, Taste.com is highly recommended.