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