This Thursday is Australia Day. Embarrassingly I came to write this post and I couldn’t remember what it actually commemorates. I thought it was the anniversary of Federation but no, it is actually the anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival in Sydney cove and the British proclamation of sovereignty over the Eastern part of what is now known as Australia. The day is also called Invasion day by members of the indigenous community amongst others which actually makes a lot more sense now that I know what Australia Day is actually celebrating.
What makes Australia Day special to me though (and I suspect I may not be alone in this) is that it is a public holiday, in summer. To me that means one thing: Barbeques! What does one take to a barbeque (other than meat that is)? Salad. So to celebrate Australia/Invasion Day this week’s Top 5 had to be salads, salads to eat on the Day. Which is actually quite convenient because Vegplotting has launched a 52 week salad challenge and I felt it only appropriate that I join in.
The onion harvest is in, the tomatoes are ripening, the new sowing of parsley is ready to harvest from, there are still lemons about and the mint is happily growing away. There is probably no better time of the year to make Tabouleh. And frankly how could anyone not want to make Tabouleh, today, tomorrow and certainly on Australia Day.
Green Dragonette has written a couple of posts recently about her memories of school dinners. In Australia school dinners are very rare, what we have instead is Tuck Shops. They are in pretty much every school, and pretty much every tuck shop has salad sandwiches on the menu (or they did in the 80s anyway). Salad sandwiches at my school were almost always filled with: tomato, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, alafalfa and beetroot. The presence of beetroot in these sandwiches, and also in pretty much any burger with the lot I’ve ever seen, means I’ve always viewed beetroot as a quintessentially Australian ingredient. It is said that Melbourne is second only to Athens in terms of numbers of people with Greek heritage living in it, equally there are large communities of people with Turkish and Middle Eastern heritage who are an intrinsic part of Australia life. So what could be better to team with the beetroot but a cheese which is hugely popular in the lands of their forefathers?
When Australia plays sport at an international level they wear Green & Gold. This salad has flecks of both so you could certainly eat it for that reason. But I would eat it because of the pumpkin. I don’t think there is anywhere on earth that eats more pumpkin in savoury dishes than Australia. If we’re not making salads from it, we’re roasting it, if we’re not roasting it we’re making soup, if we’re not making soup then its scones, if its not scones its gnocchi and so on, and on, and on. I used to have a theory that pumpkin is the reason why Australian’s are, on average, taller than the Brits – it has some sort of growth enhancing properties and if the Brits started eating Pumpkin they too could be taller. This theory is of extremely dubious merit but I do quite like it.
4. Tomato Salad
I have cheated a bit in this post using recipes that I’d already posted. But I haven’t posted a tomato salad before so here goes: I am a bit of a purist when it comes to a good tomato salad. I favour a fairly basic approach. Cut the tomatoes into whatever shapes you fancy. I tend to cut up the little ones and slice the big ones. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for about 30 minutes. Then dress with a really nice extra virgin olive oil (Australian of course – it is for Australia Day after all) and some torn basil leaves. Serve. The best thing to eat in the whole world and I think very appropriate for Australia day. It pays homage to both our kitchen gardens and the huge contribution that people with Italian heritage, in particular, have made to our culinary history. It is also very seasonal and best of all it tastes like summer so absolutely perfect.
And finally what I think I will make on Australia Day. Anyone who has read my Monday Harvest posts will be aware that I have a lot of potatoes at the moment. In this I’m sure I can’t be alone. What better to do with them than add some Smoked Trout, dress it with Salsa Verde and then head off to that Barbeque.
Note: It is hugely remiss of me not to include an Asian salad in this list. Australia is geographically, after all, part of Asia (or Australiasia at least) and a great many Australian’s have Asian heritage. Equally the contribution that Asia has made to modern Australian dining is huge. With that in mind any Asian inspired salad would be wonderful to eat on Australia Day – its just that I haven’t posted any yet nor indeed made one to photograph this week so……cop-out I know but there you go. I pledge to make, document and photograph an Asian (and by Asian I am talking predominantly about South-East Asia & China as those countries have had the biggest influence over Australian cuisine) salad in the next couple of weeks.
What would also be remiss of me would be to end this post without highlighting The New Goodlife’s wonderful Top 5 from last week: Favourite New Ingredients. I’m off to buy some blueberries as per recommendations from my Top 5 Plants in Pots last week.