Two defining recipes of my South Australian upbringing

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We Australians love our interstate rivalries. From sport to liveability rankings, we’ll latch on to anything we think proves our home state is best. When it comes to food, the main battlegrounds seem to be whether it’s called a parmy or a parma, a potato cake or a potato scallop. But Australian food is by no means homogeneous. South Australia, where I grew up, has its frog cakes and a near-religious devotion to Farmers Union Iced Coffee – and no self-respecting South Aussie would ever call an HSP (halal snack pack) anything other than an AB (don’t ask). And the free settlement of the state has had a lasting impact on South Australian cuisine.

‘Whereas in the rest of Australia, the meat pie is the biggest player in the school lunch line, in SA the high proportion of Cornish migrants made the pastie a true hero of South Australian food. As a kid, on the rare occasions I had the money to spend at the tuck shop, my choice was always a most South Aussie lunch – an Adelaidestyle pastie followed by an apple and custard tart.

ADELAIDE PASTIE

Serves 6

Cornish purists wouldn’t stand for beef mince, carrot and pumpkin in their pasties, or puff pastry for that matter … but what would they know?

• 50g butter

• 1 large brown onion, peeled and finely diced

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 500g beef mince

• 1 tsp Vegemite

• 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes

• 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes

• 1 cup diced pumpkin (peeled and cut into 1cm cubes)

• 5 sprigs thyme

• ½ cup chicken stock

• 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

• salt and black pepper, to season

• 2 tbsp finely shredded parsley

• 6 sheets frozen puff pastry

• 1 egg, beaten • tomato sauce, to serve

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the mince and Vegemite and fry until the mince is well browned. Add the potatoes, carrot and pumpkin and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the thyme, chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce and season very well with salt and pepper.

Cover with a lid and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Stir through the parsley and allow to cool to room temperature. Adjust for seasoning. Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and allow to thaw.

Using a dinner plate as a guide, cut each pastry sheet into a large circle. Place about a cup of filling into the centre of each pastry circle and fold into a half-moon shape. Crimp along the side of the pastry to seal in the filling without any air pockets. Repeat for the remaining filling. Heat your oven to 200°C. Place the pasties on a lined baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 25 minutes or until well browned. Serve with tomato sauce.

APPLE AND CUSTARD TART

Serves 8-10

Apple and custard tart.

Apple and custard tart. Photo: William Meppem

The tarts I grew up with were light on the apple and heavy on the custard, but these days I prefer it the other way around.

Sweet shortcrust

• 1½ cups (225g) plain flour

• 115g butter

• 50g caster sugar

• ½ tsp ground cinnamon, for dusting

Apple filling

• 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm cubes

• juice of ½ a lemon

• 60g sugar

• 1 tsp cornflour

Custard

• 2 eggs

• 60g caster sugar

• 1¾ cups milk, warmed

• 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and pulse to form coarse breadcrumbs. Add 1½ tablespoons of iced water and pulse until the dough starts to form a ball. Knead just 2 or 3 times to bring the dough together, then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Heat oven to 200°C. Roll out the dough to a ½cm-thick sheet and press into a 22cm fluted tart tin. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm, then line with baking paper, top with pastry weights and bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights and bake for a further 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature in the tin.

For the apple filling, core and cut the apples and toss the pieces immediately in the lemon juice to prevent them browning. Put sugar and 50ml water into a medium saucepan and cook over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the apples and cornflour and stir to coat in the sugar. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples have softened to a chunky jam.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then press into the base of the tart tin and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Heat your oven to 160°C. For the custard, whisk the eggs and caster sugar together until the sugar is completely dissolved. Whisk in the warm milk a little at a time and whisk through the vanilla. Pour the custard mixture over the pie, dust with the cinnamon and bake for about 30 minutes until the custard is beginning to firm (test by tapping the pan and watching the ripples in the centre of the custard). Allow to cool to room temperature, then serve.

Adam’s tip When you need a shortcrust pastry to hold liquid (like custard), it’s worth adding a little more water to the mix. The wetter dough will be easier to roll and more resistant to cracks that would let liquid seep through. 

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