‘Australian cuisine’ is a slippery notion. While our multicultural reality means we dine on Vietnamese pho, spaghetti bolognese, sushi and Chinese dumplings more often than the cliched ‘Australian’ fare, when it comes to celebrating our national day on 26 January each year we tend to revert to the stereotypical staples: barbecued sausages, meat pies, pavlova, lamingtons…and of course plenty of beer!
To me, this has turned Australia Day in to an almost sarcastic celebration of our cuisine, rather than one based on pride and culinary expression. We are blessed in Australia with access to some of the most amazing fresh produce and ingredients in the world, and yet Australia Day doesn’t seem to be pitched as a platform for showcasing these foodie gifts.
All this, dear readers, The Bulb wants to change. We want Australia Day gatherings this year to rejoice in the variety of the country’s cuisine by exploring contemporary interpretations of Australian food. “How do I do this?”, I hear you ask. Well, The Bulb recently hosted an Australian-themed, 10-course degustation dinner and below you will find two of the recipes from the evening. We encourage you to copy them, adapt them or just be inspired by them – wow your mates with them, impress your family with them. Whether you’re in Australia or not, join us in our quest to challenge Australian cuisine cliches.
ROSEMARY KANGAROO FILLETS ON BAKED POLENTA CHIPS
Serves 8 as a large canape or 2-3 as a main
For the kangaroo
2-3 kangaroo fillets (approx. 700g total)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbspns light olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the polenta
2 cups low fat milk
1 tspn salt
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 1/3 cups instant polenta (I find the superfine variety tends to clump so medium coarseness works best)
1.5 tbspns oil, for greasing and brushing
“Ploughman’s” or tomato relish
1. Place the kangaroo fillets, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper in a dish and combine. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours, prefearably overnight.
2. Grease a medium-sized rectangular tin with sides. In a large, heavy-based saucepan, heat the milk, salt and stock until almost boiling. Meanwhile, grate the cheese and measure out the polenta. When the milk and stock are almost boiling, take a large whisk and whisk in the polenta, adding it in a steady stream. Do not add in one go. Stir until cooked, using packet directions as a guide to cooking time. Add in cheese and stir until combined.
3. Spread the polenta onto the prepared tin using a spatula, smoothing it into an even block. Cool and then place in the fridge to set for an hour or two (or overnight).
4. When ready to bake, line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Preheat oven to 220C. Cut out long rectangular chip shapes in the polenta if you are making canapes, or you can cut bigger slabs for a main. Carefully place the chips onto the lined baking tray. With a brush, lightly brush over with the oil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until you get some lightly charred bits.
5. While the polenta is baking, grill the kangaroo. Heat a large griddle pan, barbecue or frying pan until very hot. Add fillets and grill on one side until the the juices can be seen on top; around 3-5 minutes. Turn and cook for a similar time on other side, or until juices appear. Cover with foil and leave to rest for 3-5 mins. It should be served medium-rare for best results.
6. For canapes, top each polenta finger with some chutney. Slice each fillet into 3-4 slices. Place one slice of kangaroo on top of each polenta chip, top with microherbs and serve. For mains, serve fillets on a bed of polenta chips with a side of chutney and herbs or salad.
TASMANIAN SALMON WITH ROAST POTATOES AND DILL MAYONNAISE
Serves 8 as a canape or 2 as a main
2 x 150g Tasmanian salmon fillets with skin on (the long, thin, lengthways cut fillets, rather than the tail or steak)
2-3 large washed potatoes
1-2 tbspns light olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dill mayonnaise (we used the fabulous Goldyna brand)
1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. Wash and dry potatoes and slice them through the middle into whole rounds around 1cm thick. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly brown on the edges.
3. Meanwhile, if making as canapes, slice each salmon fillet into four pieces so that each slice still has skin on the bottom. Coat in olive oil and salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan on high and fry salmon, skin-side down first, for 3-4 minutes on each side. If making as a main, you can leave as whole fillets.
4. Serve pan-fried salmon fillets atop potato rounds, drizzled with mayonnaise and fresh dill.
(Written by Sarah)