The fun thing about Australia is being able to go totally off-road and play around. Let’s face it, a country that puts pickled beetroot on burgers, barley in spring rolls and meat pies into pea soup is not a nation of food purists. So my dish for Australia is an invented one, combining a kangaroo steak sandwich with the usual Aussie hamburger toppings. Add to that a home-made barbecue sauce containing Vegemite and stout beer, and you’ve got yourself a sandwich fit for a hungry swagman.
When I noticed a few months ago that my local supermarket sold kangaroo steaks, I just knew right away what I’d be cooking once Australia’s turn rolled around (exactly why a Belgian shop in a Turkish-Moroccan Brussels neighbourhood carried such an exotic meat is a question for another day). Although kangaroo meat is less frequently eaten in Australia than more mundane meats such as beef or chicken, it is, obviously, Australia on a plate. I’ve seen people blanch at the thought of eating cuddly, jumpy kangaroos, but that’s a little silly. We’re not used to having kangaroos in the little box in our head labelled ‘meat’, but that doesn’t make them any cuter than lambs or many other animals we eat. Kangaroos are not endangered, and their meat is considered healthier and, according to many, better for the environment than other red meats. By the way, I came across this hilarious passage in The Age regarding kangaroo’s public image problem:
A three-month competition to find a culinary name for kangaroo meat, which attracted 2700 entries, was decided yesterday…Finalists included kangarly, maroo, krou, maleen, kuja, roujoe, rooviande, jurru, ozru, marsu, kangasaurus, marsupan, jumpmeat and MOM (meat of marsupials)…The winner, with “Australus”, was Steven West…Just as the word “venison” allowed people eat deer meat without thoughts of Bambi, Australus should stop kangaroo eaters thinking they were tucking in to Skippy.
What’s that, Skippy? You want me to eat you?
Having decided to dig into some Australus, I knew I wanted to try it in a sandwich, in keeping with the informality and fun of much of Australia’s food. I also wanted to give the dish a few other local twists, so asked a few Aussie friends for some advice on what to serve with it. Both Maya and Stacey suggested home-made pickled beetroot salad. Strangely, I couldn’t find beetroot for sale near me (either fresh or pickled), but this did get me thinking… I knew that an Australian burger with ‘The Lot’ also included pickled beetroot – as well as fried egg and pineapple. So this steak sandwich borrowed a bit from its fast food cousin by taking on board some of the trimmings you’d usually find in an Australian burger joint.
I won’t comment on the wisdom of actually combining so many dissonant flavours and textures into a perfectly good burger. Let’s just say you can include as many or as few of the trimmings as you’d like, and that I (shamefully) relied on Joe being my taste-tester for some of the more exotic twists and turns in this fable.
Finally, I decided to make a homemade barbecue sauce, in a nod to Australia’s barbecue tradition that (almost, but not quite!) rivals that of my home country, South Africa. 😉 Barbecue sauce is not as common in Australia as tomato sauce/ketchup – locals call the latter ‘dead horse’ in the style of cockney rhyming slang. But I did find a somewhat apocryphal recipe for Australian barbecue sauce that included Guinness stout, and that I played around with. I even added a bit of Marmite, in a reference both to Australia’s obsession with Vegemite and to my love of umami. If it all sounds too strange, bear with me – it was delicious!
What Did I Need?
For the barbecue sauce (feel free to adjust the ingredients to taste):
180 ml. tomato puree
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Marmite/Vegemite
1 teaspoon salt
1 can Guinness or other stout
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
For the steak sandwich (again, almost all ingredients are optional and should be varied according to taste):
A 200-gram kangaroo steak (you could also use venison or beef)
1 slice of good cheese (I used aged Edam)
1 onion, sliced
1 slice of pineapple
1 slice of pickled beetroot
1-2 large lettuce leaves
1/2 tomato, sliced
1 ciabatta roll or other crusty bread
2-3 generous dollops of barbecue sauce (recipe above)
How Did I Do It?
For the barbecue sauce: Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the desired consistency.
For the steak sandwich:
- Fry the onion until brown and caramelised, around 20 min. Set aside.
- Fry the kangaroo steak: If possible, begin with a steak that is room temperature and patted dry. Heat some oil in a pan until very hot. Fry steak on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook to taste – around 5 minutes for rare and 7 minutes for medium rare. I forbid you to overcook it! 🙂 Remove steak from heat and allow to rest.
- While steak is resting, fry the egg until white is cooked but yolk is still runny.
- Assemble the burger, placing fried onions, steak (sliced into strips for easier eating) and cheese onto the bun. Place in an oven, at medium temperature, until cheese is melted and bun is toasted.
- Remove from oven, add egg, lettuce, tomato, pineapple, beetroot and a few generous dollops of barbeque sauce.
- Serve with oven-baked potato wedges and/or coleslaw.
So How Did It Taste?
There’s a lot of flavour in here, especially from the pineapple. I know the kangaroo is in here somewhere too, because I can taste the gaminess of the meat. It’s really good!