A guide to Straya Day food
Omit the beetroot at your own peril
WE AUSSIES have come a long way since Paul Hogan first threw a shrimp on the barbie. And thank goodness. Not that there is anything wrong with prawns (let’s call them what they are). And if you choose to have them on the barbecue, then more power to you. Like lamingtons, waterslides, snags, blowup pools, a tropical pav and the Hottest 100, prawns are an Australia Day staple (although I am allergic, and that just means more for everyone else – but I digress). These days we have seen a tremendous outpouring of national pride. There were always the citizenship awards and the civic parties or concerts, but these days the best shindig to be had on this most fabulous of days is right in your own backyard. And that means there is to be food. Lamb is on the menu. Period. Let’s face it, would you argue with Sam Kekovich? And you’ll need to offer up a few nice, fresh barbecue bread rolls. And then along with the steak and prawns and chicken sticks, you’ll need a basic but delicious seasonal green salad with the crispest iceberg lettuce (don’t go all fancy), sliced or cherry tomatoes, cucumber, some sliced shallots, celery, chopped carrot, a bit of red capsicum and then sides of asparagus and some dressings to taste. Then: beetroot. Vital. No Aussie barbie is complete without the old-school tinned beetroot. And don’t be going all whole or baby beet on your guests. Only sliced will do here. For pudding, keep it simple – and light if possible. A pavlova with vanilla whipped cream, lashings of passionfruit and fat juicy mango slices are a bit of a fave (and I’ll gladly admit to buying a pav to decorate, if it means I am not labouring over stiff peaks and fluffy meringue on a day when I’d rather be drinking something cold and bubbly). And for a bit of fun, there is nothing like an icy, fruity bowl of punch – a la Christmas, and with or without the booze (go for a white rum, vodka or gin, tequila at your peril, or a fruity moscato – but keep it super cold). And well, beer and cocktails for the grownups, then sarsaparilla, lemonade and ginger ale for the kids never goes astray! Keep it simple. Keep it cool. Keep it light. Simple as that. And from us to you … Happy Straya Day!
Old-fashioned punch bowl
Ice, one large tin tropical juice, bottle of ginger ale, bottle of lemonade, passionfruit pulp, tinned fruit salad, booze (optional)
Half fill a punch bowl with ice and then embed the bowl in a cooler or tray with ice in it. Pour tinned fruit and passionfruit pulp over the ice, spreading as evenly as possible. Pour in the fruit juice. Add ginger ale and lemonade to taste. Pour in your choice of alcoholic naughtiness to desired taste and strength and gently stir.
Vanilla cream (to top a pav)
Two large bottles of whipping cream – full fat! (Low-fat won’t whip!) A cup of icing sugar – more if you like it super sweet, a teaspoon of vanilla paste (essence and extract could be used here but it’s just not the same).
Pour the cream into a cold metal mixing bowl. Throw in the icing sugar and dollop in the vanilla. Whip with an electric hand beater until the cream is thick and forming soft but still peaks. Slather it over the top of a pavlova and leave some in the bowl for licking … that is the cook’s treat!
Marinated lamb for the barbecue
Lamb chops (as many as you need to cater), olive oil, red onion (super finely diced), honey, mint sauce, rosemary sprigs
Lay the lamb onto a shallow tray. Drizzle olive oil liberally – but don’t drown it. Likewise, honey and mint sauce. Sprinkle red onion and tear the pines from the rosemary sprigs, sprinkling them evenly across the lamb. Then, with your hands, knead the lamb, allowing the flavours to squelch together and coat the lamb until it glistens with the marinade. Turn it into an airtight container or cover the tray with cling film, pressing it down on the meat to minimise air getting in. Allow the marinade to infuse the meat for as little as 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Cook the lamb on the barbecue, not too hot, and remove from the heat when the lamb is cooked through, with just a hint of pink in the centre.