Though many people think Australians simply throw another shrimp on the barbie and call this dinner, Australian chefs are in the midst of creating the most original and multicultural cuisine in the world. In Australian Food, Alan Saunders, a leading Australian food writer, assembles more than 140 recipes from 54 local chefs and other food professionals that demonstrate this.
But first, Saunders defines Australian cuisine and discusses its relatively short history. His discussion includes definitions of cuisine itself and thoughts on how any cuisine originates and develops, using French and Chinese cooking, widely accepted as the world's two greatest cuisines, as models. Saunders then presents the work of Australian chefs as the vibrant fusion of indigenous ingredients prepared using French and Asian techniques, a British respect for the quality of food, and a sometimes electrifying creativity inspired by a potpourri of influences from Australia's many immigrant populations (which include Greek, Italian, Thai, Filipino, Japanese, and others).
Yellow Thai Curry of Swordfish with Green Papaya, fragrant with mint and basil, shows the strong Asian influence in Australian kitchens. Poached Blue-Eye Cod, simmered in olive oil, served on a bed of French Puy lentils flavored with bacon, then bathed in a warm, sharp vinaigrette studded with diced fennel and tomato, demonstrates how Australian chefs transmute Mediterranean cuisine. Many recipes feature fish, as one might expect on an island continent, such as Tasmanian salmon, freshwater trout, sweet abalone, and lobster. Unfortunately, the book offers only vague substitutions, recommending "any fine-textured white fish" in place of King George whiting. Reading about the local yabbies (crayfish) roasted with thyme-infused oil, gravlax-cured snook, and Barbecued Lamb Rumps with Tomato and Chickpea Salad is likely to prompt the purchase of many an airline ticket to Oz land. For travelers, Australian Food is a delicious way to single out restaurants to visit. --Dana Jacobi
To answer the obvious question, yes, kangaroo meat does make an appearance in this beautifully photographed and diverse collection of foodstuffs from Down Under. But more to the point, the marsupial appears in a dish where you might least expect it: a Polenta with Smoked Kangaroo and Parmesan. If that concept smacks more of Sicily than Sydney, then it is indeed at the heart of what Saunders, an established Aussie food writer, proclaims with every pageAthat today's Australian cuisine is a celebration of fusion. And it is by no means just an Italian mixAFrench, Chinese, Thai and English cuisines also influence these recipes, which are culled from the kitchens of 54 chefs, restaurateurs and food experts from around the continent. There are several lamb dishes that are grand for the barbecue, including Barbecued Lamb Rumps in a Spicy Yogurt Marinade, and at least a dozen sweet desserts, such as an Asian-inspired Coconut and Apricot Pudding glazed with a Coconut Sugar Syrup. But the seafood dishes highlight this volumeAChef Cheong Liew's The Four Dances is a multicultural recipe composed of Soused Snook, Octopus with Aioli, Raw Cuttlefish with Black Noodles, and Spiced Prawn Sushi. Of course, not everything need be that complex: chef Janet Jeffs relaxes with a beer-battered Summertime Fish and Chips, and Guillaume Brahimi serves up a simple Stew of Yabbies (crayfish in the U.S.) with Clams, Mussels and Scallops.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.