It surprises me not a bit that this delicacy is less common that one might expect, being as we are in a multi-culti nation where every furrin dish is extolled and fine Oz dishes left to congeal on a low back-burner. But too many miss out on a beautiful, 'Game' meat.
As a lady who dined with us said,
"Australians have an ingrained reluctance to eat their national emblem, but a number of chefs are now championing kangaroo meat as a delicious - and environmentally friendly alternative to beef and pork.She was quite right, although the mob that sent her around - the BBC - may be better known for being economical with the truth (as they say) and even using wood chips in their news ingredients. More from her later. I think though it is less about any 'ingrained reluctance' and national emblems, and more to do with over-cautious restaurants and desire for trendiness. Australians eat out a lot and are game for almost anything.
But there are gourmet suppliers where one can find Roo - and wallaby too - and even more exotic fine dish-making ingredients like Crocodile and Emu. Even the major supermarkets are now stocking some of them. Wallaby sausages are on my menu at least once a month.
I will tell you a recipe later but for the moment let us hear from that lady, Fuchsia Dunlop. I have never met a Fushsia before.
Why Australia has a problem with kangaroo meat
Like many foreign cooks and food writers visiting Australia, I was dying to try some of the country's unique local ingredients, and none of them more than kangaroo.
On a previous visit to the country I'd been impressed by local chefs' commitment to sourcing the finest produce, and by the way their menus described the provenance of fresh seafood, heritage tomatoes and free-range pork. This time, I wanted to see how they cooked one of their most distinctive native Australian ingredients. And I knew that kangaroo meat had much to recommend it from an environmental point of view.
Kangaroos produce far less of the greenhouse gas methane than the cattle brought over by European settlers, and their jumping feet don't damage the fragile Australian topsoil like the hard hooves of cows and sheep. Although kangaroos are a protected species, there are so many of them that they are widely regarded as pests, and they are hunted by professional shooters according to a strict quota system.
With respect, madam. Bollox. It is not a matter of 'refuse'. Most Oz people just do not see it on the menu in Chinese, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, and whathaveyou restaurants. Those places are operated by cultural interlopers who eschew this country's natural and national offerings and have taken over our high streets and CBDs. Some are quite good ! Some awful.
In an era when chefs all over the world are clamouring to use wild, seasonal and local produce, one might expect kangaroo meat to take pride of place on Australian menus.
Surprisingly, however, most Australians refuse to eat it.
Kangaroo, Wallaby, Goanna and Crocodile were good enough for the Aboriginals and early Anglo-Saxon arrivals, but not for the others who are far too 'precious' about their cuisines.
On my first days in Adelaide, in South Australia, I scoured restaurant menus in vain for kangaroo dishes. The Greek, Korean, Chinese and Afghan restaurants I visited were testament to the multiculturalism of the Australian diet, but their menus maintained a studious silence on the subject of kangaroo. The only place I found it served was the Red Ochre Grill, a riverside restaurant that specialises in indigenous ingredients.
I do, and I am a hermit! But, she continued.....
There, some friends and I tasted rosy, sweet-cured kangaroo fillet, and a thick tranche of kangaroo steak served medium rare from the grill. But as head chef Nick Filsell admits, many of the restaurant's customers are tourists and other out-of-town visitors. "Kangaroo is a bit of a novelty meat, like crocodile and emu," he says. "Most local people wouldn't have it at home."
Most Australians I talk to in Adelaide and Sydney say they feel funny about eating kangaroo. "After all," one young woman explains, "it's our national emblem." She confesses that the only kangaroo meat she's ever had in the house was to feed to her kittens. Almost everyone I speak to mentions what they called "the Skippy factor" - a reference to the 1960s TV series, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, which encouraged Australians to see kangaroos as far too adorable to cook for dinner. Eating kangaroo, one chef tells me, feels a bit like eating Bambi, that cute young deer in the Disney cartoon.Adelaide ! Hah. Sydney ! Hah. She should get about a bit more.
In the past, kangaroo meat was more widely accepted. It was always eaten by aboriginal Australians, for whom the succulent tail, roasted in a pitful of embers, is a particular delicacy. The early European settlers ate kangaroo out of necessity, and many eventually came to enjoy a red meat that didn't really taste so different from venison, hare or beef.
According to historian Barbara Santich in her book Bold Palates: Australia's Gastronomic Heritage, kangaroo recipes appeared regularly in cookbooks until the 1930s. Kangaroo soup was highly prized, as was "steamer", a stew made from kangaroo enriched with salt pork. But as more Australians moved to the cities and living standards rose, kangaroo meat and other so-called "bush tucker" fell out of favour.
A few pioneering chefs, though, are trying to revive interest among the Australian public in eating kangaroo, or at least its smaller, daintier cousin, the wallaby. One of them, Kylie Kwong, is passionately committed to using indigenous ingredients in her Chinese restaurant, Billy Kwong: warrigal greens, saltbush, sea parsley and quandongs or desert peaches all appear on her menu. "I jumped at the chance to use a native meat," she says. "This wallaby comes from the pristine environment of Flinders Island, and the quality is so high you can even serve it raw, like carpaccio. I think our customers are pleasantly surprised by how good it tastes."
When she welcomes me into her kitchen, Kylie conjures up a plateful of red-braised wallaby tail with native fruits, and another of stir-fried wallaby tenderloin with black bean and chilli. The tail is meltingly delicious, like an Australian oxtail, and the tenderloin as tender as its name suggests, with a delicate gamey flavour that reminds me of pigeon breast.OK, she redeemed herself, but even then had to refer to an Asian furriner to give it credence. But, 'pioneering' chefs??
So, how did my Chef do it? I shall reveal his secret !
Take about 1 kilo of Roo. Marinade it in a little olive oil and red wine and herbs for a few hours. Best put it in a sealed bag. When ready to start, dice it to the size you like and sear in a hot pan for a few minutes, just to lock in the flavour.
Prep your hot pot by putting a sachet of Beef and Red wine sauce (the liquid sort from Masterchef) in the bottom. Turn the slow-cook hot pot on to 'high'. Put the Roo cubes into the warming-up sauce.
Take two good sized onions and chop them up; four medium mushrooms; half of a good sized red pepper (a capsicum for some) chopped small like the onion. Fry these until soft in a little oil to release the flavours. Put the lot over the Roo in the pot.
He likes a thick sauce so he then adds a packet of Beef and Onion powdered sauce/gravy, (Masterchef again) dissolved in a generous glass of red wine.
He knows that I like an Australian Tawney port (we make the very best in the world).
This will just about cover the meat. Let it sit for a few minutes while you get and prep some veggies.
Remember the pot is now warming well so put the lid on.
A carrot, chopped or sliced. A medium sized Sweet Potato. Just wash the potato; don't peel it. The skin is delicious and has many vital minerals and vitamins. Dice that too. Into the pot they go; lid back on.
A glass of Tawny too, and a good sprinkle of mixed herbs and cracked pepper over the ingredients so far. A bit of salt too.
Now my chef swears that the best meals are prepared when you drink a glass of wine for every glass you put in the dish. Who am I to dispute? But.... keep the one above right at hand for drinking and use the one below left for cooking !
Greens next. He put in four 'baby' broccoli, chopped into small pieces. The stems can be quite firm and will remain so through the cooking. And some green beans, say six, chopped into reasonable lengths. Also some snow peas. These are kept until last and 'laid' on the top. You may if you wish add half a green capsicum, chopped but not fried. Just raw.
Add a glash of tawny. Have one yourshelf.
I like beans. Especially 'four bean' mix and Chick peas. The former cook 'soft' while the latter retain a firm, crunchiness. They will pretty well bring your ingredient level to the top of the pot. Add a glaashh of tawney to bring the liquid into sight below the beansh. Have a glash yourself.
Turn the pot down to 'low' and leave it for seven hours. Take the bottle of tawny away and sit down. Have another wee drop of the good Tawny.
The resultant dish, when you wake up seven hours later, will be beautiful. You will awake to an aroma that will draw you to the kitchen with praise already drooling from your lips. The dish will have a thickened sauce but still spoonable.
The meat will melt in the mouth. There will be enough there to feed six or eight folks, or ten if you put some on a bed of rice. (the Roo+, not the people, on the rice). It is good enough by itself though.
Have a drink.