An Australian Lunch or Dinner

Australia Day - This is the day we celebrate our Australian-ness, that something making us unique, or at least we like to think so. Australia today is multicultural and draws food styles from every corner of the globe, but, the strongest influence is South East Asia. Along with all this gourmet guru stuff, we're taking a close look at the past and deciding that what went on then wasn't half bad.

Australia's culinary history is fascinating, what with all that pioneer stuff and adapting well loved English dishes to Australian conditions and wild life. Indeed recently we have again commenced eating some of our national emblems, the Kangaroo amongst them. But for me, I get a real buzz out of what is a tradition, still alive and still just as important as ever, "The Country Women's Association of Australia".

Imagine if you will, tables in country halls, groaning under the weight of sponge cakes filled with cream and strawberries, lemon cakes topped with coconut that seemed in imminent danger of collapse they were so high, bowls of wine trifle, plates of meringues, endless sango's, sausage rolls and plates of home made tomato sauce to dip them in. Pumpkin scones that defied gravity as they rose to enormous heights and topped with home made jam and fresh cream. Casseroles that had been long cooked in the wood stove, joints that had been roasted (often too long) and could be carved to feed dozens. In the winter, steam puddings, bread and butter custards, Queen of Puddings and endless others, in the summer, jellies with fruit set into them, cold custards, chocolate flavoured blancmange, fruits that had been stewed with cinnamon or other spices and shimmered in their robes of rich juice. Breads that had been baked at hearth and knew nothing of the traditions of Europe.

Yes, we have a rich tradition, even into the fifties and sixties of this century, we have a lot to celebrate, a lot to remember and a lot to experience again. For your celebratory lunch of dinner, here's a few suggestions, for those of you unable to tackle the task without a recipe, email me and I will endeavour to assist, but I will be away after the 18th January and not be back for a week.

Here we go, these are choices and you can compose it from there.

A Sixties Scene

I like the idea of all those sixties, seventies cocktail parties and suggest that you resurrect such things as Angels on Horseback.... prunes stuffed with some chopped almonds, wrapped in bacon and grilled or baked in the oven. Plain scones, cut into halves and topped with a slice of tomato, some good cheese, a slice of onion and some bacon and then baked in the oven till the cheese is all melted and the bacon crisp.

Make a great white sauce and then take a look at the fridge or pantry... find a few eggs, some tins of oysters, some left over chicken, some onion, some mushroom, what ever takes your fancy, add to the white sauce, pile into one of those small puff pastry cases that you had to buy previously at the local baker's and are now available at super markets and bake in the oven till all bubbly and smelling delicious.

Boil some real farm eggs and do it the old fashioned way, swirl the water when you put them in and keep the water swirling for a minute or so to see the yolk into the middle. Slice in half lengthwise and remove the yolk, mash it with some mayonnaise, chopped onion, chopped gherkin, chopped parsley or for that matter anything you lie and pile it back into the egg white and serve. Here I must confess that I am a total pig about these and would welcome any and all recipes.

The Greeks and the Italians came in droves in the fifties and sixties and we celebrated with such dishes as ... roasted capsicum and baked tomatoes. The secret was to get a bit of cooked rice, mix with some good meat... lamb or beef would do, add some chopped herbs (marjoram or oregano were the first choice) and pile the mixture into half shells of capsicums or tomatoes with all the seeds and middles scooped out, cover with some good cheese and a splash or two from the glass flagon of white wine and bake for an hour. Absolutely delicious.

I'd better get onto the mains, beef of lamb. It had to be. That was the basic choice. Now BBQ was not something that we excelled at until comparatively recently and in truth, we're still learning. There's no doubt we could crank up the old BBQ until the heat pulsated from it where upon we could hurl some sausages and a steak at the grill plate and, with adequate protection (a full fireman's suit was perfect) turn the steak and sausages with as fork letting as much juice as possible escape and the fat, flaring the fire to provide a satisfactory degree of charcoal on the meat. In the extreme event that luck smiled upon you, and, in the centre of the meat, a tiny amount of pink and succulent meat could be found, and with this you would need to skulk off to a spot behind a tree to avoid the gaze of the chef who, at the merest whiff of undercooked meat, would return said charcoal offering to the flames once again. Life was not easy. We weren't good at salads in those days and the less said about such concoctions as 'garden salad', the better.