Saturday, October 17, 2009


Australia is another of those countries where I tread lightly when approaching its cuisine, mainly because Amy and I have come to know a fair amount of Australians in our time. So, to all Australians we know, we hope we didn't screw up your cuisine, and if we did: sorry. For most American cooks Australia should not be too daunting of a country. Despite, being on the other end of the globe, the food is remarkably similar to what Amy and I grew up with in the midwest. This is probably because both our countries have a shared history of English colonization and large scale emigrations from Europe. Many ancestors of the Aussies, however, did not emigrate by choice, but were shipped to Australia as prisoners or debtors. The result of all this is a continent full of meat and potato eaters on the other side of the planet.

Our attempts at coming up with a quintessential Australian meal were a bit difficult. Of course there is a lot of amazing food in Australia, but it was hard to pin down what was specifically considered to be truly Australian and not just a good version of a foreign dish. This problem will undoubtedly come up again when we are planning for Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. Our first thought for this meal was to get kangaroo or emu meat, but sadly the costs were sky high and the cuts available weren't very good. We then tried to go the purely seafood route, but realized that wasn't generally seen as strictly Aussie either. The meal we concluded on is an attempt at making several of the Aussie staple dishes as well as a few other dishes that are based on side items that I have eaten at the few Australian meals I've attended.

As we cooked, we made sure to play lots of Men at Work.

Vegemite and Australian Swiss with Toast

We were not able to find any vegemite here in Chicago. So we had to commit sacrilege and go with the British salty yeast extract spread, Marmite, as a substitute for Australia's classic vegemite sandwich. Nobody enjoyed the strange dark substance, but we Americans really have no history of spreading yeast extract on bread. Amy's friend Jodie tells us that a new vegemite is about to come out called cheesy-bite formulated for non yeast muncher palates that is blended with cheese product for a less strong taste.

1 jar vegemite (or marmite if you can't find it)
Cheese (we had an Australian Swiss)
Toasted bread

1. Toast the bread.
2. Cut the cheese...ha!
3. Open the vegemite and thinly spread on toast. Cheese is optional on the toast as well. I find everybody needed the cheese to get the yeasty taste out of their mouth. But maybe you'll enjoy it.
4. After a slice of toast each, we put this away because nobody liked it. If you do enjoy it, go ahead and keep eating it.

Potato Salad

This is one of those items, that while not a classic Australian staple, I am sure some Australians enjoy it. This particular version of potato salad is based on one I was served at an Australian embassy party when I was living in Hanoi. What made this salad different from our American standard was the inclusion of cheese and scallions and the exclusion of mayonnaise in favor of olive oil and mustard. I've been making my potato salads this way ever since.

3 lbs red potatoes
2 tsp English mustard powder mixed with 2 tbsps water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2-2/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp drained and capers
1 bunch parsley chopped
1 bunch scallions chopped
1/2 cup medium grated parmesan or sharp white cheddar
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Boil potatoes until you can pass a fork easily into the center of the potato. Be careful not to overboil them or else you'll get mashed potatoes. This can take practice.
2. Drain the potatoes and immediately run cold water over them. Give the potatoes 20 minutes to cool, and then cut them into 1 inch cubes.
3. Whisk mustard, oil, vinegar, capers, and parsley together in a large bowl. Add the potatoes, salt, parsley, scallions, and cheese to the bowl. Gently toss the ingredients to combine. Allow to sit until they come to room temperature and serve.

Southeast Asian Cole Slaw in a Macadamia Sauce

This was the least Australian of our dishes. Basically we needed to eat vegetables, and I could not find a typical 'Aussie' vegetable dish. So I got creative and came up with this recipe. The cabbage salad is typical of many Southeast Asian countries, and Australia has a very large Southeast Asian population. We substituted macadamia nuts for peanuts, because the macadamia is actually indigenous to Australia.

1 cup macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 tbsps soy sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tbsps honey
1 tsp chili paste
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 head cabbage thinly chopped
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
3 medium carrots scraped and grated
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 bunch cilantro chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 f and cook the nuts 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
2. Combine nuts, honey, soy sauce, and coriander in a food processor and grind to a thick pulp.
3. Scrape the nut mixture into a saucepan and combine chili paste and coconut milk with ingredients.
4. Heat over medium flame until the mixture thickens into a thick sauce (about ten minutes). Set the sauce aside and allow to cool.
5. Now for the cabbage. In a large bowl combine the chopped cabbage with a bit of salt. Pound the mix with a masher to loosen the leaves and allow to sit for 10 minutes or until the cabbage softens.
6. Add carrots, onions, cilantro, vinegar, and sauce. Combine and serve at room at room temperature.

Shrimp on the Barbie

For many Americans, the mention of Australian cuisine elicits images of barbecued shrimp. This is probably the result of this very well made tourism video featuring Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame from the 1980's. At the end of the ad, Hogan puts an enormous shrimp onto the barbecue and invites you to 'come and say g'day' in Australia. Sadly, my shrimp weren't as large as Paul Hogan's, but lets face it we can't all be that awesome. The recipe itself, couldn't be easier.

1.5 lbs shrimp
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsps chopped ginger
Chopped garlic

1. Marinate the shrimp in the soy and ginger for 30 minutes
2. Skewer the shrimp and grill over high heat for about two minutes on each side. And remove.
3. Melt the butter and add the garlic. Serve the garlic sauce in small bowls on the side.

Meat Pie

The quintessential national dish of Australia: the meat pie. Ground beef seemed to be the agreed upon standard for this dish, but I'm still partial to filling my savory pastries with pork. Also, as you can tell by the picture, we still have no pie pans in the new apartment so we had to make do with a loaf tin. It still worked, and I'll be eating the leftovers of this savory log for the next several days.

For the Filling:

2 lbs ground beef dredged in 1/2 cup flour
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsps butter
2 medium yellow onions finely chopped
1 tsp English mustard powder
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp coriander seed (ground)
1 tsp pepper (ground)
4 cups stock (beef or chicken)
2 tsp vegemite (marmite in our case)

1. Heat butter in a large cast iron pan and add onions and garlic. Cook over medium high until translucent.
2. Add the beef and cook until well browned
3. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook over medium until the sauce forms a thick gravy (about 15 minutes).
4. Set the meat and sauce aside to cool.

For the Crust:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup lard
1.5 tsp salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until a large ball of dough forms.
2. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and kneed for five minutes. Wrap the mixture in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the dough and cut off 2/3 of the mixture.
4. On a floured surface roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and line a bread pan with the crust If it breaks as this happens fell free to smush it together, and tell nobody that anything bad happened.
5. Bake this bottom layer of crust for 15 minutes at 375 f in the oven until it is browned.
6. Roll out the remaining dough in a rough shape of the top of the pan also to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut two vent holes in the dough.
7. Trim the edges of the dough to fit the pan.
8. Fill the pan with the meat mixture and place the top piece over the mixture being sure to seal the edges.
9. Bake in the 375 f oven for another hour.
10. Allow 15 minutes to cool and serve with plenty of ketchup.

Anzac Biscuits (Cookies)

These are great old-timey cookies originally made in honor of Australia and New Zealand's overseas forces in the first World War. They are also incredibly easy to make. But the Anzac biscuits although simple in execution can easily become a tremendous failure. We learned this the hard way and had a trash can full of burnt cookie goo after our first try. So pay attention and you just might be able to make these truly amazing cookies.

1 cup oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1 cup butter
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsps boiling water
2 tbsps honey

1. Mix oats, flour, sugar, and coconut in a large bowl.
2. Melt butter and honey together in a small saucepan.
3. In a small cup dissolve baking soda into the water. Add this to the melted butter mixture and stir well.
4. Now add the butter mix to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon (not your hands because that butter stings!)
5. After it is well mixed place on baking sheets in two inch flattened balls. Leave lots of space between the cookies because they expand quite a bit.
6. Bake 12-15 in a 325 f oven.
7. Allow cookies 10 minutes to cool before removing them from baking sheets. This allows them to harden.
8. Eat cookies.

In Conclusion

The big winning items of the night were definitely the shrimp and the cookies. The meat pie proved to be a bit much with everything else on the table, but I'm fine with eating the rest at work this week. Everybody left with full bellies and Men at Work ringing in their heads. It was a surreal experience that Outback Steakhouse only wishes they could equal. We hope Paul Hogan would've been proud! Up next is Austria and Sausage making! Cheers, mates!


  1. Re: your comment on Canada.

    It would be really easy to do "Canada" by doing Quebec food, but that would be like doing "the United States" by cooking jambalaya and shrimp po' boys. I think you should do Quebec as a separate country. Also, if you need advice on Canada my mom will be able to help you out.

  2. I will certainly be taking you up on that when Canada comes up. And should we ever make it through this list, we're gonna keep going by having a meal for every separatist nationality.

  3. Be careful with the Quebec thing. If you start recognizing Quebec as it's own country, it could trigger an international incident. Nonetheless, I agree, and I think dessert should be sugar pie!