An Antipodean New Year in London

January 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

For the past 10 years we have spent New Year’s Eve with a group of friends, taking turns to host and organise a special meal.  All of us enjoy good food and wine and we make a bit of an effort each year to come up with a different theme. In the past we’ve covered French, Italian, Middle Eastern, Spanish and American cuisines to name but a few.  This year we were in Highgate, North London and our hosts decided to choose an Australian theme.

This was a real eye-opener for me as I’ve never visited Australia.  I know there’s a lively food scene down under particularly in Sydney but my knowledge of Australian chefs and cookery writers was, until last week, restricted to Bill Granger’s books (of which I have seven at last count!), Jill Dupleix’s magazine articles and of course those handy little Australian Womens’ Weekly cookbooks.

Here is our fabulous menu:

Wasabi almonds and macadamia nuts

Fillet of wild kangaroo with anchovy butter; olive and bush tomato focaccia

Barbecued giant prawns; tarator; pepperberry bark

Spiced orange granita; orange, date and mint salad

Neil Perry’s slow-roast rib of beef; potato and celeriac gratin; green beans

Kiwi, blueberry and strawberry Pavlova; macadamia tuiles

It tasted as brilliant as it sounds and I discovered some brand new ingredients (bush tomatoes and pepperberry as well as the more obvious kangaroo), two new chefs/cookery writers (Neil Perry and Juleigh Robins) and a better tarator recipe than the previous one I’ve posted.

This is the amazing looking pepperberry bark, a paper thin crispbread which has dried Australian pepperberries both in the dough and sprinkled on top.  I give the recipe later on in this post.

According to cookery writer Juleigh Robins (whose book “Wild Food” was the source of some of the evening’s recipes) the pepperberry bush Tasmannia Lanceolata grows in the subalpine rainforests and gullies of Tasmania.  It can be used like black pepper – it has a distinctive spicy taste, a bit like a Szechuan peppercorn.  Juleigh Robins’ book lists other exotic and enticing ingredients too – anisata, bush tomato, Davidson’s plum, and best of all the miraculously chocolate flavoured wattleseed. Only two of her ingredients were familiar to me, the macadamia nut and wild rosella. I have come across wild rosella flowers referred to as hibiscus. They are preserved in syrup and make a superior edible garnish for champagne or soft drinks.

The pepperberry bark accompanied giant prawns which were cooked in true Australian style on the barbie, despite freezing temperatures outside.  You’ll see from the work-in-progress photo below that we dressed appropriately for the occasion:


The orange granita which followed made a refreshing palate cleanser before we moved on to the rare beef and then pudding.  Here’s a picture of the granita and I’m afraid this is the last photo as the evening was too much fun to stop and take pictures.

Recipe for pepperberry bark

This recipe for a paper thin crispbread akin to Sardinian carta da musica comes from Juleigh Robins’ book “Wild Food.”  The dried pepperberries impart a subtle purple colour to the dough and warm aromatic flavour to the  finished bread.

Ingredients

375g plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons dried crushed pepperberries
40g butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
100 ml water
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
extra crushed pepperberry for sprinkling

Using the paddle attachment on an electric mixer, mix the flour, salt, sugar, crushed pepperberry and butter together. Once the butter is well incorporated into the flour, add the milk, water and egg yolk and work until the mixture forms a firm dough. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for one hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Divide the dough into four.  Roll each piece as thinly as possible preferably using a pasta machine. It should be as thick as a tortilla/corn chip.  Work quickly not overworking the dough. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Tear each sheet of dough into 5 or 6 lengths making 20-30 pieces in all.  Carefully place the dough strips on the lined baking tray. With a pastry brush dipped in water lightly brush the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and crushed pepperberries.  Bake for 15 minutes until a light golden brown.

Recipe for barbecued marinated giant or king prawns

This recipe and the two that follow are from star Australian chef Neil Perry’s book “The Food I Love”. Neil Perry is the chef behind Sydney’s legendary Rockpool restaurant but his book is full of recipes designed to cook at home without too much restaurant-style frippery.  Just checked and it’s readily available on Amazon if you’re interested.  This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients

for the marinade

2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 lemongrass stalk peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 red chillies
zest of half a lemon plus juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt
125 ml extra virgin olive oil

to grill and serve the prawns

20 large king prawns cut in half lengthways and deveined (for our multi-course meal we made do with just 3 monster prawns, half per person, each the size of a small lobster!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
125 ml tarator (see next recipe)
lemon wedges

To make the marinade, put all the marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Put the prawns into a large bowl, pour over the marinade, cover and leave for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the barbecue to hot.  Make sure the grill bars are clean. Put the prawns on the grill cut side down. Cook for one minute (a little longer for a giant prawn).  Turn and cook for one minute  more (again a little longer for a giant prawn).

Remove the prawns from the grill and pile onto four plates. Drizzle with olive oil, season with a few twists of pepper and serve with a dollop of tarator and a lemon wedge or two.

Recipe for tarator

Another Neil Perry recipe.  This is a better tasting tarator than the one I posted back in September.  It calls for pounding by hand in a pestle and mortar.  I’m not sure if our hostess did this on new year’s eve – I would be tempted to use a food processor.

Ingredients

50g walnuts, lightly roasted
sea salt
2 garlic cloves
40g fresh breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper
juice of a lemon
125 ml extra virgin olive oil

Put the walnuts, salt and garlic in a mortar. Pound to a paste.  Add breadcrumbs and a dash of water and pound to mix through. Add pepper and lemon juice then slowly add the olive oil a little at a time, pounding to a creamy consistency.

Recipe for date, orange and mint salad with orange granita

A final Neil Perry recipe.  This makes a zingy and refreshing intermediate course or pudding.  On new year’s eve we had a simplified version with just the granita and a few dates scattered on the side. This recipe serves 8.

Ingredients

for the granita

550 ml orange juice, freshly squeezed
115g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground cardamom
5 drops orange flower water
125 ml water

for the salad

16 fresh dates soaked in hot water for 10 minutes then skins removed and pitted
4 segmented oranges
8 finely sliced mint leaves

Strain the juice through a fine sieve and put in a bowl with the sugar, spices,orange flower water and 125ml water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Strain into a container such that the mixture is approximately 2 inches deep. Freeze.  Fork through every 30 minutes or so.  The mixture will take 4-5 hours to freeze into granular crystals.

To make the salad, quarter the dates and mix together with the segmented oranges and sliced mint leaves.  Divide between 8 glasses and add a spoonful of granita.

If you had a special meal on New Year’s Eve I would love to hear about it.

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