You could be forgiven for thinking that Australian cuisine doesn’t stretch any further than a ‘barbie’ on the beach. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actual fact, Australian cooking is extremely sophisticated and has a long history.
Traditionally, the foods were always based upon British and Irish recipes. But as Australian society has become more diverse as various cultures have made a home there the food has acquired a wonderful fusion nature.
If you are visiting Australia, you will find it is one place in this world that truly invests in the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and most restaurants and cafés will offer a spectacular array of options. The fry-up is a particularly popular choice, although it is more often served with the healthier poached eggs rather than fried. Some places will also use homemade baked beans as opposed to the more usual tinned variety.
Unlike the UK, Australian vegetables are a lot more seasonal and as a result are fresher and more flavourful. One way in particular that they are put to use because of the hot weather is in an array of delicious and colourful salads. Aussie salads are more creative than those you would find in most places and make use of things such as roasted pumpkin or sweet potato.
Barbeques do play a significant role in Australian cooking. Particular favourites include barbequed shrimp, which can be served with a variety of delicious dips and sauces. Seafood as a whole is very popular and shrimp, fish, clams, mussels and crabs make up a good portion of the most popular meals.
Soups also play a large role. The most famous is perhaps clam chowder, a rich soup made with clams, potatoes, garlic, onion and milk and seasoned with parsley, basil, salt and pepper. It is served across Australia and in New Zealand and can come with a side order of damper – unleavened Australian bread.
Meat pie and Aussie Rissoles
Main meals tend to be quite meat heavy, as demonstrated by two of the classic dishes – the meat pie and Aussie rissoles. Rissoles are made out of ground meat, chopped onions, egg, tomato paste and seasoning that are mixed together and shaped into patties or meat balls to be fried. Although often made with beef, they can also be made from kangaroo meat.
Lamingtons and other Desserts
One area in which the Aussies have also left their mark is with desserts. Lamingtons are wonderful little cakes that are very popular. Named after Baron Lamington, a popular governor of Queensland between 1896 and 1901, they are made from small squares of sponge cake that are coated in chocolate icing and sprinkled with coconut.
However, possibly the most famous Australian export is the pavlova. A desert made with baked meringue, fruit and cream, it is enjoyed across the world. The main difference between a meringue and pavlova, however, is that the mix includes corn flour, which allows the outside to be crisp while leaving the centre soft and marshmallow-like.
The pavlova was first created to celebrate the visit of the ballerina Anna Pavlova, although there has been some disagreement about this and the dish may have originated in New Zealand.
Damper is traditional bread developed in colonial times for when men were away from home for weeks with only flour as provisions. The loaves would be baked in the embers of the camp fire, a practice which continues today in the baking of damper although the recipe has changed somewhat.
Now made with flour, salt, butter, milk and water, the loaves are baked in a hot oven or on a campfire if you’re hanging out with friends. Spread it thick with golden syrup or with some cold cuts of meat and have it with a mug of hot billy tea.
Billy tea is made on the camp fire in a billy can. This is filled with water and set on some of the coals to boil. Australian tea is then added and it’s left to brew. Once the tea is ready, add milk and sugar to taste. A tea strainer is recommended to prevent leaves going in your cup but if you can just let it stand a while so that the tea sinks to the bottom.
While enjoying a cup of sweet billy tea, you could always nibble on a couple of Anzac biscuits. These are biscuits that were made during the First World War by wives at home to send to the soldiers on the front. Baked with oats, coconut, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda, they are still extremely popular today.
Another Aussie food product that is particularly popular is the concentrated yeast spread Vegemite, which is eaten on toast or used as a flavour in recipes. Tim Tam chocolate biscuits are also considered to be quite an institution and must be tried should you take a holiday in Australia.
Australian wild meats are very popular and are often used as substitutes in recipes in place of more common fowl and red meats. Kangaroo, crocodile, emu and ostrich all offer a very different exotic taste, so be sure to give them a try if you are visiting Australia.