When we started this culinary journey, I decided that I would give myself credit for coutries already cooked. While I could "pull some snags out of the eski and toss them on the barbie for the blokes,"* I opted to take the "been there, cooked that" route for Australia.
*Translation: "...pull some sausages out of the fridge and toss them on the grill for my guys."
Last school year, I taught a six-week elective class - the boys' school calls them SEMs (schoolwide enrichment models) and offers three sessions a year - all about Australia. I've also taught the global history of chocolate, silk painting, and Italian. But that's not relevant to this post.
Dylan was thrilled to be able to bring in his stuffed wombat for show-and-tell; Riley learned to play the digeridoo. We studied the animals, the aborigines, the Great Barrier Reef, and on the last class, we had a feast.
We tried VEGEMITE.
Vegemite is as Australian as kangaroos and boomarangs. I remember the Aussie au pair who was stationed with my family in Rome right before I was had jars of the stuff in her luggage "just in case." It is made from leftover brewers' yeast extract, beer manufacturing by-product as well as a proprietary blend of various vegetable and spice additives. It is a dark ruddy color, almost black and has the consistency of peanut butter. In fact, just like American kids eat peanut butter sandwiches, Aussie kids eat vegemite sandwiches. I was pleased that each of my students gave it a shot, but it is definitely an acquired taste.
And I made PAVLOVAS.
My Aussie Adventure class brought this popular Australian dessert onto my culinary radar. In 1935, the chef of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, Herbert Sachse, created the pavlova to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.
6 organic large egg whites
pinch pink Himalaya salt
dash of ground ginger
1 t white vinegar
3/4 C plus 2 T organic granulated sugar for the whipped cream
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 C heavy cream
2 C fresh rhubarb, chopped
1/4 C butter, cubed
1/2 organic granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine egg whites, salt, and white vinegar together in a large mixing bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Combine the 3/4 C sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl and add to the egg whites in thirds, whisking each addition in completely. Add the vanilla and ground ginger and beat until stiff peaks form. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon the meringue in 8 big spoonfuls, using a spoon to spread them in a circle, and then make a hollow in each.
Bake for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 200°F, and bake for another hour. Turn off the heat and cool the meringues in the oven with the door propped open. Meanwhile, whip the cream together with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. While the meringues bake, make a rhubarb compote with the last three ingredients on the list. To serve, evenly distribute the cream on the meringues, filling in the hollow. Top with the rhubarb compote and serve.
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