Is there a uniquely Australian dish?
For 40,000 years this was an unnecessary question, but in the past five or 10 it has become a pursuit of the ‘cuisinerati’.
I will give a ruling on this.
On no other continent will you find the beloved staple “minimum chips”. It is uniquely Australian.
There are some lesser candidates.
The dim sim is a faux-Asian dumpling made originally with cabbage and pork tossed in a small cement mixer.
And good luck finding a Hawaiian pizza in Hawaii. It, too, is a local concoction that draws its ingredients and inspiration from elsewhere.
The defence rests.
I believe I have invented a dish that combines 21st century fusion and arguably local ingredients. It is a unique Southern Hemisphere culinary feat.
Now some minor housework: I first had kangaroo when I was 10. My parents sourced it from the Prahran Market. It was adventurous, nutritious and cheap.
Was I eating pet food?
I can no longer ask them so I’m asking you. Sixty years later, I’m not afraid of the truth.
The kangaroo does not conform to conventional standards of butchering.
Whilst sheep and cows can be trucked or shipped to an abattoir, kangaroos die in trauma if they are confined in this way.
They must be prepared in situ.
You see them most often as roadkill and perhaps, like me, you delight in nature’s bountiful harvest.
However, unless you have an off-road vehicle with a tree mulcher then the mince you need for this recipe is best acquired from the shelves of shame at the ‘povvo’ supermarket.
If, in the inner suburbs, you run over a kangaroo that is shaking a tin seek medical advice.
The other uniquely Southern Hemisphere ingredient is chilli.
Interestingly, the hottest chilli grows in the wettest climate because the capsaicinoids which provide the heat are also anti-fungal.
I get my chipotle (tasty) and habaneros (hot) at my local providore. (I’m not telling you where because I don’t want them to run out).
They sometimes come with weevils, which don’t survive the cooking and provide extra 21st century protein.
This dish is not for everyone.
Some years ago I did a TV cooking competition. I was asked by the producers to supply a list of options and they seized on this one.
They correctly anticipated that the judges would push this rare delicacy to one side of the plate with distaste.
As always, I agreed and cooked it.
I have a professional entertainer’s sense that the villain gets paid either way.
Welcome to Chilli con Kanga
1 kilo of minced kangaroo
1 mug of kidney beans
3 celery sticks
1 head of garlic
1 litre of passata
First go to the supermarket and educate the 16-year-old high school student with a part-time job that beans don’t just come in tins.
In “the olden days” they were dried. Soak them overnight, then lightly boil them.
Brown the meat in a little oil. (If it’s already brown you may have accidentally mulched the fur.)
Add the onions, garlic and celery. Do I have to tell you to chop them first?
After appropriate reduction, throw in the beans, passata and chilli.
Burble it on the stove for as long as you like.
The longer you cook it the more virtuous you will feel when serving it.
In the event that your guests do not share your delight in this South-of-the-Equator fusion, then fear not.
It will keep in the fridge indefinitely.
Micro-organisms flee this potent concoction.
I like it. Was I eating pet food?
Red Symons is a musician of the ’70s, TV vaudevillian of the ’80s and ’90s, radio voice of the new millennium and a sprinkled condiment in the theatre and print