Dundee Dinner (#80)
Our next movie we ended up pushing back a little so it fell in June instead of May. The film is Crocodile Dundee. According to some things I read online, this movie is the most successful Australian made film. Yes, even more successful than Mad Max. I hadn't seen the movie since I was a kid, so I was looking forward to seeing it again with adult eyes.
Originally, I was planning do a generic Australia theme for dinner, but as I continued researching the film, I discovered that the character of Dundee is not your typical Australian. In his backstory, he was raised by an Aboriginal tribe, which gives him a unique connection to the Australian bush and its wildlife. While looking up what foods were featured in the film, I stumbles up a scene where he's showing his companion various edible plants and critters in the area. This inspired me to do something unique and base our meal not on typical Australian foods, but rather on Australian bush ingredients.
I began looking up edible Australian plans and found a website called Melbourne Bushfood. This company is working hard to bring awareness back to "bush tucker" as its called and sells all kinds of products relating to it, from dried spices, to jams, to whole plants that you can grow yourself. They also seem to be very environmentally conscious and do a lot of work with the Aboriginal people who first introduced us to these foods. Spending a little time in their online store it was really hard to not just want to buy one of everything. They have a lot variety, it all has raving reviews, and frankly, it just sounds delicious. For the sake of not spending a lot of money, I limited myself to four seasoning packs: saltbush, pepperleaf, strawberry gum, and davidson plum powder.
Saltbush is literally a bush that grows abundantly in Australia. It can be used as an herb and is considered a good substitute for salt. It has both a salty and umami flavor, but has 20% less sodium that typical table salt. It is also high in calcium and anti-oxidants.
Pepperleaf is the made from the leaves of the pepperberry plant from Tasmania. Both the berries and the leaves have a peppery spiciness to them. The Aboriginal people used this plant for a lot of medicinal purposes.
Davidson plum is a unique native tropical fruit from the eastern coast of Australia. Instead of growing from the branches of a tree like the fruit we're used to, its plums grow along the trunk. They have a tart, sour flavor, and can create a unique culinary experience.
Strawberry Gum (Eucalyptus olida) is a species of eucalyptus that has a fruity, almost bubble-gum flavour and aroma filled with undertones of basil and strawberries. Honestly, I was just looking forward to trying the plant that made koalas say, "Yep. This is it. The only thing I am going to eat for the rest of my life."
As mentioned, this is by no means a complete list of the things that were available on their website. These are just the four things that I decided to purchase. Without having a plan in place, I figured that the salty and peppery flavors of the saltbush and pepper leaf would probably be easy to work into a dinner and that the davidson plum and strawberry gum could be used for dessert. So, not yet knowing what I was going to make I ordered those spice packs pretty far in advance to make sure that they arrived in time for movie night.
It did take me awhile to figure out how I wanted to use them, but when I did, I was able to put together a pretty delicious dinner. Our main course was a simple roasted lamb and potatoes. My thought was that I could use the spicy pepperleaf to create a flavorful rub for the lamb and the saltbush could be the main flavor in the potatoes. For dessert, I wanted to make davidson plum cake with a strawberry gum glaze. That really proved to be a challenge for me, but I got it to work and taste pretty good as well. I will share all of these recipes with you below.
Australian Bush Lamb & Potatoes
5 lb bone in leg of lamb
- Mix vegetable oil in a large bowl with the pepperleaf, saltbush, and garlic to create your spice rub. Once mixed thoroughly, pour it into a large back and place the lamb in there as well. I used an oven bag for this. It allowed the meat to marinate, I was able to roast the lamb in it the next day with minimal effort.
- Make sure that the meat rub is rubbed all into the meat. You can literally rub it all over the lamb with freshly washed hands. If your lamb has a big section of fat, I suggest using a knife to slice three of four deep slits in the fat so that the marinade can soak into the meat below.
- For the potatoes, mix the oil and spices in a large bowl. Be careful not to use too much pepperleaf as it can overpower the other flavors.
- Wash the potatoes and cut them into either halves or quarters depending on the size.
- Mix the potato chunks into the seasoning and be sure to coat evenly.
- Refrigerate the lamb and potatoes overnight so that they have time to absorb the exotic flavors.
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Using a meat thermometer, cook the lamb until it reaches an internal temperature of 120-130 degrees F.
- Remove lamb from oven and set it on a cutting or serving tray, but leave it in the bag. It will continue to cook while it rests.
- Change oven temp to 400F.
- Put potatoes in a large roasting pan and spread them out so they are not on top of each other. Roast for at least an hour to an hour and twenty minutes. Flip or mix them up ever 20 minutes so they cook evenly and don't burn.
- While the potatoes are cooking, you can begin to work on your gravy. Cut off the corner of the lamb's oven bag and drain all those peppery juices into a pot or pan. Put it on a medium heat and add small amounts of flour until it thickens to the way you prefer.
- When the potatoes are done and come out, you can slice the lamb and begin serving the lamb and potatoes with optional gravy.
- Soak powder in water overnight.
- Pour mixture into a pan and add sugar. For me, I noticed that there was still a lot of powder and water sticking to the sides of the container that it had been soaking in, so before I add the sugar to the pot, I poured it into that contain so that the liquid and powder bound to the sugar and didn't go to waste.
- Bring the temperature up to a simmer or light boil. Stir almost constantly to avoid anything burning. It could take a couple hours to get the temperature up to where it starts to thicken the way we want it to. If you have a candy thermometer, I would use it. You should notice the consistency start to change when gets over 200F. If the mixture is still very watery and isn't thickening, add more sugar.
- When you notice the mixture is thickening, (ie: you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir) remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. You can cool it quickly by moving it to the fridge.
- Grease an 8 inch cake pan and then line it with parchment paper so that the cake can be easily removed from the pan after baking.
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- Using a mixer, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time. Each time you do, add just a little flour to prevent curdling.
- Next add the jam and mix it is all combined.
- Keep the mixer going on a low setting while you gradually add the all purpose flour, baking soda, and almond flour. Once everything is evenly mixed, you should have a light pink, fluffy cake batter.
- Pour into your pan and smooth the top before putting in the oven. Let bake for at least an hour and half. Use a tooth pick to make sure that it is baked through and the toothpick comes out clean before removing from the oven.
- Set aside and let cool while you start working on the glaze.
- First, we need to melt the butter and warm the milk. The best way to do this without risking overheating and separating it is to set your microwave to only 50% power and warming a minute at a time. You can put the butter and the milk in a bowl together and warm them together until the butter melts and you have a warm buttermilk.
- Whisk together your buttermilk, powdered sugar, and strawberry gum. If it seems too watery, you can add more sugar. If the strawberry gum flavor is not prevalent enough, you can add more of that. The glaze will solidify as the buttermilk cools so if that happens too soon, you can reheat the entire mixture.
- Once the thickness and the flavor of the glaze is what you want, take your now cooled cake out of its pan and place on a plate or serving tray. Pour your glaze over it and then put the whole thing in the fridge so that the glaze can cool completely.