Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kangaroo Two Ways

Kangaroo, the other red meat,
Always grilled on blazing heat,
Never tender 'nough to eat...
Gotta try it raw -- it's neat!
And in soup, a harder feat.
Really let it stew, don't cheat;
Oh, then your heart will skip a beat--
On hearty 'roo you'll dine.  Dude, 1337.
I'm about to digress unabashedly into the story of my Six Foot Track adventure, but eventually, I'll get around to making my main point, which is that Aussie hospitality is rock-solidly awesome.  I could be wrong, or I could just be adjusting to life outside a big city, but I have yet to meet an Australian who wasn't confoundingly nice.

Okay.  Here we go.

Unexpected flooding and expected-but-nonetheless-painful knee problems see me stranded in the mountains, a roaring river where a path should be, with a probable stress fracture and a setting sun.  After attempting to cross the river at many points in many creative ways, I decide to backtrack and try to find people or a campsite before nightfall.  I get to the only vacation lodge in the area, and am highly disappointed to find it completely empty and locked up...but highly excited to find very weak, fleeting patches of glorious cell phone reception.  After calling the police and realizing my call will always be dropped before I can explain my situation, I spend the next two hours trying to get a text message out asking people to contact the police or park rangers for me.  I finally manage to send the text to every single Australian cell phone number I have -- a grand total of five.


Then I collect a bunch of supplies for warmth, injury treatment, sustenance, and protection, lock myself in the lodge outhouse, and prepare to wait out a long, cold, stormy night sitting on a toilet with a floor mat wrapped around my legs.  I've never been so simultaneously freezing and ecstatic as when, not three hours later, I hear a man's voice yell, "HELLO?" from the dark.  I yell back as loudly as I can!  I limp out of my home base and see flashlights!  I hobble towards the lights, and they sweep and scan towards me, and I meet the police and paramedics happily in the middle of nowhere.

The paramedics who drive me back in their four-wheel-drive ambulance (really) are a kind-spirited married couple named John and Sue.  They wrap me in warm blankets, give me muesli bars and juice, and make excellent conversation.  We talk the whole way to the Oberon Hospital, as the wind picks up noisily and the rain comes down outside.  They've been on call for the evening, and I've interrupted their dinner with my distress call, but they good-naturedly answer my questions about Australian cuisine.  When I ask about the best way to enjoy kangaroo, John says he prefers stew because it keeps the meat from getting too hard and chewy.  When I ask for a recipe, he nearly shouts in a super-friendly Australian accent, "How you do the kangaroo stew, Sue?"  Really.


A couple days later, at my first ultimate practice in the Southern Hemisphere, I meet another friendly couple -- my team captains, who'd called the police on my behalf without ever having met me in person.  Once again, they surprise me with their kindness.  I get to practice on crutches and basically just throw for a bit before sitting down and watching, but when practice ends, my new captains invite me to cancel my hostel reservation and stay with them for the night.  Then, not only do they drive me around to see Wollongong's scenic spots, offer me tea and beer, and introduce me to good Australian pub rock and bad Australian television, but they make a hearty, warming minestrone soup completely from scratch for dinner.  It makes me forget it's winter.  It makes me forget I could be eating greasy bar food in a hostel, all by my lonesome.

That seals the deal.  Before I leave my great aunt and uncle's to come work on a farm in Picton, I decide to thank them for their own overwhelming hospitality with a home-cooked meal.  I make kangaroo two ways.  Tartare, because I'm curious.  And, of course, hearty and warming kangaroo stew from scratch.


Kangaroo Tartare

Ingredients
  • 2 oz kangaroo steak
  • 1/2 small white onion
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • zest from 1/2 small orange
  • 1 Asian pear
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • crushed black pepper
  • sea salt

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Finely dice the onion and cook over medium heat until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes, adding the brown sugar midway.  Remove from heat and cool.

Chop the kangaroo steak into very small pieces.  In a small bowl, mix the kangaroo, caramelized onions, and orange zest, black pepper, and sea salt to taste.

Serve on slices of Asian pear, topped with some freshly chopped basil leaves and a sprinkling of orange zest.



Kangaroo Stew

Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb kangaroo steak
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 rutabaga (in Australia, they're called swedes)
  • 2-4 potatoes
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a Koonawarra cabernet sauvignon)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • crushed black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 tbsp flour

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes.  Cut the kangaroo steak into bite-sized pieces, and add to the pan with the garlic.  Cook until the steak is brown, about 6 minutes.


Wash, peel, and cut the remaining veggies.  Place everything (kangaroo included) into a large pot with the tomatoes and thyme.  Pour in the wine and water.  Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let cook, covered, for at least 1.5 hours (longer is better), stirring occasionally and adding salt and pepper to taste.



When cooked, pour out about 1 cup of the broth, mix in the flour, and stir back into the stew.  Serve in wintertime to up to 8 friendly Aussies (or 4-5 really hungry friendly Aussies).


A note on the morality of eating kangaroo meat: Kangaroos are hunted for the specific purpose of keeping their population size down here; if they're left alone, they won't have enough resources to go around, and they'll starve.  So base your eating choices on your own conscience, but if it helps, kangaroos are always free-range and never killed just so you can eat them.

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  2. Actually, kangaroos are in real trouble. the industry, however, is highly organised in promoting the lie that kangaroos are overabundant. The data and the science show this is not so: www.kangaroosatrisk.net . Also, kangaroo meat carries toxoplasmosis which can cause death in humans if the meat is undercooked. 13 people died in Australia in 1993 due to eating undercooked kangaroo meat, and the meat is not tested for Toxoplasma gondii (toxoplasmosis) or for Salmonella. Cheers

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