Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Australian Food Festivals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

To co-incide with national Day celebrations for Australia, a 10 day food festival commencing January 28th, will take place throughout the outlets of Towers Rotana Hotel, Dubai, with Australian guest chefs hosting dinners and doing cooking demonstrations in the various outlets of the hotel. Authentic Australian ingredients will be used in buffets in Gardinia and a totally Aussie twist in the Long’s menu as well as the great Aussie BBQ poolside on January 28.

A similar event will be held at the Millenium Hotel in Adu Dhabi with chef Dayle Merlo from Noosa's Bistro C heading the flavour force. Dayle cooked for us on the Noosa episode of Dining Downunder just minutes after coming of his motorcycle and getting quite banged up. All's healed now, so drop in if you're in the region and say hello.

The flavours of Australia come to Dubai in January at Towers Rotana Hotel and the Millenium Hotel Abu Dhabi in conjunction with the Australian Consulate in Dubai, Meat & Livestock Australia and Cherikoff authentic Australian ingredients supplied through Essential Fine Foods.

Some Australia Day thoughts and recipes

Well. It's 4 weeks into 2005 and already the year's slipping away. Like me you've probably already planned a heap of outcomes and scheduled them for set deadlines. I've pencilled in 9 promotional events sort of spread out monthly and to be run somewhere between KL and Moscow and have 3, maybe 4 other countries to accommodate. So where's the year gone?

Then there's still that sobering disaster in the Indian Ocean. You've got to feel for those people in the affected areas who still have to endure the horrific outcome of the undersea earthquake. I know I count myself lucky indeed to have been in Phuket only a few weeks before the tsunami and moving on from the promotion I completed with Benjamin Christie as though it would all still be the same as whenever I came back. Nature can be an awesome teacher but I look at life a little differently today than just a month ago. I am adding these frightening pictures so that we remember just how awesome this disaster was and that we continue to help support the rebuilding process however we can. The wave came and went. Now we have to prove the riddle of the universe: Wherever life can exist, it will.

Looking forward is one of the lessons and recognising the truth in the cliché; 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' However, I do acknowledge the sorrow for those who lost friends and family in the disaster and hope that business gets back to some normality quickly so that locals can begin to earn incomes again to rebuild their lives. The news from Phuket is that there's been a lot of media hype (disasters really sell newspapers and make the media barons richer, don't they)? If you were thinking of going, please do so. It really helps the locals if you do and it is still a great place to holiday (or work).

But now onto happier things. I hope you share my optimism that this year is going to be the biggest ever for Australian native foods and our developing authentic Australian cuisine abroad. It is terrific to also see the wide range of customers using my ingredients, from The Watermark, Aqualuna, Tetsuya and the newest addition to the list, Wildfire, where the chefs are appreciative of the ingredients as interesting for the particular dishes in which they use them and with no imperative to go all-native. I don't know how many times I've been asked by journalists, "Where are the Australian (meaning full-on indigenous menu) restaurants in Australia?" This is not the point. If a chef is looking for a uniquely and authentic Australian flavour in a dish then he uses a native ingredient. Otherwise an Asian, Indian or Mediterranean one might do.

Australia Day is one time when we can put a greater focus on Cherikoff ingredients and other domestic produce in celebration of where our cuisine has come and how it's developed. So I've put together a few ideas. Firstly, lets look at three dishes which were featured on Channel 9's Today Show where Benjamin Christie, Mark McCluskey and I added some zing to the MLA's ideas on promoting lamb. Have a look at Lambada, Lamb-ingtons and Lamb and Dam followed by a Pav Swag (to be a little kitch with the naming). And remember that you can get my ingredients from anywhere in the world by shopping on-line.

Lamb is probably our national meat while we wait for kangaroo meat to rise into significance. I personally can't wait for the MLA to embrace this environmentally-sensible resource for the benefit of their levy-paying members and I feel sure that the time will come. The on-going health of our country depends on it. These recipes are uniquely Australian because of the use of a range of native flavoured seasonings: Alpine Pepper, Wildfire Spice, Red Desert Dust, Oz Lemon and Fruit Spice. As I mentioned, you can get my ingredients from anywhere in the world by shopping on-line or if you are a chef, through all good food providores. Just ask them as they may not promote my ingredients even though they stock them. Don't ask me why, maybe it's because I can't afford to pay the incentives the big food companies offer the sales reps. Anyway.

1. Here’s a dish with a Spanish/Mediterranean influence made authentically Australian with Wildfire Spice:

Lambada - Skewers of lamb, capsicum and Spanish onion marinated in Alpine pepper and seasoned with outback Wildfire spice

This is an easy recipe using your choice of meat for the skewers. If you choose a cheaper cut, then marinate it in some mashed paw paw fruit for a few hours beforehand and once the skewers are loaded up, season with the Alpine pepper. Cook the meat on a medium-high heat and once they are done (still a little pink in the middle) season with the Wildfire spice and serve.

2. This 'Hawaiian' influence is made authentically Australian with wattleseed, rainforest nuts and wild herbs:

‘Lamb-ington’ - Macadamia and wattleseed crusted cutlets as a duet served with wild scented pineapple rice. This is a recipe based on one I featured in my first cookbook and which came from Scott Webster who now runs Osia in the Haymarket, London.

While much of the world thinks of the Macadamia nut as the Hawaiian nut, this uniquely Australian rainforest tree nut makes an excellent crusting for meats but its high content of oil makes it easy to burn so finish the cutlets off under a hood or in a camp oven.

Dip the cutlets (bone out) in flour and then into a whisked egg. Coat the prepared cutlets in a mixture of Cherikoff ground Wattleseed and macadamia nut fines and BBQ on a hotplate or in an oiled pan. Cook both sides of the cutlets until the macadamia nut pieces begin to brown slightly and then transfer them to a hot camp oven lined with paperbark to cook on. This can sit over a medium heat on the hob. Once done, serve the cutlets on steamed rice flavoured with a little Yarras Grove Garlic and Gumleaf oil, some BBQd pineapple pieces well dusted with Alpine pepper.

3. Colonial British and Asian fusion made authentically Australian in this dish with wild herbs and spices over lamb and yabbies

Lamb and dam - rice noodle salad with red desert dusted lamb and Oz lemon yabbie tails

This mixes jumbuck and yabbies in an Asian noodle salad.

Prepare the vermicelli noodle by steeping it in boiling water until soft. Toss with some sesame seed oil, chopped chilli, strips of capsicum and some shitake mushroom strips. Meanwhile, coat some lamb strips with Red Desert Dust and cook off on the BBQ. Also toss a few yabbies on the Barbie and once they are done, remove the tail meat and finish with a seasoning of Oz lemon. Finally, simply serve the noodle salad in a bowl, top with the lamb strips and finish with the yabbie tails.

4. And now for dessert - New Zealand/Australia 'Downunder Duel' dessert - Who did create the Pavlova?

Pav Swag or as Rose-Marie Perkins, the charismatic chef at le Boomerang, just out of Lyons, France calls them; Vic Rolls - Rolled wattleseed pavlova

7 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1? cups (310g) castor sugar
2 tablespoons Wattleseed extract
300ml whipped cream
½ cup biscuit crumbs – try Dick Smith Foods’ Bushfood breakfast cereal, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon Fruit Spice

Whip egg whites to a firm froth and only then add the sugar and lemon juice slowly until stiff peaks form. Spread onto a piece of baking paper on an appropriate tray to cover an area the width of the baking paper and 1¼ times the width in length. Bake at 150°C for 10 to 15 minutes or until firm and nearly touch dry but not browned. It should look like soft meringue at this stage. Remove from the oven and slide it off the tray to stop it cooking on. Sprinkle the top with a mix of the biscuit crumbs, sugar and the Fruit Spice and leave to cool fully.

Add Wattleseed extract to the cream and whip this to stiff peaks. This can and is best done the day before to allow the full flavour to develop. Taste and add more extract if you want a stronger flavour. (Actually, this Wattleccino™ cream can be made up to a week beforehand as it will not split and is ideal for enhancing sauces or topping a coffee or wattleseed cappuccino.)

Flip the meringue over, seasoned side down, onto a clean tea towel and remove the baking paper carefully. If it sticks, place a wet towel which has been heated in a microwave (or soaked with really hot water) on to the baking paper for 30 seconds. Try peeling the paper away again and it should come away cleanly. Spread the Wattle cream evenly over the meringue to a thickness of around 1cm or ½ an inch. Roll up the pavlova using the long edge of the towel. Cut the ends on an angle (good cooks will taste-test the trimmings).

Finally, before removing the towel completely, lift the pavlova onto a platter and serve with berries and a sour fruit couli, for example, a berry jam mixed with enough lemon juice to taste tart and to pour like a thick sauce. I’d add a pinch of Fruit Spice to this sauce as well to enhance the fruitiness.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Australia Day chopped for some

Well the MLA's lamb ad might be in-your-face ockerism and probably appeals to a proportion of us but is it un-Australian itself?

The article in The Australian and other newspapers highlight the discomfort of vegetarians towards the campaign and elicit calls of "This is not Australian cuisine" but what are our officials backing as Australian food?

We might be surprised to learn that in Singapore, Australian food is apparently best represented by a Thai and a Mediterranean chef who will be waving the flag with organisers; Tourism Australia and Austrade making the amazing claim that only in Australia do chefs use fresh ingredients.

Where have they been living?

Sure, for some of us, Australia Day is a lamb chop and a beer but equally, we don't cook Thai or authentic Mediterranean at home. We might include olives in a salad, eat pasta every other day because it's easy or use olive oil because of the marketing effort of its health aspects (as the much healthier but poorer funded macadamia nut oil languishes in the background) but the ethnic cuisines we get in restaurants are as far from everyday food as Wildfire spiced kangaroo fillet with a riberry red wine jus.

So what are we to promote to the world?

There's little point in pushing other cuisines just because we have representative restaurants here, so why not something which is so uniquely Australian it can't be copied without a benefit back to our farmers and manufacturers? Why not define an Australian cuisine as being whatever conventional produce is available but made eclectic with a smattering of indigenous ingredients?

We have the opportunity to plan a culinary attack on the world.

The Dining Downunder team and numerous authentic Australian food chefs are pushing the boundaries as international hotels in all corners of the globe clammour for something different for their patrons. And wild ingredients are pouring out as exports to 32 countries and counting. Sure, we use Aussie beef and lamb, seafood and general produce but we really turn up the flavours with native Australian herbs, spices, seasonings, sauces, syrups, cooking methods and recipes so that our dishes have that unmistakably Antipodean taste.

We can be different, yet unchallenging. Stylish yet distinctive. It may not yet be the cooking of everyday Australia (but totally right for Australia Day celebrations).

And while we cook with fresh ingredients (like all world class chefs), we sign our offerings as our own, home-grown, uncomparable, Australian cuisine.

Vic Cherikoff
+61 2 9554 9477

And remember to ...

Practice safe cooking .... Always use (cherikoff) condiments!