Throwing shrimp on the barbie used to be the popular stereotype of Australian food. But modern Australian cooking is reaching beyond its British roots and redefining itself, thanks in part to a blend of multicultural cooking.
Australia's rise on the culinary front over the last decade is the subject of "Australian Food: In Celebration of New Australian Cuisine," by journalist Alan Saunders. In the book, the country's top chefs and food writers contribute recipes that are quintessentially Australian and those that are a synthesis of Mediterranean and Asian dishes.
Saunders profiles cooks and merchants who have contributed to the rise in quality of the cuisine. For instance, Greek-born Sydney chef Janni Kyritsis blends multicultural influences in a dish that combines Australian beef with Mediterranean olives, is wrapped in an English dumpling, and is served with fried spinach and a French Madeira sauce.
Saunders writes: "The taste of Australia is the flavor of change, adaptation and in the very best sense of the world compromise."
The real secret, the chefs say, is the great produce and abundant, unusual seafood available in Australia. But meat products, especially lamb, are still the staple of Australian cooking.
While not favored by all Australians, kangaroo is included in the book's recipes. Far from endangered, kangaroos are taken from the wild to help control overpopulation, but it wasn't until 1993 that a law allowed the sale and consumption in all Australian states. The lack of wide international popularity of kangaroo has nothing to do with the lean, healthy meat itself. It's the government restrictions that have kept the meat from many dinner tables. The U.S allowed kangaroo meat to be exported for consumption only five years ago.