• What's cooking? (Ainsley's Market Menu)Source: Ainsley's Market Menu
Find out Ainsley Harriott's favourite Australian foods, what he misses when he's away filming and the best cooking tip he's ever received.
By
Camellia Ling Aebischer

27 Sep 2019 - 4:22 PM  UPDATED 27 Sep 2019 - 5:44 PM

You’ve just spent a glorious few weeks touring Australian farmers’ markets and tasting fresh produce. What surprised you the most about Australian food?

I think the growth in diversity, which influences both cuisine and produce. It’s easy for people from the UK to think of Australia as a kind of England-on-Sea, but there’s an amazing range of cultures on display, particularly in the blossoming market scene.

Now that you’re an Australian coffee connoisseur, can you tell us your coffee order?

I’ve been lucky enough to have been visiting Australia for many years and when I first noticed something called a ‘flat white’, I had no idea what it was. Now, it’s certainly taken over the UK and, I must admit, I’m rather partial to a flat white during the morning.

Ainsley is here to inspire your next market shop.

What was the best thing you ate in Australia?

There wasn’t one special dish; what really impressed me all over again was the quality of the produce. It’s quite true to say that if you work with marvellous fresh ingredients, the simplest dish is taken to another level.

What did you crave most from England while you were away?

Not food - Australia has everything you could need. What it doesn’t have, though, is Bobby Dog - and, as my beloved Labrador hasn’t figured out Facetime, I miss him when I’m away. Of course I miss the kids, but modern technology means they can keep in touch all the time - and I miss Arsenal FC, who have to struggle by without my presence in the stand.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without in the kitchen?

It’s an almost impossible question to answer - but if pushed, I’d probably go for the versatility of olive oil; it’s something I use every day and in so many different ways. What’s more, some of the very best olive oils I’ve tasted have been Australian.

When I first noticed something called a ‘flat white’, I had no idea what it was.

Could you tell us your favourite food of all time?

Well, it’s all about emotion mixed with nostalgia: I’d say my late mum’s speciality - Peppy’s Oxtail with butter beans - rich and delicious, satisfying … in fact, a cuddle on a plate.

If you had to choose between chocolate and cheese, which would you pick?

Gotta be cheese. I like a bit of chocolate as much as the next person, but cheese is a complete world on its own. The sheer variety is staggering and there’s always going to be a cheese to tickle your taste buds.

Ainsley loves UK cuisine for its organically-absorbed cultural variations.

Where will you be jetting off to next?

I’m off to film a Mediterranean series for the UK. First stop is Marrakech in Morocco, then we move on through Spain, France and Italy to the Middle East. I really hope you get to see the show next year on one of the SBS channels.

If you had to eat the cuisine of one country for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I don’t think it’s cheating when I say the UK, in the sense that every possible national cuisine is to be found there and has really been absorbed into the national culture. In London, you can visit, in a way, every part of the globe within the span of a few streets. It’s truly amazing and, whatever your mood, you’re sure to find something to your taste.

What’s the best cooking tip you’ve ever received?

There are two. First – don’t use a knife to peel ginger; use a teaspoon. Second – always have a packet of my flavoured couscous in the cupboard.

 

Ainsley Harriott traverses Australia's lively regional produce markets on the brand-new season of Ainsley's Australian Market Menu. Catch it at 7:30pm Thursdays from 10 October to 14 November on SBS, catch up on SBS Food, or stream on SBS On Demand. Visit the Market Menu website for recipes, the episode guide and more.

COOK LIKE AINSLEY
Ainsley’s ultimate jerk chicken

‘Jerking’ is all about maximising flavour. Traditionally, the mix will include allspice and Scotch bonnet chillies, but the spices can be adapted to taste. Here’s my ultimate jerk marinade with spatchcocked chicken. If you prefer, you can use chicken breasts. 

7 street eats the world couldn’t live without
Ainsley Harriott is winding up his street food odyssey in Madrid (airs 8.30pm Thursday on SBS), so we jumped on the banh mi-selling bandwagon and decided to count down our fave pedestrian-friendly bites.
Roasted red pepper and walnut dip (muhammara)

“A couple of hours south of Amman is the awe-inspiring Wadi Rum, where I spent a night camping and eating with the Bedouin. They cooked a marinated and delicately spiced whole lamb dish called zarb, which was buried in a firepit in the ground and cooked for about 4 hours. It was the most amazing, sweet-tasting and meltingly soft lamb I’ve ever tasted. We ate it under the stars with local flatbread and a good dollop of this smoky sweet red pepper dip.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food

 

 

Ceviche

“The quality of the seafood from the super-clean Icelandic waters is the envy of chefs the world over, and this is the freshest I’ll ever get it! So I decided to make a beautifully simple recipe I love from Peru called ceviche, where the fish is ‘cooked’ in citrus juice. Most important is that the fish is lovely and fresh. Once you’ve got a lovely bit of fresh fish, you’re halfway there!” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food

Rum-drunk barbecued chicken

“There’s nothing more Caribbean than rum and to get that flavour right through the chicken, it helps to make a few incisions into the meat before marinating it. I love the idea of keeping a little bit of bone on the chicken so when you put it onto the barbie it’s got a bit of structure.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food

Mango salad

“In Barbados, fried fish is usually served with rice, pasta or potatoes, but that’s a bit too heavy for me in this heat, so I like to serve it with this mango salad that still has all the Bajan spirit. The fresh mango, lime juice and spicy chilli cuts through the fried fish brilliantly.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food

Green bean sambal

“This quick side dish of spicy green beans takes minutes to cook but adds a punch of flavour to chargrilled lobster or fish. If you can’t find small runner beans, just use the freshest baby beans you can find.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food