I’ve been wondering what it is that defines Australian food. In Lisbon I was asked what makes an “Australian” dinner and when I thought about all the things Sarah and I usually make I couldn’t think what it was that made them specifically Australian. I think it is not so much specific ingredients, or a specific style of cooking that defines an Australian cuisine, but more an attitude to cooking and a freshness of flavours. We have access to such an abundance of good quality produce. If we were asked to define an ‘Australianness’ I think it would be in relation to utilising this abundance. Especially when it’s hot – which for most of Australia it is most of the time – doing as little as possible to high quality ingredients is what defines Australian cooking. In Summer I feel like there is a BBQ most weekends and a BBQ salad is the perfect place to let fresh ingredients shine.
This salad has a festive feel for us. Not so much in the taste, as in the festive colours. It is such a rich purple and green. It is an excellent BBQ staple. It’s a mouth-full of crunchy health. The beetroot is grated raw. We love working with fresh, fragrant dill. It has a yummy mustard seed, lemon and oil dressing too.
Grating the beetroot always makes your hands purple. Some people like to use gloves but gloves make me feel too clinical. I don’t mind being marked by the cooking process for a day at least. We will be able to see who has made the salad by the colour of their hands! But don’t wear a white t-shirt to make this, I wouldn’t want to see all your clothes all speckled pink.
So as Sarah attends the first BBQ of the season in a Melbourne Spring, I’m far away watching beautiful Autumnal produce appear in the grocers and thinking about eating salads and charred meat in someone’s backyard back home.
So what do you reckon defines Australian cooking?
Raw Beetroot, Dill and Mustard Seed Salad (Nigella Lawson, Forever Summer)
big bunch of fresh dill, roughly chopped
500g raw beetroot, finely grated
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp mustard seeds, toasted (to toast – do this in a dry heavy based pan for a couple of minutes, stirring until the colour changes slightly and it becomes fragrant)
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Peel the beetroot before grating it. This is a bit messy, have your best apron on (well it might get juice on it, so maybe not your best) and grate away. I do this in a bowl in an empty sink as it gets messy. Gloves are good too. As you can see I have red little fingers and do for the rest of the day when I am lazy and don’t wear disposable gloves. Pick the dill from the stalks, then chop.
Combine the beetroot and dill together in a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over, drizzle over the oil and toss again. Add toasted mustard seeds to the salad and toss again.
It’s usually wise to turn this out into a new, neat bowl, the other will be messy from all the mixing.