Julian Attard grew up on Craig Cook’s home-grown prime quality meat because his mum (that would be me) is a bit fussy about where her kids’ food comes from. Julian moved out of home four weeks ago and has been learning how to survive in the wild (namely, Paddington) bit by bit ever since. In his first week, he learned the name of “that thing like a saucepan but flatter,” and that a fridge is an essential.
He and his flatmate are hosting their first ever Australia Day BBQ next weekend. Jacob’s mum donated the barbecue. I’m donating Craig’s Australia Day lamb pack. If I’m really lucky, he’ll get it together and order it online (for a $20 discount, so $80). Most likely, I’ll be sent on a mercy mission to Prime Quality Meats the day before. Everything else (beer and glasses) is in place. The only other two things the boys need to organise are Julian’s favourite “Aussiest sauces ever” – sweet chilli jam and Angelia Van Le’s satay sauce.
Julian’s party is a typical Australia Day BBQ – twenty-two kids, twelve different cultures. Jacob’s mum is Irish. Julian’s dad is Maltese. That got me thinking about lamb. Sure, Australia once rode on the sheep’s back but lamb is more relevant for Australia Day now because it’s so accepting of ideas from other cultures. Even Craig’s lamb pack is multicultural. There’s a Moroccan marinated butterfly lamb leg, Mediterranean kebabs (honey, mint and rosemary), British sausages (rosemary) and Aussie icon lamb loin chops.
Angelia is a Vietnamese Aussie – so is her satay recipe. Allow me to quote: “I use 1/3 hoisin sauce and 2/3 crunchy peanut butter. Stir in a tiny bit of boiling water and Bob’s your uncle. Sometimes, if I have time I dry roast real peanuts and crush them in a plastic bag with a bottle – Vietnamese style, haha.”
Every one of my friends now has Angelia’s satay recipe as a staple. I can confirm it will be at Craig Stewart’s barbecue. He’s a quintessential Aussie (in other words, an ex-Kiwi). Craig will be cooking all of his lamb with extra garlic and rosemary, and adding a pav, Anzac bikkies and Aussie wines. “We don’t need more. We already won the lottery just living in Sydney with its amazing produce and being able to eat in any style we choose.”
Joanne Xu (or as I know her, Jo Lim) is an East Timorese Aussie. She escaped as a child refugee (with the help of the Australian army stationed in Darwin) in 1975, and lived – not so happily – in Macau until she was reunited with most of her family (who had fled to Portugal) in Australia ten years later. “No one looked down on me here,” she told me. Her Australia Day lamb is a celebration of her heritage and her creativity. She calls it her mish-mash lamb. “Use the chops or the kebabs – it doesn’t matter – and marinade at least 24 hours in 2tbsp each hoisin and oyster sauce, 1 tbsp each of sweet soy sauce, light soy sauce and tomato sauce, a little water, heaps of black pepper (double this for both). Poke holes all over the chops and insert garlic cloves and rosemary. Thread garlic and rosemary into the kebabs. Then barbecue. It’s so yum.”
Nella Gerola is an Italian Aussie. Australia Day is yet another huge family celebration and the lamb is served two ways – agnello impanate with crumbs and thyme and con carciofi e menta, with artichoke, pecorino cheese and mint.
Gary Bigeni is Maltese. He lives in a studio warehouse and doesn’t have a barbecue. For Gary, Australia Day is about remembering the whole story of Australia, all of our stories. Last year, he went to the Aboriginal event in Victoria Park. “Then we ended up doing the other Aussie thing – we went to the pub.” How would he have his lamb if friends cooked it for him? So long as the meat is great and the company is better, he doesn’t care. He just won himself an invitation to have a Craig Cook Prime Quality Meat Australia Day with me.