What is Australian food?

25 Jan


When people travel the world they usually tell stories of the architecture, the people and the food. Nationalities have their own food that has evolved from over hundreds if not thousands of years. It’s usually very healthy for you. Michael Pollan, author of “Food Rules”, described the “French Paradox” in that the French are healthier than Americans despite eating cheeses, wines and foie-gras in large quantities. Makes sense right, if the food wasn’t nutritious and allowed a full and healthy life then that culture would probably have died out!

So what is Australian food? And to be clear I’m talking about the 2nd Australians – western / Caucasians, not the original people of the land (and without a doubt their food is nutritious and mostly pretty nice). With Australia day upon us I’ve seen commercials and advertisements for various “Australian” food. And while I know what Australian food is definitely NOT (like hot dogs, doughnuts and probably pickled food) there’s a lot of grey area. 

Take this list for instance that I found in the Daily Telegraph

  1. A seafood platter
  2. A burger with the log (presumably they are including beetroot and pineapple). 
  3. A mixed grill (just a fancy BBQ in my mind). 
  4. Fish and Chips
  5. Pumpkin Soup
  6. A table of salads
  7. Avocado and vegemite on toast. 
  8. Sticky Date pudding
  9. Pavlova
  10. The Tim Tam suck

Pumpkin soup?? Sticky data pudding?? Not sure about those – sorry Matt, another thing we disagree on. 

Here’s another list from Aussie Farmers Direct

  1. Lamingtons
  2. Lamb Chops
  3. BBQ
  4. Souvlaki
  5. Pavlova nests
  6. Coleslaw
  7. Salad
  8. Wraps

Definitely some front-runners in that list. How could the Telegraph miss Lamingtons and Lamb Chops. But again, some things that I probably wouldn’t have thought traditional Aussie food. What I like about this list though is it’s nod to the multiculturalism of Australia with the souvlaki. While the greek immigration to Australia is well known and quite influential, particularly in the southern states, I’m not sure a food is allowed on 2 countries list of national foods. 🙂

And with all the recent news surrounding SPCA (disclaimer: I do work for their parent company Coca-Cola Amatil) and their push for support of Australian grown food has found a friend in comedian Dave Hughes. This article says starting the day with tin of baked beans is a national past time! Not so sure of that but I agree baked beans are pretty Aussie. 

There’s some notable omissions in the above lists so I’d throw these into the ring as well:

  1. Vegemite and cheese sandwich (vegemite anything!)
  2. Watermelon
  3. Meat pies
  4. Sausage rolls
  5. Tuna bake
  6. Trifle with jelly and sponge cake
  7. Macadamia nuts

What else is there? What really reminds you of Australian food? Did you grow up with something particular or if you visited what was the standout food you tried?


Hobgoblin brew and learning to cool it!!

18 Jan

My brew’s are getting more complex for 2 reasons. The first reason is  that I’m building on my skills and enjoying learning the new processes. The second is that so far the the more complex the beer making process the better it’s tasted. And so with my latest brew I’ve added a few extra steps.

Today’s brew is someone else’s recipe that I found on an old school site reminiscent of the old geocities sites but that doesn’t mean it’ll be bad. They called it “Hobgoblin at Hanging Rock” and it was a variation on the Hobgoblin Ruby Ale made by Wychwood brewery in the the UK.

The tasting notes from Wychwood are “a delicious chocolate toffee malt flavour, balanced with a rounded moderate bitterness and an overall fruity, mischievous character“. Sounds excellent.

The recipe I used is:

  • 1 can Coopers Draught
  • 1kg Light Dried Malt (that’s a lot of malt so it’s going to be a dark beer with a strong toffee flavour)
  • 300g dextrose
  • 100g crystal malt (first time i’ve used grain)
  • 50g chocolate malt (guessing this gives it the chocolate flavour)
  • 20g cascade hops @ 30min
  • 12g fuggles hops @ 5min and left in the fermenter. (this will give it the overall fruity flavour)

So the 2 new parts to this are the use of grain and cooling it down.

Using the grain is just a small extra step to boil up some water and steep the grain for 20 – 30min. Then strain that out and put in on the 60min boil with the malt, extract, dextrose and hops.

Cooling it down  – the wort (the malt / extract mixture) is vulnerable to wild yeast that’ll turn it bad until you can get your brewers yeast in and it starts to produce alcohol. I’ve got a good 10l of wort that’s just been boiling for 60min and remember the sugar content of this is high so it’s like a big pot of liquid toffee and all it’s latent heat. So to protect it I want to cool it fast, down to at least 32C, so I can “pitch” my yeast in. Some people have special coolers, some people pre-cool a stack of water to top up the wort to 23L, other’s use a bath….which is what i did. Picked up my entire pot and stuck it in the bath with lots of cool water. Dropped the temp down to 50C quite quickly and topping it up with normal water brought it down to 24C – fine for pitching my yeast.


It’s now in the fermenter for the yeast to do it’s thing, next update on this will be about 4 weeks away.

As with most things in my life, the  more I know the more questions I have. And from this experience I have 2 main Q’s.

What gives beer the bitterness? I like a bitter beer and I’m sure it’s something to do with the hops and perhaps the grains. I’ll do some research on this and let you know.

However the BIG question I have is what is the etiquette on beer names. I’ve used someone else recipe so should my beer be called the same? I’d have to vary it to my tastes before I can change the name right? What do you think?

Hightale Ale – The Result

16 Jan

Hightale ale HomebrewThe Hightale AleI brewed a few weeks back is now ready for a drink. I believe it’s probably the best beer I’ve done to date and I wonder if that’s because of the extra steps in the brew process. No doubt – it has more flavour complexity and depth than some of the straight up coopers can brews I’ve done in the past.

What’s it taste like?

It’s a great example of an Amber Ale which is expected. Very subtle hops, a nice bitterness and a deep malty flavour and colour. I’ve not yet learnt the IBU’s and colour metrics so can’t comment on those specifically.

One thing I wasn’t sure of was the difference between a golden ale and an amber ale. Both are from the Pale Ale family but are slightly different. From what i’ve read and without getting into the ingredients:

  • Golden Ale has a lighter colour (than amber ale) and stronger hop flavours.
  • Amber Ale has a darker colour and a stronger malt flavour.

So if I take colour as the prime differentiator (which is as a result of the ingredients) – what is darker vs lighter?

There’s a colour measurement standard known as “Degrees Lovibond” developed by Joseph Williams Lovibond. Based on this scale a beer can be lighter or darker as shown by this image (not mine).


However – as with most “standards” some people have got their hands on it and adapted it somewhat. That’s where the Standard Reference Method comes in and is explained well by BrewWiki.com in the table below.

1.0 - 3.0 SRM - Pale yellow color
3.0 - 4.5 SRM - Medium yellow
4.5 - 7.5 SRM - Gold
7.5 - 9.0 SRM - Amber
9.0 - 11.0 SRM - Copper
11.0 - 14.0 SRM - Red/Brown
14.0 - 19.0 SRM - Brown
20.0   SRM - Black

SRM beer colour chart

So for our discussion the Golden Ale needs to sit between 4.5 and 7.5 while the Amber is a little darker at 7.5 – 9.0.

All this makes me want to brew a Golden Ale next. However, my next brew will have some specialty grains (Chocolate and Crystal) and some extra Malt so it’ll come out darker such as the Amber. It’ll be an Amber Draught Ale. Will let you know how it goes.

“Agaricus bisporus” Mushroom box kit looks a bit dry.

8 Jan


Picked up a mushroom kit from Enfield Produce just after the New Year. Have been wanting to try it for a while but got a little stuck thinking I’d try and do it all from scratch i.e. making my own medium etc. These were only $22 for White Button Mushroom or the combination Portobello / white button kit was $24. Reasonably cheap but to make it cost effective I’m going to need more than 2kg of mushrooms – let’s see how that goes.

I opened the box up today to get it started but noticed the compost is still very brown. The instructions suggest it needs to be quite white and spiderwebby as the inoculated mycelium has “run” through the compost. So I’ve boxed it back up as suggested and will check it out in a few more days.

Do you think it looks a little too dry? I’ve sent a note to the manufacturer to see if I should be adding any moisture at this stage. [EDIT] Received a very quick response back and they have said to leave it till it goes white, don’t add water.

Dry mushroom compost

Stay tuned for more pics and updates. Have you grown mushrooms before? I hear they are pretty hit and miss! Any tips?

Hightail Ale

25 Dec

I’ve been pretty slack with my updates. A lot has been happening but will need to leave that for another post. For now though….

I have just put down a home-brew – my 6th. Ive tried some different styles and I’m a big fan of the extra malted ale that coopers call the “Unreal Ale”. I’ve tried the Little Creatures stye (American Pale Ale with cascade hops) so have a bunch of cascade hops left over which made it easy to try this recipe

The big difference in technique with this is that I boiled the wort for 60min and dropped the cascade hops is as per the schedule. Normally it’s just dump the extract and sugars in with some boiling water and top up with cold water.

Specific gravity on day 1 was 1.050 -much higher than 1.037 expected. Not sure if this means it’ll have a higher alcohol content or perhaps a sweeter flavour.

Update on this in 4 weeks or so.

Mountain Goat Hightail Ale 
Style: English Pale Ale/Strong Bitter

Amount Item Type % or IBU
1.00 kg Light Dry Extract (15.8 EBC) Dry Extract 35.09 %
1.70 kg Coopers Kit Real Ale (37.8 EBC) Extract 59.65 %

Hops –
15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (30 min) Hops 7.4 IBU
15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (15 min) Hops 4.8 IBU

15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (Dry Hop 3 days)

I should say that this isn’t my recipe – it was taken from a HomeBrewAndBeer forums.

Baked Bacon for perfect crispiness

30 Dec

Bacon is one of those fickle things, we know we all love crispy bacon but for most of us it seems to be hit an miss. Is it something to do with the heat of the pan, the  type of bacon, when you put it in or how much oil you use? It seems however that the trick, and stop reading here if you get crispy bacon all the time, is the way it’s cooked.

Forget the pan or the microwave – did you really think the microwave would work? The trick is to bake it. Now before you think that’s too hard it’s really not. Pre-heat the oven to about 180C, throw down some baking paper to reduce the clean up mess, save your oil and just bake the bacon for about 2omin. In just 20min I had the perfect bacon for me. The rind was nicely crispy, the meat was still a little tender and the fat all but drained off after a single turn.

Back by popular demand is another time-series photoshoot of the bacon cooking. Give it a shot, it’s really quite simple. And the best bit is it free’s the fry-pan up for the eggs so you get both cooked perfect and served hot with minimal fuss.

Baked Bacon

Bake your bacon for the perfect crispiness!

Roasting a frozen chicken in a slow cooker

16 Dec

We all love a roast chicken. The smell as it’s cooking, the tasty skin and the juicy stuffing all come together to provide something truly amazing. However, the cost vs effort of picking up a roast chicken from a shop means we rarely roast one up at home! Which is a shame because there’s so many different ways to roast a chicken with different stuffings. Also when you cook you own to can select your chicken and make sure it’s really a free-range grass fed   organic chicken.

So this experiment was inspired by a colleague at work who told me how he’ll put a frozen chicken in his slow cooker in the morning and come home to nicely roasted chook! It sounded both simple and novel so I had to give it a shot. Admittedly I was a little dubious mainly because I thought the slow cookers needed liquid up around the element to work effectively….

The recipie was quite simple.

  1. Get one whole frozen chicken
  2. Put some aluminium foil or upside down tray at the botom of the slow cooker to let the juices run away
  3. Turn it on low for 8-10hrs or high for 4hrs (I chose the low option).

Below are the results over the 9hrs it was cooking for.

9hrs from frozen solid to nicely roasted.

9hrs from frozen solid to nicely roasted.

One concern was will the slow cooker be able to heat up the internal temperature of the chicken to a safe level. According to the US Food Safety site the min safe temp for a chicken is 165 F (75C). To track this I kept an eye on the air temp inside the slow cooker then the internal temp of the chicken after about 8 hours. After the first 3 hrs the chicken must have thawed because the air temp moved up from about 75C to 100C and stayed there. After 8 hrs the internal temp of the chicken reached 86c and therefore fine.

Checking the internal temp of the slow cooked roast chicken.

Checking the internal temp of the slow cooked roast chicken.

You can see from the above that the color really didn’t kick in till the last 2 hours or so. Up until that point the chicken thawed, sweated, started to crisp up around less meaty sections and then finally browned up.

The main downside to using a frozen chicken is that you can’t stuff it. I love my stuffing so I’ve got 2 choices – go without, or stuff it before freezing. The later though obviously introduces some contamination risk so you’d need to be careful.

Roast Chicken plated up.

Roast Chicken plated up.

All up the chicken was super easy to to roast up and tasted pretty good. Another technique for the slow cooker.