I really do think with my stomach.
Today at my (temp) office, they had a morning tea to celebrate the birthdays of all their employees born in November.
In England, when offices do something like this, it will always be sweet – probably a box of Krispy Kremes and a chocolate mud cake.
In Australia, you’ll still get a cake but a party ain’t a party and a morning tea ain’t a morning tea unless there’s a pie in there somewhere. In fact, we even have a version of pie called ‘party pies’ (more on this later).
So, as I was scoffing the the party pies and the sausage rolls, I got thinking about food. Not surprising. I think about food all the time. At breakfast, I’m imagining lunch and dinner. At dinner, I’m remembering yesterday’s breakfast and planning tomorrow’s.
By rights, I should probably be about 100kg and rolling everywhere. My brother is a personal trainer and he thinks I put away a lot of food for a girl (I protest this greatly – I’m a normal size! But he might be right). I think my saving grace is that, due to my father’s fatal heart attack before he was 50, I’ve been very aware of healthy eating (the occasional pie and sausage roll notwithstanding). So, I may eat a lot but it’s not rubbish and the bike takes care of the rest.
Anyway, I’m getting way off track here. I got thinking about food and Australian food in particular. As a nation of (mostly) immigrants, we don’t really have a native cuisine like they do in, say, Italy or Greece. Or so I thought.
It was only when I was in England that I started noticing that they didn’t sell the foods I was used to… and in many cases, hadn’t even heard of it.
So I present to you:
AUSTRALIA’S nATIVE FOODS
(Small ‘n’ since native is a bit of a misnomer – however, as I’m not up on Aboriginal food cuisine, it will have to do)
- The party pie. It’s a pie. It’s small. It’s perfet for parties. Simple, really. Australia has a real pie culture and, if you want a definitively good pie and find youself in south-east Queensland, then may I suggest Yatala Pies. I never go to the coast without a pit stop and I’m pretty sure everyone else in Queensland does the same thing.
- Cheerios. No, not the cereal, which we don’t have here. Instead, I’m talking about mini frankfurters. The link takes you to a pic of them (scroll down a bit – thanks Google Image search). Found at every Aussie child’s birthday since time immemorial and always served with tomato sauce. One of my favourite memories as a child was when we visited the butcher and he gave me one for free. Score!
- Rissoles. Like a burger patty, only not. Basically, it’s mince mixed with various flavourings (onion, garlic, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, etc), an egg (to bind) and breadcrumbs. My mum swaps breadcrumbs for rolled oats – it’s healthier and makes the meat go further. Always served with gravy on top and mashed potatoes and green veggies on the side.
- Corned beef. Ok, I know you have it in America but in England they don’t eat it (except for tinned corned beef, an inedible abomination which is definitely not what I’m talking about). The exception is the English Jewish community, but they call it salt beef (and I say this with some authority since I had a big long discussion about it with my old boss who is Jewish. See, I even talk food at work). In Australia, we boil the corned beef in water with vinegar, sugar, bay leaves and a clove-studded onion. Always served with white sauce, boiled potatoes, pumpkin and greens.
- Pumpkin. And I don’t just mean Butternut Squash. Pumpkin is not eaten in the UK (asides from Butternuts) and, in my few visits to the States, I never noticed it there either. Pumpkin is HUGE in Australia. Every supermarket will have at least three or four varieties: Jap (aka Kent), Queensland Blue and Golden Nugget. Australians boil, mash and roast pumpkin and the skin on many varieties is edible (Butternut skin is lovely). The flesh is thick, very smooth and creamy and tastes sweet.
- Lollies. In the UK, ‘lollies’ means lollipops. In Australia, it means soft, chewy deliciousness. Like gummi only not rubbery. There are raspberries, strawberries and cream, pineapples, minties, jelly babies, snakes, killer pythons (snakes only bigger and thicker), teeth, milk bottles, chico babies, mint leaves… The list goes on.
- Vegemite. This is an obvious one and something I’ve blogged about before.
- Lamingtons. Basically pound cake cut into squares, dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in dessicated coconut. Variations include cream filled and jam/cream filled.
- Damper. Like a really big scone. Reputation as ‘bush tucker’ food since you can make it on a camp stove/over a fire.
- Anzac biscuits. A biscuit (cookie) primarily made out of oats and golden syrup. So named (I think) because they were sent to ANZAC soldiers (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) during both World Wars – they keep very well. Recipe here.
- Cheezels. Delicious snack that can only be eaten one way: you must put a cheezel on each finger (like a ring) and eat them off. I’ve been doing it that way since I was 4.
- Lemon myrtle. Ok, now we’re getting properly native. This is a native shrub with the leaves used for (you guessed it) lemony flavour. Often bought as a spice mix or part of a spice rub. Rub chicken in it!
- Barramundi. A native fish – incredibly popular and delicious. A recipe here.
- Moreton Bay bugs. A native lobster. They look like they’re from an alien planet but, I’m told, are great eating (I’m not really into lobster, so I’ll have to take my countrymen’s words on it). Easy recipe on how to use them here.
- Beetroot. Not unusual around the world but here in Australia we put it on burgers and sandwiches. Top tip if you’re putting it on your kid’s salad sandwich for lunch: blot with kitchen paper. It saves a whole lot of soggy pink bread.
Oh Australia – I’m so glad I’m home!