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Cookbooks 11: Laurel Evelyn Dyson

11. Laurel Evelyn Dyson. The bird on the cover is a King Parrot, painted by Captain John Hunter sometime between 1788 and 1790, which makes me wonder where the cherries came from. Dyson produces an embellished version of the jest, which basically runs “Boil a stone and a galah in a large pot. When the stone is soft enough to pierce with a fork, the bird is ready to serve.’ Similar instructions pertain for preparing cockatoos, parrots and other Australian birds. Today this colonial recipe betrays the European resistance to eating native fauna and flora, as well as a denial of their life-giving sustenance. One prefers sheep to kangaroo, and anyway what’s the kangaroo equivalent of mutton? There will be an answer, but not in English. That said, Dyson’s culinary history not only includes everything you’d expect, pavlova, Anzac biscuits and lamingtons (so much sugar!) but recipes for ginger-leaf barramundi, eucalyptus and honey lollies and, thanks very much, kangaroo kebabs. Dyson argues that the Australian barbeque is traced back through campfire tucker to Aboriginal cookery over hot coals, in one unbroken line. Her book belongs on the ledge with other such histories, ‘One continuous picnic’ by Michael Symons, for example, and ‘Eating between the lines’ by Rebecca Huntley, though Dyson’s book has the best, the most wonderful list of sources for all her recipes and theories. Do yourself a flavour, order a copy today.

Recipe: Peach Melba, like so much Australian cuisine, flourishes in the curiouser and curiouser relationship that exists between here and elsewhere, one that informs everything: ingredients, traditions, methods, memories. Australians enjoy this dish, only half aware that it was invented by arguably the most famous of all French chefs, Auguste Escoffier, at the Savoy Hotel in London. Laurel Evelyn Dyson’s version uses 4 ripe PEACHES, not tinned peaches, plunged in boiling WATER for 20 seconds then immersed in cold water. Some people, Nigella Lawson for example, add 2 tablespoons of LEMON JUICE to the water, possibly to keep the peaches from turning brown, but this is not in Escoffier. Peel and cut in half, discarding the stones. Combine one and a half cups of water with three-quarters of a cup of SUGAR and 1 VANILLA BEAN and boil on moderate heat. Simmer five minutes. Add the peach halves and simmer 8-10 minutes. Let cool in the syrup and refrigerate. Purée 200 grams of RASPBERRIES in a blender. Strain through muslin to remove the seeds. Stir in enough CASTOR SUGAR to sweeten, about one and a half tablespoons, then chill. To serve, spread VANILLA ICECREAM in the dessert dishes, lift peaches out of their syrup with a slotted spoon, placing two halves in each dish. Spoon over some raspberry sauce, then serve.


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