I’m lov­ing

Matt Pre­ston takes on Hugh Jack­man with a tucker bag full of Aussie in­gre­di­ents.

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Matt Pre­ston gives Hugh Jack­man a taste of Aus­tralian in­gre­di­ents.

HUGH JACK­MAN MIGHT BE bet­ter look­ing than a hawk with binoc­u­lars, but he is still a liar. “I love food, all types of food,” said Hugh. “I love Korean food, Ja­panese, Ital­ian, French. In Aus­tralia, we don’t have a dis­tinc­tive Aus­tralian food, so we have food from ev­ery­where else around the world.” While I roundly ap­plaud his praise of our rich ar­ray of de­li­cious mul­ti­cul­tural cui­sine in this coun­try, there is a lot of “Aus­tralian-ness” for which we should be both thank­ful and proud. So Hugh, you gor­geous spunk, lis­ten up and learn about the in­gre­di­ents we can be proudly Aussie about.

Co­conut: Think of our iconic treats and you’ll of­ten find co­conut, whether it’s in your Cherry Ripe, your An­zac bis­cuit, as the best bit of the lam­ing­ton or in that pink and white co­conut ice that was made with Copha way be­fore co­conut oil was fash­ion­able.

Pineap­ple: In­tro­duced by Ger­man mis­sion­ar­ies al­most 180 year ago, pineap­ple is what makes a burger with the lot and is the base of end­less mari­nades and sauces. It’s a mark of the ubiq­ui­tous­ness of the pineap­ple that it got its own place in the lex­i­con of Aussie slang as a nick­name for the $50 note along with those other great Aussie icons – the prawn (“raw” or “on the bar­bie”), ap­ples (we in­vented the Granny Smith you know, Hugh) and the pork chop – which Hugh may say I am car­ry­ing on like right now. Or he would be if he could be both­ered to read this drivel.

Beet­root: Aus­tralia loves beet­root al­most enough to make us an hon­orary mem­ber of the Eastern Bloc. While we don’t use it to make soup, it’s a reg­u­lar pick­led in sand­wiches and burg­ers. It is also ar­guably the most used veg in the MasterChef kitchen whether pureed, roasted or used as the base to make mod­ern sal­ads sexy.

Sugar: Yes Hugh, I know sugar is the devil, but with­out our sway­ing fields of sug­ar­cane we wouldn’t have three of the most unique and Aussie of all lux­ury foods. Lol­lies (like the Polly Waf­fle, Min­ties, Jaf­fas, Vi­o­let Crum­ble and Fan­tales); bis­cuits (and other bak­ery treats like the Mint Slice, Tim Tams and Iced VoVo); or rum, our first cur­rency, our na­tional drink and the rea­son for our first re­bel­lion

The stuff that grew here al­ready: Be­fore white set­tle­ment, the Gadi­gal peo­ples feasted on the oys­ters that crowded the rocks of Syd­ney Har­bour, and all waters around this is­land teemed with seafood that is still the envy of the world to­day: sweet crabs, prawns, bugs, crays, abalone, bar­ra­mundi, co­ral trout, King George whit­ing and the best tuna in the world. And the land is no less tasty. This did not es­cape Ed­ward Ab­bott who when writ­ing Aus­tralia’s first cook­book, The English and Aus­tralian Cook­ery Book: Cook­ery for the Many, as well as for the ‘Up­per Ten Thousand’, filled it with recipes for ‘kan­ga­roo steamer’ and ‘slip­pery bob’ (bat­tered kan­ga­roo brains fried in emu fat!).

Then there are all man­ner of leaves, greens and seeds, whether it’s the fra­grance of the myr­tles (aniseed and lemon), war­ri­gal greens, the in­tense lemon­grass fra­grance of some young pa­per­bark leaves, lemon aspen berries, riber­ries, na­tive pep­per, bush toma­toes and yam daisies to name but a few. We haven’t even men­tioned our su­pe­rior in­sects like those fat grubs that taste like peanut but­ter when raw and like the best crispy beef fat when roasted, or our lemon-sher­bet-tast­ing green ants that are far tastier than the tree ants Euro­pean gas­tronomes rave about at Noma. So there! P.S. I still love you Hugh.

BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIBS WITH STICKY PINEAP­PLE SAUCE SERVES 6

These ribs are cooked in an Aussie bar­be­cue sauce, made with pineap­ple juice and curry pow­der, which came to these shores in the steamer trunks of 19th cen­tury traders and mi­grants who reached this is­land via what was then called Cal­cutta. What’s great here is the oven does the work leav­ing you to do lit­tle more than turn the ribs a few times and open a few bot­tles.

2 tbs ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 2kg beef short ribs, cut into in­di­vid­ual ribs

(ask your butcher) 2 tbs plain flour, sea­soned 4 gar­lic cloves, chopped 2 tsp mild curry pow­der 2 tbs tomato paste 2 cups (500ml) pineap­ple juice

1/ 3 cup (80ml) soy sauce 2 tbs malt vine­gar 2 tbs brown sugar 2cm piece ginger (10g), peeled, grated 1 cup (100g) wal­nuts, toasted Co­rian­der leaves, to serve

Pre­heat oven to 170°C. Heat oil in a large flame­proof casse­role over medium-high heat. Toss the ribs in flour, then in batches, cook, turn­ing, for 10 min­utes or un­til well browned. Re­move from pan and set aside.

Re­duce heat to medium-low. Add gar­lic and curry pow­der, and cook, stir­ring, for 1 minute or un­til fra­grant. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stir­ring, for a fur­ther 1 minute or un­til fra­grant. Add juice, soy, vine­gar, sugar and ginger, then in­crease heat to medium-high. Bring to the boil, us­ing a spoon to scrape the base of the pan, then re­turn ribs to pan. Spoon a lit­tle liq­uid over, then cover and roast, bast­ing ev­ery 40 min­utes, for 3 hours or un­til ten­der.

Re­move ribs from pan and set aside. Re­turn casse­role to medium heat and sim­mer liq­uid for 10-15 min­utes un­til sticky and re­duced. Pour glaze over ribs and scat­ter with nuts and co­rian­der to serve.

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