This time of the year, at least in the southern states of Australia, the flowering gums are glorious.
It is also when we celebrate Australia Day, on January 26. It is a contentious date because it celebrates white settlement in Australia. The issue has been thoughtfully addressed here.
In 2015 the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition took steps to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution, with the intention of a referendum on the matter.
Who knows, maybe the date that referendum is held will become the real Australia Day!
In the meantime we will celebrate on the 26th with a gathering of friends, all of whom have been asked to bring a plate with an “Australian flavour”. So far we know that a pavlova is on the way and also some rum (rebellion) balls!
We will contribute with a sausage sizzle of bought sausages which include two indigenous, ‘bush tucker’, ingredients: lemon myrtle and mountain pepper. We will also make a batch of sausage rolls and some damper.
Late update: This intriguing recipe by Adam Liaw has just been published and we intend to use it for the sausages. The perfect barbecued sausage.
Sausage meat rolled in pastry
Is there anything nicer than a good old Aussie sausage roll?
Every year, in early December, our piano music group has a Christmas party for around 80 people held at a National Trust property. There is plenty of finger food and wine, along with some performances and a raffle with some excellent prizes. However, I have been accused of attending for just one reason – to pig out on Deborah’s sausage rolls. It is true that I help her pack them on trays for the oven and watch over them carefully while they are heating up. However, I do play an important role by sampling at least a couple from each tray as they come out of the oven, just to ensure everyone out on the veranda or in the garden receives an optimal product. Deborah has kindly provided me with her recipe, which I understand, was passed to her by her mother.
Her method includes sausage meat bought from her butcher. These days, sausage meat is relatively free of questionable additives. I checked with three butchers I trust. All three use beef and/or lamb trimmings in their sausage meat mixture. They all include some herbs or spices, with one only adding paprika. Salt is used along with some form of binding agent to hold the mixture together, in particular, rice flour. One did use preservatives. One thought no extra flavourings were needed for their sausage meat; the other two advised that extra herbs, spices and flavourings can be added as desired, as well as egg or breadcrumbs.
In summary, if you are going to use bought sausage meat, check with your butcher about its contents. If you aren’t happy, then make up your own mixture from minced meat and flavourings and adding an egg for binding. Use bought puff pastry (butter preferably) or make your own. When you are ready to experiment, there are plenty of options: a check of other recipes showed a wide range of ingredients including chilli flakes, ginger, cognac, cumin, grated Parmesan cheese, fennel seeds, celery, garlic, grated lemon rind and Moroccan style spices.
For the recipe, click here: Sausage Rolls.
Damper, the bread for when you are camping
As kids we made damper in its most basic form, from flour and water. Was it self-raising flour or plain? Did we add salt? I can’t remember. But what I do remember is us lighting a fire outside somewhere, possibly at a cubby house in the bush. We would mix up a paste from the flour and water, wrap it around a stick and then cook the damper over hot coals. Was it delicious? Again, I can’t remember but I do recall we ate it with eagerness straight from the stick, sometimes burning our lips and sometimes crunching on some charred wood!
Modern recipes include a few more ingredients, butter in particular, but that takes the damper more in the direction of scone mixture. The one we use is derived from a number of sources and suggestions. The main influence is a recipe from a host farm we once visited near Robe in South Australia. Their damper was made just from self-raising flour and beer. It was cooked by the hosts in a camp oven which was buried under hot coals. It was turned two or three times in the utensil to avoid burning and to ensure even cooking. It was served as a delicious dessert with home made jam and whipped cream.
We add wattleseed, which gives a subtle flavour and a lovely colour, but this can be omitted. It can be cooked in an oven using a casserole dish or similar. The end result should still be very acceptable. Use as you would fresh bread with plenty of butter on hand. And if you go for the dessert option with cream, you may wish to seek out jams made from rosella fruits, kakadu plums, lilly pilly or other bush ingredients.
For the recipe, click here: Beer and Wattleseed Damper.
Another late update:
A contribution from one of the attendees – A kabana, cheese and pickled onion toothpick dog!