Adam Liaw. Photo: Supplied
I can't count the number of times I've heard chefs asked the question, "What is Australian cuisine?" And every time the question is asked, there is a different answer.
To some chefs, Australian cuisine is found in our unique native ingredients, to others in our multicultural heritage. Or it's a product of our abundant oceans and rich farmland. If you ask me, the answer is much simpler: it's what ordinary people cook at home, whether it's bolognese, stir-fry or a humble roast.
But something we Aussies are undoubtedly great at is turning old traditions into new, whether it's Chinese dumplings becoming milk bar "dimmies" or an Irish stew re-invented as a Chico roll. Modernising old classics is what defines Australian food and there's no reason chefs should have all the fun.
Bondi meringue pie. Photo: William Meppem
Here are a couple of Mod-Oz dishes that are perfect to try at home.
BONDI MERINGUE PIE
With the colours of a lifesaver's cap, two fruit flavours and a wholemeal macadamia crust, this is a very Australian twist on a classic lemon meringue pie.
Salt and pepper lamb cutlets. Photo: William Meppem
Wholemeal macadamia shortcrust
• 150g plain wholemeal flour
• 125g plain white flour
• ½ cup macadamias
• 50g icing sugar
• pinch of salt
• 125g cold butter, diced
• 60g cornflour
• 250ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 4 egg yolks
• 85g butter, cut into 1cm cubes
• 1 cup raspberry purée
• ¼ cup caster sugar
• 1 tsp white vinegar
• 2 tsp powdered gelatin
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 4 egg whites
For the shortcrust, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process to the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add 1 tbsp cold water if needed and pulse until a mass forms, then remove from the processor, cover in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Roll the pastry to a 1/2cm-thick sheet and use it to line a 25cm fluted tart tin. Refrigerate a further 20 minutes. Heat your oven to 180ºC. Weight with pastry weights and blind bake for 30 minutes, removing the weights halfway through cooking. Cool the base to room temperature, then chill in the fridge.
For the lemon filling, mix the cornflour, lemon juice, caster sugar, egg yolks and 150ml water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, whisking gently until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Allow to cool to room temperature.
For the raspberry filling, bring ½ cup water, the raspberry purée, caster sugar and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, and stir through the gelatine until it is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
To assemble the pie, spread the lemon filling over the base in an even layer and pour the raspberry filling on top. Chill pie for a further 2 hours until well set.
For the meringue, bring sugar and ½ a cup of water to a simmer and heat until the sugar reaches 121°C. While the sugar is heating, beat the egg whites to soft peaks in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the sugar is at the correct temperature, turn the mixer to high speed and pour the sugar into the egg whites in a thin stream. Continue to beat at high speed until the bowl of the mixer is cool. This should take about 15 minutes.
Cover the chilled pie in big spoonfuls of meringue, creating "waves" with a small palette knife, then toast the meringue with a blowtorch. Chill again and serve.
SALT AND PEPPER LAMB CUTLETS
Think salt and pepper squid meets the good old Aussie lamb chop.
Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Dust the lamb cutlets in the cornflour and fry in 1 tbsp of the olive oil for about 3 minutes on each side until well browned. Remove from the pan.
Put remaining oil in the pan, add garlic, chilli and spring onion (both the white and green parts) and fry for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Return the chops to the pan and toss to coat in the mixture while seasoning with salt and plenty of black pepper. Remove from the pan, rest for a minute and serve on the watercress and with wedges of lemon.
• 8 lamb cutlets
• 1 tbsp cornflour
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
• 1 large red chilli, sliced
• 2 stalks spring onion, sliced
• ½ tsp sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• 2 loosely packed cups of watercress, to serve
• lemon wedges, to serve
Photography by William Meppem. Food preparation by Maxwell Adey. Styling by Hannah Meppem