Australia Day 2013, in Nundle with some enthusiastic local children

Since 2003 it’s been one of my proudest days because I am lucky enough to be an Australia Day Ambassador.

In that time I’ve been to Bathurst, Cassilis, Walcha, West Wyalong, Barmedman, Weethale, Barraba, Trangie, Bega, Port Macquarie, Muswellbrook, Orange, Nundle, Kiama, Griffith, Moree, Cessnock, Lismore and this year Gunning, Crookwell and Taralga. 

It’s been stiflingly hot, very cold, gatherings for one hundred or hundreds. In parks, swimming pools and community halls. I’ve gone down waterslides, seen re-enactments from our convict past, churned butter, sung with bands, judged pavlovas, a biscuit nibbling competition – the challenge to nibble the biscuit in the shape of Australia – and in 2014 honoured with an OAM. I’ve officiated at citizenship ceremonies and been humbled by the unsung heroes, the people in these communities who may be honoured on this day. I love every minute of it, especially my insistence on singing two verses of our National Anthem. These words are ever pertinent “For those who come across the sea we’ve boundless plains to share”.

I always ask to go to the country, for it is here I feel the most connected to the land. Is it because there is less pretence in the country, or because this is where our farmers and agriculturalists grow our food and wine? Each region is instrinsically different from the next not only because of what grows there, but because of what the people who live there do with it.

Australia Day celebrations are not elitist, they are open to all with most completely free, or for a small donation to a local community group for a sausage sizzle.  Australia Day is an opportunity to reflect on our indigenous heritage, all our people, culture, climate and landscape and to celebrate who we are as Australians. and what it means to us.

And as Saturday will be Australia Day and our magnificent country is badly affected by drought, I would like to reiterate a few words from one of Australia’s finest spokesmen and poets, Banjo Paterson:
“It’s grand to be a lot of things in this fair southern land
but if the Lord would send us rain that would, indeed, be grand!”

Jump ahead to see:

This Week’s Best Fruit and Veg
Australia Day Recipes
Recipe of the week

What to drink on Australia Day
Interesting Reading
What’s On

Passionfruit, grapes and oranges

FRUIT

The coolest fruit of the season, vivid pink seedless watermelons from Cowra is at its best now. Try adding thickly sliced watermelon to the barbecue warm through and serve with crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint, it’s delicious.

Fragrant and juicy rockmelon from the Riverland of NSW are a thrifty buy. Alternatively try the super sweet Piel de sapo melons (also known as Christmas melons).

Don’t forget the passionfruit for the Australia day fruit salad or pavlova topping. Look for bulk buy specials at your local greengrocer.

Crisp, crunchy and naturally sweet, Sunraysia grown grapes are superb eating. Select from white, red and black seedless varieties. 

Fig nbsp;season is underway and there are certainly more figs around this week.

Juicy tangy limes are in season and your local greengrocer is sure to offer specials of bulk buys. To obtain the maximum amount of juice from a lime, warm the fruit in the microwave for 30 seconds or roll firmly on the kitchen bench then juice. This Coriander, Mint & Lime Chicken Noodle Salad is a fabulous mid-week family meal.

It has been a bumper mango season and supplies of quality tropical tasting mangoes continue to arrive at your local greengrocer. Pick up a few Calypso, Honeygold, Kensington Pride and R2E2 mangoes and try these Creamy Mango & Passionfruit Pops.

Late summer to autumn is the peak season for tangy red and yellow fleshed plumsYou can’t go past the tremendously good value of quality peaches and nectarines at this time of year. Fruit is coming from Forbes, Batlow, Shepparton and Bilpin and is loaded with flavour. Choice from yellow and white flesh fruit $2-$10 a kilo. It’s a good week to whip up a Peach and Passionfruit Tart.

Snap up ultra flavoursome Tasmanian cherries as the season will end soon.

Choy sum, snake beans and BBQ vegetables

VEGETABLES
This Australia Day serve barbecued veggies cooked to perfection as a side dish, as part of an antipasto plate or make them the feature of your BBQ.

Zucchinis take on a new life when barbecued. Slice lengthwise into 2 or 3 slices, spray with olive oil and barbecue on the grill for 2-4 minutes or thread zucchini, mushrooms and capsicum to bamboo skewers and barbecue until tender.

Barbecued red capsicum becomes sweeter and more flavoursome. Enjoy warm or cool and remove the thin skin and add sliced to a salad. 

Snakes beans continue to be a great buy. Ideal for Asian dishes and stir-fries, snakes are complemented by flavours, such as garlic, ginger, tomatoes and fresh herbs. This Chilli, Snake Bean & Pork Stir-Fry With Eggs is an easy mid-week meal.

Summer tomatoes are richly flavoured and there are so many more varieties to savour. If you love to bottle your own passata (tomato sauce) than an 18-kilo box of saucing tomatoes is $25-$30.

Locally grown sweetcorn is one of summer’s star vegetables. Add corn to salads, salsas, fritters, pasta dishes, meat patties and rices dishes for colour and sweetness. 

Choose the crispiest baby Cos lettuce, Cos or Iceberg and store in a plastic container in the fridge. Top tip: Don’t store lettuce next to apples, pears or melons in the fridge as these fruits will cause the lettuce to deteriorate rapidly. Lettuce cups are easy to make healthy and fun to eat.

Eggplants are a superb buy again this week. Fresh, young eggplants do not require, disgorging (salting) unless you intend deep-frying. Cut eggplant into 1 cm slices brush with olive oil and grill until soft and golden. Use in a vegetable lasagne or add to a pizza topping.

Potatoes from South Australia and Robertson in NSW are plentiful. Whip up a tasty potato salad, made with Desiree, washed or brushed potatoes. 

Fire up your wok and toss together a quick stir-fry using economical and great tasting Asian leafy greens.

Recipe of the Week

Celebratory Slablova
Decorated with green and gold, this is perfect for Australia Day

I hope you like this recipe which I developed for Pace Farm Eggs. I think the colours of the fruit in the topping are fun.

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time:  1 ½ hours (plus standing time)

6 egg whites (it’s easier to separate eggs when room temp)
1½ cups (330g) caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white or malt vinegar

Lime curd
¾ cup (185g) caster sugar
6 egg yolks
125g unsalted butter, chopped, softened
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
¾ cup (180ml) lime juice (approx. 4 limes)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)

To serve
300ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon caster sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
10 lychees, halved and peeled
2 mangoes, sliced
¼ cup mint leaves
½ cup toasted coconut flakes

  1. For the slablova: preheat oven to low (120’C/100°C fan-forced). Line a large baking tray (approx. 40cm x 30cm) with baking paper.
  2. Beat egg whites in a clean large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Only then add caster sugar, a heaped tablespoon or so at a time, beating until dissolved (to test, rub some mixture between finger if too grainy keep beating until glossy). Then fold in cornflour and vinegar.
  3. Turn out onto tray; using a palette knife or spatula, spread the mixture across the baking paper (approx. 30cm x 24cm), building up the sides a little and creating a few tips and dips in the meringue as you go. (A wet spoon, spatula or palette knife helps.)
  4. Bake in very slow oven about 1 ½ hours or until set and dry. Surface should be dry to touch). Turn oven off and prop door ajar with a wooden spoon and cool in oven.
  5. For the curd: whisk egg yolks and sugar together until combined but not frothy. Combine with other ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly, bring just to simmering point, approximately 5 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the curd will curdle. Stir for a minute after you remove it from the heat. Test by running a finger across the back of the spoon to ensure the curd is thick and does not run. Strain. Put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.
  6. To assemble: Whip cream with sugar and vanilla. Spread a small spoon of cream on a flat serving plate. Place slablova on top then dollop on the curd and the cream, then the fruit.  Sprinkle with coconut flakes.

Lyndey’s Note: Lychees are in season in summer. If you are making this at another time of year, use tinned Lychees.

Australia Day Recipes

Spiced rib eye with quinoa and stinging nettle salad

It’s all about Australia Day this week, though these recipes can be enjoyed at other times too.  It’s about celebrating our great nation and taking a day off to do so – so relax, don’t try to do anything over-complicated, ask your guests to bring along a salad, or a condiment or a loaf of bread. Spread the load.

My ultimate barbecue menu features all Australian produce, in-season – everything from the olive oil I use to the meat, salad, veggies and seafood,. Glorious summer fruits to finish like mangoes. You could turn your BBQ into a Barbecure for Cure Cancer and help save lives at the same time?

Begin the meal with something cold and pre-prepared to make life easy. This salad is full of fabulous Australian ingredients
Prawn salad with macadamia dressing
or
Poached yabbies with lemon myrtle butter and macadamia warrigal greens

if you want beef for a main:

Prime rib of beef with baby bean, corn & sweet pepper salad
or
Barbecued beef sirloin with native flavours
or
Spiced rib eye with quinoa and stinging nettle salad
or
Seared waygu with mushroom ragu and zucchini salad

To finish

Nectarine and macadamia tart
Layered hazelnut meringue cake
Very Berry trifle

If it’s finger food you want to serve for a crowd, try these

Asian oysters with ginger, shallot and sesame
Churrasco prawns with aji sauce
Melon with spiced sparkling drizzle, quark and pistachios
Spicy lamb sausage rolls
Mustard pikelets with minted lamb
Brown sugar meringues with passionfruit curd
Wattleseed Anzacs

Gourmet Traveller has released Australia Day finger food recipes

What to drink on Australia Day

Great to drink Australian wine, beer or spirits on Australia Day
Image courtesy of Sally Cantelo

Australian winemakers picked up 393 medals in the latest round of the International Wine Challenge (IWC), the world’s most rigorous, impartial and influential wine competition. Last year the country brought home 256 in total – making this year’s haul a 54% increase from last year.

The McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay 2015 from Adelaide Hills was the joint highest scoring wine in the competition, with 97 points. The other 97-pointer, also made from Chardonnay, was William Fèvre’s Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2016 from France’s Burgundy region, demonstrating that Australia is now producing wine that comfortably rivals the traditional home of fine wine. Eight of Australia’s Gold medals went to wines made from Chardonnay of which the judges “found some truly delicious, savoury, balanced examples”, explained IWC co-chair, Oz Clarke.
Another eight Gold medals went to Shiraz wines. Charles Metcalfe, another IWC co-chair, commented that many of the new Shiraz and Grenache reds coming through the competition were “much fresher and more elegant than the traditional styles”.

So let’s raise a glass to celebrate Australia Day

  • Bubbles and celebrations go hand in hand, just like world-class Tasmanian sparkling wine with freshly shucked oysters
  • Love cheese and wine? Try a King Valley Pinot Grigio or Queensland Verdelho with lighter Australian cheeses. Yarra Valley Pinot Noir can handle the harder cheeses. For blue try a Riverina botrytis riesling or semillon
  • We are lucky enough to have some of the greatest seafood in the world and dishes like BBQ lime and chilli crayfish match perfectly with Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends from Margaret River or Riverland Vermentino
  • Celebrating at your favourite beach? Fresh and vibrant Hunter Valley Semillon is a perfect match for fish and chips
  • Celebrate our multicultural heritage by pairing soy and ginger salmon with fresh and zesty Riesling from Great Southern in WA or Clare Valley in SA
  • Match a Sauvignon Blanc from Orange in NSW with pan-seared scallops in a tomato, basil and white wine sauce  
  • A warm Australian summer day and a platter of locally cured meats, cheeses, pickles and preserves just needs a glass of chilled Grenache Rose? from McLaren Vale to make it the perfect Australia Day picnic
  • Throwing another prawn on the barbie? Try an elegant Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay with BBQ Crystal Bay prawns and rocket salad  
  • Lamb and Australia Day. Just like strawberries and cream, some things are meant to be together. Serve succulent BBQ lamb chops with juicy and vibrant Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir or a Barossa Valley Shiraz
  • the classic dessert of pavlova topped with mixed berries and mint is only made better with a cool, sparkling Moscato.
  • and don’t forget that uniquely Australian wine; sparkling shiraz

Interesting Reading

Australian herbs and spices may be more accessible than you think

SBS has a wonderful story, perfect for Australia Day How to make your own indigenous herbs and spices rack telling the story of the formation of Outback Pride and Outback Pride Fresh. Founders Mike and Gayle Quarmby (whom I have met) have worked tirelessly with Aboriginal communities to create this business which is sustainable for Australia and gives back to our indigenous people.
There are changes to the way the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are judged with any previous winners now off the list for good, instead become part of a group the “Best of the Best” and a gender balance on its voting academy.

What’s On

WugulOra (One Mob) Morning Ceremony, Bangaroo Reserve begins the day from 7.45am with a traditional smoking ceremony. Free and followed by the national anthem in English and the Eora langueage, performances, singers and the Was and Always Will Be concert from 8.30am

There is so much on offer this Australia Day.  Go to the Australia Day website and you can search by state and area to find out what is on near you.
There’s lots of fun things on the site like The rules of backyard cricket, an Aussie slang quiz and an Aussie slang dictionary as well as the official Australia Day Address by Hugh Mackay AO.

Time Out has a list of Australia Day events in Sydney.

If you want to experience the Brazilian Flame BBQ which I mentioned last week, they will be at BBQ by the Bridge in Bradfield Park, with great vantage points for the Sydney Harbour Australia Day festivities. Free to attend with activities for the children, buy multicultural barbecued food and you can even bring your dog.

I’ll be spending Australia Day in the Upper Lachlan Shire as follows:

Gunning, 8am – 9.45am at Barbour Park, Yass Street. 

  • Barbecue breakfast and local awards. 

Crookwell, 8am – 12pm at Crookwell Memorial Park, Robertson Street. 

  • Barbecue breakfast, live music, games and local awards. 

Taralga, 12pm – 1pm at Showgrounds, Bannaby Road. 

  • Celebrations are part of the Taralga Rodeo and will include local awards

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Lyndey

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