Vegemite Sandwiches and Kangaroo Tails for All
In digging my way through to the other side of the world, I suddenly found myself down-under an avalanche of unfamiliar dishes. I decided to pass over the “bush tucker” of the outback with its fruit bats, witjuti grubs, kangaroo tails, honey-ants and blue tongue skinks. A couple hundred years of colonial cuisine did little to alleviate my bewilderment, what with yabbies, Moretan Bay bugs, pie floaters, dog’s eye and dead horse, damper, ANZAC biscuits, lamingtons, tim tams, vegemite, and pluto dogs.
I stayed on the yellow brick road, watched out for the witch, and found myself in “Oz Mod,” the new cuisine of Australia. The climate and isolation of this former penal colony have given rise to a spectacular array of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, meats and seafood – many species found nowhere else on earth. Settlers from across our spinning orb have spiced the cuisine with everything from thyme and tarragon to star anise and wattle seeds. In a land where lemons grow on trees in the backyard, and papayas, passion fruit, custard apples, and mangoes are available at roadside markets, anything is possible.
On one hand, fish, low fat, and low alcohol are in fashion. On the other hand, Australians are the third-largest consumers of ice cream on the globe, and incredible ingesters of sugar, averaging a whopping 100 pounds of sugar per year, each. The “national” dessert of Australia, Pavlova, is a sugary meringue basket filled with fruit and whipped cream.
Just what is Oz Mod? To answer that I must point out that Australia is big. Nearly three million square miles of land area, almost 1,500 miles north to south by 2,000 miles east to west. Regional tastes can be as different as New England Clam Bkaes, Shrimp Creole, and Chili are in the U.S. My trek through the menus from coast to coast came up with a sampling that ranged from Indonesian-influenced King Prawns in Lime Sauce in southern Adelaide, through Mideast-style Lamb with Dried Fruits in eastern Sydney, to the very French Coral Trout with Beurre Blanc in northern Port Douglas, on to Italian inspired Grilled Kid Chops with Rosemary and Garlic in western Perth, and even south across the water, where a delicate Carpaccio of Tasmanian Salmon with Caviar and Edible Flower Confetti awaited in Hobart.
Since your local market may not carry warrigal greens, bunya nuts, or Balmain bugs, many “authentic” Australian recipes didn’t seem appropriate to share here. So, I picked a little favorite that you can make the next time you want to impress that special someone. Australian wines are in this year, so make your toasts with an outstanding Riesling from the Hunter Valley.
Sautéed Trout with Macadamia Nuts
2 fresh trout, each ½-¾ lb., gutted and scaled (leave the head and tails on)
½ cup chopped macadamia nuts
½ cup flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
½ lb. fresh spinach
¼ cup safflower or other light oil
chopped parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
Heat a large (big enough to hold the two trout) frying pan over medium heat, add about half the oil and the nuts and sauté until just starting to color. Remove the nuts and set aside on paper towel to drain.
Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and orange peel in a plastic bag, put in fish and shake to coat thoroughly (one at a time). Add remaining oil to the pan, sauté the fish 5-6 minutes on each side until the skin is browned and when you look at the inside, the fish should be cooked through. Remove the fish and drain the oil out of the pan.
Quickly toss the spinach in the hot pan until just wilted. Mix in half the nuts, spread out on two plates. Lay whole fish on top of spinach bed. Top with the remaining nuts, chopped parsley and a couple of lemon wedges. Serves two. (Oh, if you just can’t deal with a whole fish, use fillets, and only cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.)
Special thanks for some of my Australian menu research to Kit Snedaker, Harry O’Neil, and Christine Cook.
Genre is a gay “lifestyle” and travel magazine. It was launched in 1992 by three entrepreneurs, two of whom shortly thereafter left to found QSF magazine. I went with them…