We look at five foods considered quintessentially Australian, and talk to local chefs who’ve given them a welcome (one might even say gourmet) makeover. Picture an ultra moist panna cotta-soaked lamington, and jaffles filled with plenty more than ham and cheese, served out of the side of a yellow combi.
SAUSAGE ROLLClassic Origins
The sausage roll started out in Britain as just that: a sausage wrapped in pastry.
Australian sausage rolls are a combination of pork or beef mincemeat, breadcrumbs and herbs and spices rolled in puff pastry. New schoolPork and native thyme sausage roll, Grain Bar, SydneyInspiration
Chef Hamish Ingham started his apprenticeship as a pastry chef: “I just love making puff pastry,” he laughs. “I’m proud of my puff pastry and I thought a sausage roll would work perfectly as a bar snack. Everyone can remember eating sausage rolls wrapped in paper from the school canteen and everyone’s got their own way of eating a sausage roll. I like to peel the pastry, and eat that first.”Composition
Ingham insists that pork and native thyme are complementary flavours, “like pork and fennel”. Not one for the traditional cheap breadcrumb and pork mince combo, Ingham instead draws on his Chinese kitchen experience and uses slowly braised pork shoulder cooked until it pulls off the bone. Ingham’s pork mixture is wrapped in specially made puff pastry and sprinkled with a crunchy mix of sesame seeds, rolled oats and celery seeds. To serve, he wraps the 15 cm rolls in paper and delivers with a plain store-bought tomato sauce. “Why not?” Ingham laughs. “Everyone loves a squirt of bottled sauce with their sausage roll!”
HOT CHIPSClassic Origins
As with many classic “Aussie dishes”, the thick-cut hot chip is originally from Northern England. Where the English prefer their chips fried in lard, Australian hot chips are generally deep-fried in vegetable oil. Customers usually add their own condiments and top of the list is generally salt with vinegar drizzled over it, or a simple squirt of tomato sauce. New schoolMalt chips, Sixpenny, Stanmore, NSWInspiration
Hot chips are the perfect salty bar snack to go with a beer, cocktail or wine.
Composition Sixpenny’s version of hot chips is simple, but delivers the quality ingredients, flavour intensity and finesse you’d expect from chefs James Parry and Daniel Puskas.
“We just take kipfler potatoes, cut them very thin with a mandoline and spread them thin as a sheet on a baking tray, slightly overlapping and cook them in the oven,” says Parry. “The slices join together and it makes a giant potato chip. Our giant flat chip is then broken into smaller pieces – a bit like bread – and dusted with dehydrated vinegar powder to give them that tangy taste.”
Parry points out that while the malty vinegar flavour is popular, Sixpenny also dusts their chips with a dehydrated tomato powder for a zesty tomato flavour.
The word “jaffle” shot into Australian vernacular after 1974 when Breville introduced a toasted sandwich machine that sealed the edges of toasted sandwiches, meaning ingredients could not spill out the sides. The jaffle could be cut into two triangles and eaten neatly. New schoolJean-Claude Van Ham, Jafé Jaffles, roving Sydney food truck
Owner Luke Bridgford grew up eating jaffles: “It’s a cheap snack that Mum would make … those triangles are perfect for little hands to hold.” Drawing on the trend for mobile food trucks in Sydney, Bridgford has completed the retro double whammy – an old VW Combi van converted into a servery for jaffles (pictured). He says: “Nothing says fun in the sun … that casual iconic Australian beach surf culture than a Combi.” Composition
The Jean-Claude Van Ham jaffle is an upmarket version of the “ham and cheese” classic using ham off the bone, cheese and “Knock Out” pickle sauce (like a Picadilly sauce). The Jean-Claude Van Ham is not the only jaffle on the menu that captures quintessential Aussie humour. Examples include David JaffleHoff (a rich, meaty spaghetti Bolognese sauce with pasta), Quiche Urban (bacon, eggs, tomato, basil and tomato chutney) and The Sydney Cricket Ground special edition: Merv Stews (a meat stew). For the sweet tooth, there is a Caramello Banana jaffle: caramel, banana and hazelnut brioche jaffle served with ice cream.
The dessert was named in honour of the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova (1881–1931) and was first served when she toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926, which has led to both nations claiming proprietary rights. New schoolPavlova with rose sorbet and quandong cream, The Aylesbury, Melbourne
Chef Seth James jokes that pavlova is a key memory from his childhood in Brisbane: “Mum would always whip out the pav, covered in cream and fresh fruits.” Composition
While the classic pavlova looks spectacular, it can look positively messy once it is divvied up to serve a crowd. James has pioneered a beautiful single serve and added an extra Aussie twist along the way.
“We make a pav before service and serve it as a single broken dish for dessert. We put two pieces of meringue on the plate, then cover it with quandong cream using native quandongs from Adelaide and a touch of crème de cassis. The cassis gives tartness to the dish to cut through the sweetness of the cream and meringue.”
Instead of topping the cream with fresh berries, James mixes fresh berries into an icy sorbet or granita with rosewater. The sorbet or granita keeps the meringue cool and fresh-tasting – the perfect dish for a hot Australian barbecue.
- View Seth James’s pavlova with rose sorbet and quandong cream here.
As with our pav, New Zealanders like to claim the lamington as their own invention, but most sources cite French chef Armand Galland at Old Government House in Brisbane who came up with the idea, using dry day-old sponge dipped in chocolate to presumably add a bit of moisture. Controversial thought: is lamington technically a French invention?New schoolPanna cotta lamington, Flour and Stone, Woolloomooloo
Pastry chef Nadine Ingram states her version of the lamington is a classic, not a modern, deconstruction. She says the difference lies in the quality of the ingredients and the fact her lamington is so moist. Composition
Rather than use dry, day-old sponge, Ingram soaks her sponge in panna cotta, thus ensuring the dish is always moist. It’s this moisture that surprises customers and guarantees that she sells out almost every day: “Sometimes I have to ration them,” she laughs. To top it off, rather than a lick of jam through the centre, for a “fancy lamington”, Ingham adds a berry compote, dips her lamington in good-quality chocolate and coats it in a traditional way using three different types of coconut: shredded, flaked and desiccated. Customers swear it tastes like “it’s just been shaved off a coconut”.