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Australian Cuisine and Recipes

Information about Australian Cooking and Australian Recipes


Cooking by Country - June 2005




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Australia is situated on the continent of Oceania between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. It is the largest island in the world with a huge coastline of 25,760 km. The climate is arid to semiarid - temperate in south and east but tropical in north and the country’s terrain is mainly low plateau with deserts and fertile plain in southeast.

Cooking wise Australia is probably best known throughout the world for its barbecues, but the last 20 years or so has witnessed a turning point in Australian cooking in the form of Pacific Rim cuisine.



Ancient times and Influences on Australian Cooking


Archaeological evidence shows that the early inhabitants, Aborigines, had settled across  most of Australia at least 30,000 years ago. These peoples lead  a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence, moving around with the changing of the seasons to take advantage of the natural foodstuffs which made up their daily diets. This consisted of animal meat and offal, honey, insects such as witchetty grubs, some marine life plus seasonal vegetation.  They did not use pots or pans and much of the food they ate raw although they sometimes roasted or baked foods. Little seasoning was used.


The Chinese were the first explorers to arrive however it wasn't until the 17th Century when the first Europeans arrived with Britain finally colonising the country in the 18th Century.


The early culinary history of Australia is not a happy one. The first  settlers from England mainly consisted of convicts and their guards with Britain utilising their new colony to ease their ever growing problem with overcrowded prisons especially in London. It should be remembered that most of them were city people with no agricultural experience. Not only was this was to make their lives very hard in what seemed to them a a barren and inhospitable  land but unlike many other colonists through history, most of the Europeans failed to learn from the natives.


The seeds and seedlings which were carried over from Europe failed due to the climate and poor soil conditions and even the livestock which was taken over either didn't fare well in the harsh environment or escaped into the bush never to be seen again.  The fact is that many people starved in the first 10 years of colonisation.


The gold rush in the 1850s saw the arrival of other immigrants including many Chinese and although there were even Chinese restaurants in  parts of Australia at the time, the Asian influence on everyday cooking wasn't to occur until much later.  Until the last 20 years or so, colonial Australian cooking was a relatively  bland and uninteresting affair generally consisting of  "meat and 3 veg" with  little in the way of additional seasoning.



Current Day Australian Cuisine


Just after World War II the influx of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Mediterranean including Greeks, Italians and Lebanese saw the first steps in creating today's eclectic cuisine. They brought their native culinary habits,  foods and seasonings and improvements made in refrigeration and transport lead to the spreading of these new foods throughout the country and onto the tables of ordinary people.


Although some would say that the easing of the White Australian Policy wasn't a  major factor in the development of everyday Australian cooking, arguing that there has been a Chinese community there since the 1850s,  the fact that it's only in the last 20 years that the cuisine has blossomed into what it is now, does point to it being a major contributor -  perhaps more by  virtue of the change in the attitudes of the white populace to foreigners and their ways.

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This general change in attitude may also account for the newly found interest in "bush tucker" which was heretofore basically ignored. Indigenous foods such as wattleseed, lemon myrtle, quandong (a type of wild peach) and bush tomatoes are now being assimilated into recipes and  although witchetty grubs and insects remain outside of the scope of the everyday diet of most,  certainly Kangaroo, crocodile  and Emu meats are widely available and eaten as are Bugs and Yabbies which are freshwater relatives of crayfish and lobsters.


Today's Australian chefs have melded Asian ingredients with the more traditional European ingredients in such as way as to enhance both culinary cultures. Indeed,  most  people are now cooking  a variety of international cuisines on a daily  basis including stir fry's, pasta and more recently Thai curries which have become very popular.


The style of cooking has become lighter which is more suitable to the climate as many indigenous peoples in neighbouring areas have known for centuries. Of course traditional recipes still hold a place in the hearts of many such as the Aussie meat pie and meat 'n 3 veg, but there is altogether less reliance on the traditional European way of eating and more interest in creating fusion dishes which use the best of ingredients and techniques from both East and West..... and still with a special affection for  the barbie.



Australian Recipes - Click here for lots of Australian Recipes


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