ustralia is the only country in the
world that occupies an entire continent, whose physical features
range from damp jungles to dry deserts. There's virtually nothing
that cannot be grown or raised Down Under. Strangely, though,
while the nation's wines have taken their place among the most
respected in the world, comparatively little is known about
Still, Australians themselves take their food seriously and
are entering an era of unprecedented food production and
gustatory appreciation. The Australian gourmet scene is
flourishing, and in this era of easy global access that is good
news for foodies in the rest of the world, including Canadians.
Says Kathy Snowball, the food editor of Australian Gourmet
Traveller magazine, "The new trends in Sydney revolve around
the fabulous produce available. Now the city's chefs are into
more simple presentation, fewer flavours on one plate. And now
some producers have the same kind of star quality as chefs: Last
year we had a very successful series of awards for food producers
and distributors. Sought-after premiere ingredients are now being
labelled with the names of the growers and other producers."
Australian produce, as long as it has been available, has
always had special seasonal appeal in Canada. When our fruit
orchards are freezing, those of Australians are blossoming; when
our vegetable gardens are under a foot of snow, theirs are filled
with produce soaking up the famed Australian sunshine. More than
ever, this fresh produce is being imported into Canada.
In recent years, the list of major imported produce has been
led by English cucumbers, asparagus, lychees, mangoes, and citrus
fruits. Australian seafood, too, is seeing rapid growth in
exports to other countries. Canada imports mostly abalone, tuna,
and the tasty and wonderfully Australian-sounding barramundi.
(But as far as we know, no yabbies yet U a freshwater crayfish.)
Meat products, especially lamb, have long been a staple of
Australian food exporting, and that business is both growing and
expanding to take in new products, many of them exotic.
Interestingly, for instance, Australians (the only people on
Earth who regularly eat their national animal) are now
aggressively marketing kangaroo meat around the world.
Most Canadians have never seen a real kangaroo.
Film footage of kangaroos they've seen, and photographs and
cartoon kangaroos on television. But the reality of kangaroos,
especially as a dinner entree item, is still a significant leap
outside Canadian cuisine. This is true, despite a very large body
of evidence that kangaroo meat is organically produced, lean and
rich in protein, low in polyunsaturated fats and, quite apart
from anything else, extremely tasty.
kangaroo might be legally available in Canada is at present
anybody's guess. Best estimates say it could be allowed in
specialty stores and restaurants in six months to a year."
Australia's aboriginal people have been hunting and cooking
kangaroos for thousands of years, but non-natives hadn't even
seen a kangaroo until 1629. The first record of a European
actually tasting kangaroo meat dates back to 1793, when Spanish
explorer Alejandro Malaspina pronounced it "very good for
sustenance, inferior to veal, but better than many others."
It would have made sense if, not too long thereafter, kangaroo
had become a major Australian food export, but it didn't. Despite
its desirable properties, kangaroo has not even become a common
international export, and in fact its sale was, until recently,
illegal in many parts of Australia itself. The meat has been
exported since 1980, but it wasn't until 1993 that a new law
allowed the sale and consumption of kangaroo in all Australian
states. While kangaroos are presently hunted, kangaroo ranches
are becoming a hot topic of discussion all over Australia, and
word is that several operations are about to open.
The reason for the kangaroo's lack of wide international
popularity to date has nothing to do with the meat itself or any
kind of public resistance to it. Instead, a tangle of similar
government restrictions have kept this flavourful fare from many
dinner tables, including those in Canada.
In March 1995, after 21 years of attempted market penetration,
the United States government determined that Australia's red and
grey kangaroos (in total there are about 50 species) were in no
way ecologically threatened, and allowed kangaroo meat on the
nation's dinner tables. France approved it in 1996, and Belgium,
Holland, and Germany have recently become kangaroo-consuming
In Canada, after six years of lobbying, it still isn't legal
to sell kangaroo, but it can be given away. Which is what
happened recently in Vancouver when the Australian Trade
Commission linked up with specialty importer Hill's Fine Foods to
offer Canada's first legal taste of kangaroo. Chefs from Canada's
Culinary Olympic team prepared it eight different ways for a
gathering of leading BC restaurateurs, and they agreed
universally that this lean and flavourful meat could make a
valuable addition to many menus. When kangaroo might be legally
available in Canada is at present anybody's guess; best estimates
say it could be allowed in specialty stores and restaurants in
six months to a year.
The star among Australian food exports is still, of course,
lamb, all the more so because of advances in technology and
transportation. Formerly, Australian lamb was most often a frozen
product, but these days much of the world (including Canada) can
obtain the lamb fresh. And this freshness has led to a whole new
appreciation of the product.
Backed by intense global marketing, fresh Australian range
lambs are grass fed, the meat is free of additives, and it is
most often shipped boneless, trimmed, and packaged as
individual-serving cuts, making it a popular value-added product
in the international marketplace. According to the Australian
Meat and Live-Stock Corporation, these new cuts, coupled with
their freshness, are proving popular with Canadian chefs as well
as those in many other parts of the world.
Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto
and Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
I first ate Australian lamb when I visited Australia in 1980
and was pleasantly surprised with the fresh, clean taste. Here is
a quick, easy, and delicious recipe for lamb from colleague Kathy
Snowball, food editor of Australia's Gourmet Traveller and The
8 - 12 trimmed lamb chops
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 buffalo mozzarella, cut into wedges
1/3 cup baby olives
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup firmly packed mint leaves
1 cup firmly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
For mint pesto, place all ingredients in a food processor,
process until well combined, then season to taste.
Brush lamb chops and asparagus with oil and grill or broil
until cooked to your liking.
Combine tomato and mozzarella wedges on 4 serving plates,
sprinkle with olives and drizzle with combined red wine vinegar
and extra virgin olive oil. Place lamb chops and asparagus to one
side and spoon over a little mint pesto separately.
Coonawarra shiraz (Wynns 1996) or cab-merlot (Rynill 1996)
will have the acidity to go with this Italian-influenced dish,
and enough mint, fruit, and pepper to capture the essence of the