At-Home Getaway: Australia

The economy has been a roller coaster ride for a long time.  Unemployment is at its highest.  Things are tough right now.  Some have been greatly affected by our current economic crisis, and others have not.  Then, you have a dream to travel far, like Australia, yet for one person, between flight, hotel, food, travel expenses, museum fees, souvenirs, you could be talking about $8,000.00 per person!  Many of us cannot afford that.  But I say, why deny yourself.  You may not be able to scrape up that kind of money for a blockbuster 2-week getaway, but could you spend a little money and create that atmosphere in the comfort of your own home?  I think we can! With the assistance of your local library and more, we can afford to get a few items that may give us a hint of Australia and its people.  And perhaps, when things get better, we can head Down Under for that long-awaited trip.

Australia is way across the other side of the world, and even in the opposite hemisphere.  If you are on the East Coast of the USA and you were planning on seeing the East Coast of Australia, they are 16 hours ahead of us and in the opposite season! It is the sixth largest country in the world and the only country that is an island AND a continent.

Australia Day 1
Image by gadgetgirl via Flickr

The British discovered Australia in the 1700’s and thought that this would be a great way to help their prisoner over-crowding situation in their jails.  Pack them up and ship them off.  These people were the first Australians. But like every new world, they soon found out that the aborigines had already been there for about 40,000 years. Then, like America, thousands of people immigrated to Australia to begin a new life and never looked back.

When you think of Australia, Americans tend to think of Qantas (airline), Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock (Uluru), Didgeroo (aboriginal instrument), aborigines, song lines, surfing, Sydney Opera House, reverse seasons, Australian Rules Football, tea tree oil, opals, merino wool, strange expressions and good-looking people!

Filled with unusual animals: marsupials, duck-billed platypus; koalas; wallabies; kangaroos; dingos; emus; Australian shepherds; Australian cattle dogs; Australian kelpies; Queensland healers; kookaburras, sheep (jumbuck); crocodiles; sharks; huge ant hills; brown snake and so much more.  Remember Steve Irwin from the Crocodile Hunter?  Australia, again!

There are some excellent movies out there if you look.  Most people have heard of Crocodile Dundee and the Mad Max trilogy, but there are some wonderful films worth checking out are: Picnic at Hanging Rock; Rabbit-Proof Fence; Somersault; Muriel’s Wedding and Japanese Story.  Actors to look for: Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush; Russell Crowe; Hugh Jackman; Eric Bana; Naomi Watts; Sam Worthington, Radha Mitchell; Erroll Flynn; Anna Torv; Isla Fisher; Yvonne Strzechowski; Miranda Otto; Poppy Montgomery; Melissa George; Rose Byrne; Paul Hogan; Mel Gibson; Cate Blanchett; Peter Finch; Rod Taylor; Bryan Brown; Abby Cornish and so many more!

Anyone from the 80s will remember Men at Work and of course, AC/DC, but there is more to Australia then that.  Powderfinger, Bernard Fanning, Xavier Rudd, The Whitlams are just some of the great music coming from Down Under. Other musicians: Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Wolfmother, Jenny Morris, Danielle Spencer, Keith Urban, Nick Cave, Air Supply, INXS, Midnight Oil, Silverchair, Savage Garden, Yothu Yindi and more!

Check out some of these books to help you get a better peek into Australia.  These are not travel books, but biographies about people’s adventures in Australia.  “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson; “One for the Road” by Tony Horwitz; “My Place” by Sally Morgan; “Are We There Yet?” by Rachael Weiss and Julie Adams;and anything by Banjo Paterson.

Their food is mostly Anglo-Celtic which has adapted to Aboriginal Bush Food and immigrants from nearby nations.  Some ingredients you may not find in America are: akudjura, lilly pilly, munthari, pepperberry, pepperleaf, wattleseed, quandong, Balmain Bugs, vegemite, yabbies, macadamian nuts and oil, Aniseed myrtle (Australian Leaf Aniseed), Lemon Myrtle, Forest Berry Herb (manna gum or berry gum)… and so much more!   They do export some excellent wines, so check with your local liquor store.

With movies, music, books and food, you can spend as little or as much as you want.  You can great a perfect at-home getaway for one, or for many!

Pavlova 

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large mango, thinly sliced
  • 6 passionfruits

Directions

  1. In a mixer, beat the eggs whites until they form soft peaks. Then add the sugar a little at a time, making sure the sugar is well incorporated before adding more.
  2. Then, gently fold in the cornstarch and the vinegar.
  3. Pipe or shape the meringue into an 8″ circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake in a 250 degree oven for 90 minutes.  Then, turn the oven off and leave open a crack.  When the pavlova has cooled, it may have sunk slightly and cracked. This is normal.
  5. Beat the whipping cream and vanilla together until creamy.  When the pavlova is cool, spread on top of the pavlova.  Scoop out the inside of the passionfruits and spread on top of the whipped cream. Then, lay the mango slices on top.

Yields: 8 servings

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Meat Pie  

This essential pie is an Aussie favorite.

  • 1.5 lb. beef chuck, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 bottle beer, Foster’s is a good choice
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions
  1. Place the meat in the flour, and coat completely.
  2. Heat oil, and brown beef. Add vegetables and mix.
  3. Add tomato paste, spices, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.
  4. Pour in beer and broth, simmer until the liquid turns into a thick gravy.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Roll pastry out into an 8-inch pie plate. Poke some holes in the bottom and bake for 8 minutes until golden.
  6. Add meat to the pie and cover with the second sheet of pastry.  Brush with beaten egg and bake another 8 minutes.
  7. Serve with mashed potatoes and peas.

Yields: 6 servings

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Shrimp on the Barbie

  • 2 pounds of shrimp
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon green tea leaves
Directions
  1. Marinade for 30 minutes.
  2. Grill until opaque.

Yields: 4 servings

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ANZAC Biscuits with Macadamia Nuts  

ANZAC cookies were invented during World War I, where these little treats were made and sent to the men at war.  They are easy to ship, affordable and a national favorite.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon honey / Lyle’s Golden Syrup / agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter / margarine / vegan-alternative

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, rolled oats, sugar, coconut and macadamia nuts.
    In a small saucepan, combine the water, honey and baking soda. Bring to a boil,
    then stir in the butter. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes, then stir into the
    flour mixture. Place balls of dough onto the prepared cookie sheets and flatten
    slightly. Leave about 1 inch between cookies.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes for chewy biscuits, 20 minutes for crunchy. Cool on wire racks.

Yields: 2 dozen

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Damper  

Damper is the Australian version to soda bread. Traditionally cooked over hot coals in the bush, this recipe is adapted for home cooks.

  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven at 425 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour into a bowl.  Add the salt.
  3. Create a well in the center and pour the butter, milk and water in the well and mix.
  4. Turn the dough into a round and create some hash marks on the top.  Baste with milk and bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350 and bake another 10 minutes.
  5. Serve with Lyle’s Golden Syrup or butter.

Yields: 8 servings

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Lamington   

Lamingtons are a little cake dredged in chocolate then rolled in coconut. Great as an after-school snack.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature / margarine / vegan alternative
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk / soy milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set the oven rack to the second shelf.
  2. Grease a 12″ x 9″ pan and line with parchment paper.
  3. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Alternately add 1/3 of the flour, with a 1/3 of the milk, mixing well after each addition, until all the flour and milk has been incorporated.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  8. Once completely cooled…

Chocolate Icing for Lamington

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoons butter / margarine / vegan alternative
  • 1/4 cup milk / soy milk
  • 3 cups desiccated coconut
Directions
  1. Cut cake into 12 squares.
  2. Sift sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Heat the butter and milk in a pot until the butter has melted.
  3. Stir to combine with the sugar mixture.
  4. Dip each square into the chocolate icing, until all sides are covered. Then roll each square in the coconut, until all sides are covered. Place on a rack until the icing has dried. Repeat with each square.  (Warning:  Messy!)
  5. Store in an airtight container. It is best if they are served the next day.

Yields: 12 servings

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7 thoughts on “At-Home Getaway: Australia

  1. Hi Jen,
    J’ai adoré ton survol de l’Australie et de sa culture! Moi aussi je rêve d’y aller un jour mais en attendant nous pouvons déjà lire, écouter de la musique et regarder un bon film d’Australie.
    Cuisiner une recette australienne sera le bouquet final!
    Merci pour toutes ces recettes de là-bas! C’est original!
    Have a wonderful day!

  2. What a great tribute there Jen. I hope you get here one day. It is a long way across the Pacific. Lamingtons are my favourite! Even more than pavlova or anzac bisucuits. Bill Bryson’s travelogue In a Sunburned Country (called Down Under here) was fantastic. I learnt some things about my local area, and he really made me want to go to Western Australia. Recently, Howard Jacobson (English, winner of the Booker last year) rereleased his travel tome, In the Land of Oz- I haven’t read it yet, but he sounds very engaging and witty on the radio. Thomas Kenneally is releasing a new history of Australia. The second volume is just out now. I’ve bought the first, but not read it yet, and will buy the second in hardback to sit waiting on the shelf. To my shame I haven’t read either My Place or Rabbit Proof Fence yet. But now I’ve got a new car I should be able to listen to my library’s audiobook version of Rabbit Proof Fence. I still think of Jenny Morris as a kiwi- although I see on wiki that she is now an Australian citizen! We have a habit of claiming all the talented kiwis as Australian anyway.

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