Take a trip 'down under' with Aussie-inspired dishes

August 3, 2011 

I recently took a trip with friends to Australia, the only continent that also is a country. I learned a great deal about the nation's people and their customs. I also enjoyed some wonderful food. Here's a taste of what I learned on my journey:

Australia is called the "land down under" because its longitude and latitude are closer to the south pole than most other continents. The "outback" is the vast, remote area of Australia. More than 90 percent of Australians live in urban areas on the coast. The outback and the history of the exploration and settlement provides Australians with a culturally valuable backdrop, and stories of swagmen, squatters and bushrangers are central to the history of the land.

The Aborigines live in the outback regions. The outback is full of well-adapted wildlife, such as kangaroos and dingoes. They hide in the bushes to rest and keep cool during the day.

It was in 1788 that Capt. Arthur Phillip of England established the first modern settlement in Australia. The settlers were not experienced as farmers and did not have the best agricultural practices. Because of crop failure, settlers depended on goods imported from England -- tea, flour, beef and cheese. They learned to eat foods from the land, including fish, wild fruits and nuts.

Wheat, rice, oranges and bananas are just a few of the crops that grow in abundance in Australia. Meat always has been a large part of the Australian diet. Beef, lamb, poultry and seafood are more common in 21st century Australia. Kangaroo meat is not as popular as it once was.

Australians, like the English, call cookies "biscuits." The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps fought in World War I. The crunchy ANZAC biscuit was made by Australian women and sent across the sea to their soldiers. Originally named the "Soldiers' Biscuits" and containing flour, sugar, milk powder and water, these simple biscuits were made to endure the journey at sea. Now the biscuits are more of a treat with the addition of butter, syrup and coconut. I purchased some at a grocery store before I left.

In Australia, I was served a delicious lamb shank on a bed of mashed potatoes. It was as satisfying to my stomach as it was pleasing to my eyes.

Once I returned to South Carolina, I searched for similar recipes to share with friends. Go "down under" with these dishes inspired by my Australian adventure.

Roasted Lamb Shanks

1 lamb shank per person

Salt

Garlic salt

Coarse pepper

Red wine

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Put lamb shanks in flat baking pan or dish. Sprinkle with salt, garlic salt and coarse pepper on both sides. Bake for 2 hours. Do not add water. Baste with 1 tablespoon wine at end of an hour cooking time; baste again 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup margarine or butter

2 tablespoons corn syrup

4 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups oatmeal

2 cups sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup coconut

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine sugar, white flour and whole wheat flour in bowl. Melt butter; add corn syrup and water in a small pan over heat. Add the baking soda to pan and stir until fizzy. Pour contents into bowl with dry ingredients; add coconut and stir well.

Shape dough into balls and flatten with a fork on a baking tray. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. E-mail her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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