Friday, December 3, 2010

Enjoy Summer Down Under with the Cuisine of Australia

Adair Country Inn & Restaurant “travels” to Australia on Thursday, December 2, as part of our Dine Around the World evenings. To put it into perspective, we recently had some guests stay here at the Inn who traveled more than halfway around the world to get to Bethlehem. Australia really is the land down under, 13-14 time zones away and in the Southern hemisphere. While we are preparing for winter, the Aussie summer is just about to begin. We will celebrate the Australian summer by serving shrimp on the barbie (Australian for barbecue!) and grilled lamb sausages.

Australian cuisine is very conflicted. Relying on the many traditional, conservative dishes dating back to the early English settlers, Australians never really developed a national cuisine. With a surge of immigration in the 1980s — many from Asian countries — many chefs started to incorporate Asian foods and cooking techniques into their menus. Recently, there has been much more interest in searching out indigenous foods and recipes. These factors have led to an exciting variety of foods and dishes being newly discovered by Australians. Kangaroo, long not much favored as a food, has become very popular with many new Australian chefs as a true Australian ingredient.

Perhaps the biggest stride that Australia has made has been in their production of world-class wines. While there are no native Australian wine grapes, many major varietals have been introduced to the country. Australia has become one of the premier producers of Shiraz in the entire world, and Penfolds Grange is considered by many to be the greatest red wine in the world.

While Australia does not have a long culinary history, it has certainly had great success in recent years due to immigration and a desire to show off the country’s local foods. Our Dine Around the World menu touches on both aspects of Australia’s culinary history. We will offer some traditional early English classics like lamb, meat pies and Pavlova, along with some newly rediscovered native foods such as kangaroo and barramundi (a freshwater fish) — all paired with some world-class Australian wines.

Ending the Meal on a Sweet Note

A trip down under is not complete without a serving of Pavlova, a meringue cake that has a light and delicate crisp crust and a soft sweet marshmallow center. This lovely dessert is typically served with softly whipped cream and fresh fruit.

4 large egg whites:
1 cup superfine (castor) sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh fruit — kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, or other fruit of your choice.

Pavlova: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7-inch circle on the paper.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, fold in.

Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)
The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.

Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.
Serves 6 to 8.

— Orlo Coots is Head Chef at Adair Country Inn & Restaurant. Enjoy his cooking Thursdays through Mondays by making a reservation at 603-444-2600. Orlo can be reached at for questions about this recipe or any other food-related questions. Remember — whether cooking for one or for a crowd, make every bite count.

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