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G’day mate and welcome to Straya. This week we cross the ditch (Tasman Sea) from little New Zealand to the sixth largest country in the world, Australia. Similar to Kiwi’s (New Zealanders), Aussies (Australians) treat abbreviations and dimunitives as a national hobby, giving rise to slang such as arvo (afternoon), choccy (chocolate), lappy (laptop) and Maccas (McDonalds), to name just a few. Australia is the birthplace of AC/DC (Accadacca), Wi-Fi, boxed wine (goony bag), the hills hoist (you know, that thing you hang your laundry on), speedos (budgie smugglers), and country music star, Keith Urban…oh wait, he’s actually Kiwi.
With a similar colonial past to New Zealand, Aussies have much the same issue when it comes to naming a national dish. While much of Australian cuisine has evolved from British grub (cuisine), the Aboriginal people have also contributed recipes made from native Australian flora and fauna. This is labelled bush tucker and is based on a hunter-gatherer diet.
To represent Australia, we decided on a meal both British and bush tucker inspired. While we don’t have access to Australian flora and fauna, we have used some imagination and locally sourced alternatives. Our main course was an Aussie steak and ale pie, a recipe, fittingly, by Jamie Oliver. Just about anywhere you go in Australia you’ll be hard pressed not to find a hearty meat pie. But don’t get confused when offered a dog’s eye with dead horse, as Aussies somehow think this phrase is a better way to describe a meat pie. To add some healthy greenery to our plates, we incorporated a bush tucker dish of lemony kale salad.
Aaron also threw some shrimps on the barbie as an entrée (or starter for all our North American friends), along with a couple of beef sausages that were due to be used. Although it was a 1980’s Australian tourism ad for the American market that coined the phrase ‘throw a shrimp on the barbie’, Aussies invariably use the word prawn (yabby) rather than shrimp, which refers to a short person, like Karla. As a point of interest, that ad propelled Australia from #78 on the list of ‘most desired’ vacation locations for Americans, to #7 just three months later.
To accompany the meal, we opted for some Coopers Pale Ale, apparently one of the most recognised and successful beers in Australia. Of course, Australia also produces some great wine, particularly Shiraz (otherwise called Syrah everywhere outside of Australia), Cabernet Savignon, Chardonnay and Semillion. We had the opportunity last year, to spend a few days in the Hunter Valley, some two hours north of Sydney. Although naturally bias to New Zealand wines, we thoroughly enjoyed the wine tasting experience. Two of our favourite cellar doors were Gartelmann’s and Scarborough Wines. The latter produced an amazing 2012 Late Harvest Semillion dessert wine, that has a unique spicy chilli finish. We highly recommend visiting that area if you get the chance.
For dessert, we whipped up some ANZAC biscuits or biccy’s (those are cookies for the North Americans) alongside a cup of tea. These sweet rolled oat biscuits derive their name from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps established in World War I, after wives and women groups would send these biscuits to their soldiers abroad.
Medium pan or wok with lid
Aussie Steak and Ale Pie ingredients:
1 kg beef skirt, chopped into 1cm chunks
1 whole nutmeg, for grating
2 large carrots, peeled
2 red onions, peeled
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
250 ml pale ale
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon tomato purée
250 g button mushrooms
1 large egg yolk, beaten, or semi-skimmed milk
For the pastry:
600 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
150 g cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
150 g Cheddar cheese
Aussie Steak and Ale Pie method:
1. Place the beef chunks in a large bowl. Add a heaped tsp of pepper, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste.
2. Grate in quarter of a nutmeg. Toss well and coat all chunks. Set aside.
3. Roughly chop the carrots, onions and rosemary leaves.
4. In a wide, medium sized pan/wok, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the beef chunks and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meat is browned all over and any liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently.
5. Meanwhile, heat another medium pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and a drizzle of olive oil and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened and caramelised, stirring frequently. Set aside.
6. Add the ale or the ale substitute to the beef, turn the heat up to high and allow the liquid to boil and bubble away, stirring and scraping all those lovely sticky bits from the bottom of the pan.
7. Stir in the flour and tomato pureé and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it forms a thick paste. Add the softened vegetables into the pan and pour in 1 litre of cold water. Roughly slice and add the mushrooms, then bring to the boil.
8. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 1.5 hours then remove the lid and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until thickened and reduced and the beef is nice and tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely for a few hours or preferably overnight in the fridge.
9. Meanwhile, make the pastry. Combine the flour and a good pinch of salt in a bowl, then grate in the Cheddar and rub into the flour along with the butter, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
10. Gradually add 125 ml (1/2 cup) of cold water, stirring continuously to combine, then use your hands to bring it together into a rough dough – be careful not to work it too much. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge until needed.
11. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
12. Grease pie dish with butter and dust with flour. Divide the pastry into 2 equal-sized pieces, then roll out a portion on a flour-dusted surface. Roll the pastry around the rolling pin, hold it over the dish and carefully unroll the pastry to cover. Gently press the pastry into the sides of the dishes, then roughly cut away the excess so you end up with a lined pie dish.
13. Add the steak and ale filling. Roll out to the remining pastry and place over the filling. Trim away any excess, crimp the edges with a fork and with the tip of a sharp knife or kitchen blade cut a little cross into the top. Brush over with a beaten egg, then place in the hot oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and piping hot through. Serve warm with a dollop of tomato sauce.
Bush Tucker lemony kale salad ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 shallot, minced
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), mined
4 tablespoons macadamia nut oil
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon native thyme (Could not find a substitute, but used pizza thyme and it tasted great)
¼ teaspoon ground pepperberry (can be substituted with a mixture of 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground pepperleaf, ¼ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper, and ¼ teaspoon grains of paradise)
Lemony Kale Salad method:
1. Chop Kale into bite size pieces.
2. In a separate bowl mix the shallot, red capsicum, oil, lemon juice, Native Thyme, salt and Pepperberry.
3. Then pour it over the kale briefly rubbing in with your hands until the kale softens.
ANZAC Biscuits ingredients:
½ cup Edmonds standard flour
⅓ cup sugar
⅔ cup finely desiccated coconut
¾ cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp golden syrup
½ tsp Edmonds baking soda
2 Tbsp boiling water
ANZAC Biscuits method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C / 356˚F. Line a baking tray with baking mat.
2. Mix together flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats.
3. Melt butter and golden syrup.
4. Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup.
5. Stir butter mixture into the dry ingredients.
6. Place level tablespoonfuls of mixture onto cold trays and flatten with a fork. These don't spread as they bake so you can place them close together.
7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Leave on the tray for 5 minutes then place on a wire rack to cool.
While your pie is in the oven, check out some fun facts about Australia:
If you visited one new beach in Australia every day, it would take over 27 years to see them all. Now that is a lot of dedicated holiday time! Luckily laws have changed, because before 1902, it was illegal to swim at the beach during the day. They have turned a full 180 degrees because they would now suggest you not swim at night, when some of Aussies most deadly creatures come out for a feed.
In 2005, security guards at Canberra's (Australia’s capital) Parliament House were banned from calling people 'mate'. It lasted one day.
Each year, Brisbane hosts the world championships of cockroach racing. Maybe you can add this to your bucket list…or maybe not.
Although Australia is just a short 3½ hour flight away, it wasn't until last year (excluding layovers) that Aaron made the jump across to join Karla on one of her work trips. Our few days were spent taking in the iconic Sydney sights and then driving north, stopping in at historic Wollombi, Polokin and the Hunter Valley vineyards, some beautiful Central Coast beaches and the picturesque Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The sunsets near Port Stephens were simply unreal colouring the sky with the richest patterns. Having tasted only a small part of this massive country, here are a few bucket list places we’d love to get to:
Roadtrip the Great Ocean Road with surfboard, book and camera within easy reach. While the route is only a four-hour drive, there's some amazing sights and restaurants along the way that would be worth extending this trip over several days.
Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef. Karla recommends keeping an eye out for the large and loveable Maori Wrasse that lap up any attention they can get. Link up with GBRMPA’s ‘Eye on the Reef Program’ or another eco-based organisation to help contribute to the long-term protection of this natural wonder.
Swim & sail the Whitsundays; even the name itself sounds heavenly. Some of the finest beaches in the world line these crystal aqua waters.
Dynamic laneways, stunning street art, stylish cafes, funky bars and cutting-edge restaurants make Melbourne a foodie’s dream. Little wonder that the city is considered one of the most liveable in the world. A long weekend away here timed with the Australian Open would be ideal.
Join us next week for the tropical holiday destination, Vanuatu. Let us know what you think of our blog so far! Join our subscribers list to receive updates on new posts.
Sunset from Port Stephen's Tomaree Head Summit
(p.s. photo not edited...simply stunning in its natural state!)