If you’re after a fair dinkum feed to celebrate all things Australian, the best place in the country to go is the The Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, in the foothills of the Flinders Ranges.
The pub is famous for its FMG (feral mixed grill), a $35 combo of kangaroo and emu fillet with camel sausage, mash, grilled tomato and red wine pepper leaf glaze.
The char-grilled ‘roo with saltbush polenta chips and native pepperleaf jus is pretty decent tucker too, and there’s a Feral Meat Lovers pizza, topped with smoked kangaroo and camel, emu prosciutto and kangaroo mettwurst.
How many other nations can brag they can turn the coat of arms into smallgoods? (NB. Don’t head there now, it’s closed for annual maintenance until Feb 26).
January 26 leads to plenty of debate about national identity and when it comes to food, if we are what we eat, then we’re probably a takeaway nation of salt-and-pepper squid.
Often it takes a new immigrant to this country to help us see who we are. One of the best is New Zealand-born Ben Shewry’s Attica in Melbourne, where he cooks red kangaroo and whiting in paperbark.
Meatloaf and spaghetti bolognese are among our favourites and if you believe Google, we spend our time trying to figure out how to make pancakes, chocolate cakes, scones and fried rice.
Meanwhile, the company behind instant mashed potato launched a campaign last year to find a national dish, garnering 8000 votes and settling on roast lamb (25%), with meat pies (24%) and BBQ prawns (12%) taking out silver and bronze.
It came in the wake of a survey that said two-thirds of Australians couldn’t identify a national dish.
Lamb chops and lamb cutlets came in fifth and sixth on the National Dish list, which says more about the effectiveness of Meat and Livestock Australia’s Sam Kekovich ads than the facts, since lamb is the least consumed of the big four meats – around 9kg per annum, compared with 43kg of chicken.
So if it’s going to be chicken, then at least make it up-the-duff chicken.
You want the recipe? Shove an opened tin of beer into a chook and stand it upright on the BBQ, cover and cook for about 80 minutes.
Anyone who says it’s pavlova is just trying to stick it up the Kiwis, who think they invented it.
If I had to come up with a national dish, I’d sandwich a cane toad between two Weet-Bix, roll it in chocolate and dusk it with coconut. No worries.
But to celebrate our love affair with lamb and the fact that a bunch of Poms turned up with a whole lot of Irish convicts 226 years ago, here’s a recipe from Irish-born Colin Fassnidge of Sydney’s Four-in-Hand and 4/Fourteen restaurants, plus a truly excellent roo burger recipe from Andrew Levins of DJ and head chef at The Dip at Goodgod in Sydney’s Chinatown.
If you’ve never tried skippy before, give it a go.
You’ll find Gourmet Game kangaroo in your supermarket, so it’s not difficult.
By Andrew Levins, The Dip
Makes 8 burgers
1kg of kangaroo mince
½ cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
½ bunch of sage, finely chopped
1 spanish onion, finely chopped
3 tsp salt
8 good quality burger buns, halved
1 bunch rocket
8 slices of tinned beetroot
1 cup mayonnaise
1 bunch of dill, finely chopped
In a large mixing bowl, combine the macadamia nuts, sage, onion and salt. Add the roo mince and combine everything with your hands. Knead the meat for about a minute so you incorporate everything evenly and shape 8 burger patties of the same size.
In a smaller bowl, mix together the mayo and dill until well combined.
Fire up the hot plate on you BBQ, or a large frying pan on the stove with a tbsp of olive oil on medium heat.
Cook the patties for 3 minutes on each side. Turn it over one final time and cook for one minute.
Toast the burger buns on the grill for 10 seconds a side. Place a piece of beetroot on the bottom half on the bun and top with two pieces of rocket. Smear some of dill mayo on the top half of the bun.
Place the roo patty on the rocket and the top half of the bun on the roo patty. Serve!
* TO DRINK: James Squire The Constable copper ale – English-style beer that’s floral and citrussy.
12-hour-braised lamb shoulder with colcannon and Dijon butter
By Colin Fassnidge, Four in Hand
1kg lamb shoulder
splash of olive oil
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
300ml white wine
2 litres chicken stock
rock salt (to bake on)
5 desiree potatoes
2 small spring onions, finely sliced
½ small bunch of cavolo nero, sliced
¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
splash of extra virgin olive oil
500g unsalted butter, softened
150g Dijon mustard
150g seeded mustard
40g rosemary, chopped
lemon juice, to taste
500g packaged dry breadcrumbs
40g mint leaves
40g marjoram leaves
40g curly parsley leaves
40g rosemary leaves
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 90°C. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat, and seal lamb shoulder on each side until nicely browned. Place into an ovenproof dish with the vegetables, herbs and wine, and pour in enough stock so the meat is 3/4 covered. Cover with a lid and cook for 12 hours.
Remove from the oven and set aside, covered, while you make the colcannon.
For the colcannon, preheat the oven to 200°C. Cover a baking tray with rock salt and place the potatoes on top. Bake for 1 hour, or until tender when pierced with a skewer. Scoop out the flesh, and pass through a moulli or fine sieve.
Place into a saucepan over low heat, and add the butter and milk. Stir until smooth, then mix in the spring onions, cavolo nero and parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and dress with olive oil.
To make the Dijon butter, mix all the ingredients together.
For the herb crust, combine all the ingredients in a small food processor until finely chopped and well combined. Season to taste. Smear the Dijon butter over the lamb shoulder, then press the herb crust on top.
Serve with the Colcannon.
* TO DRINK: The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier from the 102-year-old, fourth-generation family-owned d’Arenberg winery in McLaren Vale.
Kangaroo fillet with anchovy butter, served with a carrot, beetroot and walnut salad.
1 tbsp olive oil
500g kangaroo fillet
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Anchovy and lemon butter
100g unsalted butter, softened
10g anchovy fillets, drained
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley
pinch sea salt
¼ cup olive oil 1 bunch baby beetroot, washed & trimmed
1 bunch baby carrots, washed & trimmed
4 cloves garlic
½ cup green lentils
100g walnuts, roasted
½ bunch parsley
60 ml olive oil
20 ml red wine vinegar sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan-forced) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
In a food processor, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add anchovy fillets, lemon juice and sea salt and blitz until well combined. Shape into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
Place beetroot, carrots, garlic and olive oil together on a roasting tray, mixing until well coated in oil. Place tray in preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes or until beetroot is tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, cook the lentils according to pack instructions.
For the dressing, combine the peeled roasted garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and oregano together in a screw top jar, shaking until well combined.
Heat oil in large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Season kangaroo with salt and pepper, place in frying pan and brown the meat on all sides. Transfer kangaroo to prepared baking tray and cook in preheated oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on its thickness. Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes.
To make the salad, toss together the roasted vegetables, cooked lentils, walnuts, parsley and dressing, until well combined.
To serve, place sliced kangaroo over the carrot salad and top with a small round of anchovy butter.
* TO DRINK: Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea shiraz from the Hunter Valley, named in honour of Maurice O’Shea, one of the legends of Australian wine.