Featured Country of the month: Australia
Updated: Mar 8
This month has been an interesting one in terms of a national cuisine, as in some ways there is a distinct lack of one within Australia. Every country's cuisine is influenced by immigration but in the case of Australia, it seems to be almost entirely comprised of foreign influence. This is with the exception of Bush Tucker - food that is uniquely indigenous to Australia. However, covering this would be extremely difficult without actually being in Australia.. Instead, I have looked to food culture and dishes that are consumed by everyday Australians.
When people settled in Australia, they did not take notice of the native ingredients, instead viewing the generous growing conditions as perfect for crops they were already familiar with - hence the vast amount of European influences in Australian cuisine. This mentality continued for many decades, as more settlers arrived, bringing their own food culture with them.
This isn't to say that there aren’t any dishes that originate in Australia - I was surprised to learn that Pavlova is Australian! But this seemed like quite a boring choice for a newsletter. Instead, I have opted for dishes which are reflective of the fusion that is inherent within Australian cuisine. I think it is fair to say that the ability to embrace new dishes and abandon any sense of tradition, is what makes a dish quintessentially Australian.
They may not have their own cuisine, but Australia is undeniably known for its favourite cooking style - BBQ. Barbecuing is about more than just the food, in fact there are no set dishes that would make a BBQ typically Australian. BBQ is part of Australian culture and is reflective of the general appreciation for the outdoors and as a time for families and friends to get together and relax. One particularly Australian way of eating burgers, however, is - a Burger with the lot. A burger with ‘the lot’ consists of:
There are plentiful other welcome additions to this concoction but the above appears to be the bare minimum to qualify. Beetroot in particular seems to be the most controversial ingredient on the list but is a mainstay of this classic.
The concept is, however, not universally popular; David Chang, the chef and food writer notoriously claimed ‘You know who f*ck up burgers more than anyone else in the world? Australians.’
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t need a whole lot else to accompany the mammoth star of the show, but I couldn’t resist throwing some shrimp on the barbie. Due to its proximity, Asian flavours are very common in Australia and so I marinated these prawns in coconut, chilli and lime before barbecuing them on skewers.
There’s not a huge amount that can go wrong with a BBQ to be honest. Even less so when you have it at your parents house and your Dad mans the burgers for you!
Did you like it?
Burger with the lot - I have to disagree with Chang on this one. The earthy beetroot works well with the sweet and tangy pineapple and an egg is always a welcome addition to a burger.
Prawns in Coconut, Chilli & Lime - these had a bit of a kick to them which was appreciated. They were so simple and delicious, and I will definitely make these again.
Marks out of 10: 9/10
I have to admit, when researching classic Australian dishes, I thought there must be more to the ‘meat pie’ than it just being a meat pie..? The name is warranted because in America, savoury pies are non-existent. The main difference between UK pies and Australian pies is that Australian pies are smaller than what we have here, and are fondly referred to as hand-warmers or pocket pies. They are found at every major sport event and are made to be eaten on the go.
The everyday filling would be beef and a squirt of ketchup on top. However meat pies are an excellent example of how Australia lacks any kind of food puritanism. Anything can go in a pie - In fact, the only two time winner of the prestigious ‘Australia’s Best Pie and Pastie Competition’ was a Cambodian bakery with a satay seafood pie.
I went classic and made a beef filling for my pies. I made this the day before baking it into the pastry cases to give it plenty of time to cool down completely. I was not about to be faffing around making pastry in this heat so opted for a good old shop bought shortcrust for the bottom and puff pastry for the top. As you can see from the photo above, the pie could technically be hand-held but I wouldn't recommend it - they were far too big!
Did you like it?
I did but to be honest, it was just a steak pie..
Marks out of 10: 7/10
Chicken Parmigiana (parmi / parma)
Chicken parmigiana, or ‘chicken parmi’ or ‘parma’ as it is more commonly referred to, is a pub food staple in Australia. As the name suggests, it likely has its origins in Italy’s ‘parmigiana’ which uses aubergine, not chicken as the main component of the dish. The dish consists of a giant chicken schnitzel, tomato sauce and cheese. It is common knowledge that the bigger the chicken schnitzel you get - the less classy the pub you are in! It is typically served alongside chips or a salad.
I can see why it’s a pub favourite - it is very easy to make. The chicken is first flattened out with a rolling pin, then crumbed and shallow fried to create the breaded chicken base. I made a tomato sauce, but you could just as easily use some from a jar to spread over the top with some basil, then finally it is topped with a generous amount of mozzarella and parmesan. Once assembled it is baked in the oven until the cheese completely melts and start bubbling.
Did you like it?
Of course I did - this must be one of the least offensive dishes there are, I can’t imagine anyone could take issue with the classic combo that is chicken, tomato and cheese?!
Marks out of 10: 8/10
You can view all previous 'Country of the Month' articles HERE.