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If you are a vegetarian, probably better if you click away now.  But if you eat meat, I’d be interested to hear what you think.

We hit a wallaby on the way home a little while ago.  It was just on dusk, right when the wallabies become most active, and it just jumped out right under the van.

We stopped.  We always stop. I can’t bear the thought of an animal dying slowly and painfully injured on the road.   But this was a clean hit on the head at speed on the main road.  A fully grown but fairly young male red neck – the most common species in my area – in good condition.

I think if you eat meat, you have to accept that an animal dies.  This wallaby had a good free range life, and everything  becomes food for something, one way or another. Throwing it off the road didn’t seem like valuing the life. So we took it home and my partner skinned and butchered it into roasting pieces while I made a marinade.

Wallaby is very very lean meat with muscles that have done some work.  In some ways the meat is like wild goat meat, and so the kind of methods used in the Mediterranean countries to cook goat work well – curries, tagines, khoresh, and long slow roasts. It was the Greek slow cooked goat shoulder last week that prompted this post in fact.

For the wallaby, I decided on a Greek-style marinated slow roast, and invited 15 people for dinner the next night.

The Recipe:

Cut the wallaby into large roasting pieces and put them in a plastic container with a lid.  For a large wallaby, or a kangaroo, an esky makes a good container.

For this wallaby I made three cups of marinade.  Adjust to size.

Blend together:

  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup of fresh oregano, thyme, lemon thyme and rosemary (go easy on the rosemary and heavy on the oregano).
  • lots of garlic

Pour the marinade over, toss to coat every piece, and leave in the fridge or on ice for 24 hours.

Roasting:

To get to falling off the bone tender, it should roast for about 4 hours in a low oven, being basted every hour in the beginning and half hour at the end.

Spread the meat out in baking trays in a single layer.  I fitted it in two large baking trays.  Divide the marinade up and pour over.  Add a cup of water to each baking tray. Cover with a lid.

Cook in a medium-low oven for about 4 hours.  After an hour, using tongs turn the meat.  Repeat after another hour, then every half hour. Don’t let it dry out.

Depending on how tightly lidded your baking trays are, you may have to add more water, or, at the end, remove the meat and turn the oven up high to reduce the last of the liquid.  You should end up with falling off the bone meat in a very small amount of concentrated jus.

This wallaby served 15 people for dinner.  It was tender and lemony and not at all gamey.  The opposite end of the spectrum to the polystyrene trays that meat comes in at the supermarket, but it felt very honourable.

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kangaroo ragu

It’s hard to do justice to a ragu in a photo, especially when it’s a winter dinner and there’s no natural light.  But a ragu in the slow cooker is bliss to come home to on a winter night, and there are a lot more vegetables in this meal than appear.

Vegetables are good.  I can grow most of our own in a very closed-loop system and be responsible about how they are produced. I can feed us in a way that doesn’t take food out of the mouth of our great grandkids.  But a bit of fish, and a bit of red meat, ethically harvested from the wild is good too, and the ethics of eating kangaroo meat is pretty unconflicted for Choice, and for me.

The Recipe:

For two large serves:

Slice 300g of kangaroo steak into strips. 

Plonk it in the slow cooker along with:

  • one and a half dozen sun-dried tomatoes, or tomato paste (about a heaped dessertspoonful)
  • one onion, two carrots and two sticks of celery all roughly diced
  • a couple of bay  leaves
  • a handful of oregano and a few sprigs of thyme roughly chopped (or used dried)
  • two or three cloves of garlic chopped
  • half a cup of red wine

Turn the slow cooker on to low if you will be out all day, or high if it is only a few hours till dinner time.

It’s wonderful over home-made tagliatelle with a bit of chopped parsley to garnish.

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kangaroo stir fry

I post a lot of vegetarian recipes here but we’re not vegetarian.  Sometimes we go for ages eating vegetarian, but more because that’s what I feel like cooking and eating and I have all the ingredients I need without going shopping, than for any philosophical reason.  If you’ve ever seriously tried to feed yourself out of a garden, you will know that animals – big ones and very little ones – their manure, their grazing and scratching behaviours, their seed dispersal, their pollination, their predation – are part of the system. Turning it into a plants-only system requires some serious and unsustainable artificial inputs and interventions.

You can of course decide not to eat the animals, but you can’t really make them decide not to eat each other.  There’s a really stunning video doing the rounds at the moment about the cascade of environmental effects of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone National Park. To me it says, predators are a good and important part of a biological system – wolves, eagles and sharks are good and necessary.

So I don’t have an ethical problem with eating meat.  I do have an ethical problem – a big one – with intensive farming methods that treat animals as if they are commodities, non-living cogs in an industrial process.  Killing an animal is a shock. For most of us these days its a rare experience to kill anything bigger than a mouse and even mouse killing methods are designed to distance us from the reality of that little furry body. But if you cruise the permaculture and small farming blogs, you will find that people who do it discover that raising and killing an animal for meat can be done in an honourable way.  Without cruelty and with respect.  You can’t say that about the bacon or the chicken nuggets in the supermarket.

We’re lucky in Australia that most of our beef and lamb is still free range grass fed.  We haven’t yet got into the CAFOs that dominate meat production in USA. I think for most consumers CAFOs are only tolerated because it is possible to pretend they don’t exist. All our kangaroo meat though comes from free range animals grass fed animals, not treated with antibiotics or hormones or fed GM or anything else.  There are some macropod species that are threatened, but the ones that are hunted are overpopulated. “These commercially harvested species are abundant over a broad area of Queensland and Australia. None of these species is listed as threatened under Queensland or Commonwealth legislation. They are listed as least concern wildlife under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006.” 1.

I think it’s about as close as we can get in our culture to respectful predation.

The Recipe

Makes two big serves.  If you serve it over rice, it can easily go round four.

This comes together really fast once you start cooking, so you are best to get everything assembled and chopped and, if you are serving it over rice or noodles, get it on to cook before you start.

  • Thinly slice 300 grams of kangaroo fillet steak.  Mix a couple of tablespoons of rice flour or corn flour (corn starch) with a good teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice and toss the meat in it to coat.
  • Slice an onion in half top to bottom, then slice it lengthways into fine half moons.
  • Grate a big thumb sized piece of ginger, and mix with three or four cloves of crushed garlic and a stem of lemon grass, white part only, finely sliced.
  • Julienne about 5 cups worth of vegetables.  I used carrots, green beans, leek, capsicum, and pak choi but you could substitute whatever vegetables are in season – snow peas, asparagus, celery, broccoli, kale all work well.
  • Finely chop a couple of tablespoons worth of fresh herbs –  Thai basil, Vietnamese mint, or coriander all work well.
  • In a cup,  mix quarter of a cup of stock with a splash of soy sauce or tamari and a splash of rice wine or white wine to bring it up to half a cup of liquid.

When it is all ready to go, put a dash of oil in a wok and get it very hot, then quickly sear the meat in two batches.  Remove the meat and add another dash of oil and get the wok hot again.  Add the onion, stir until it starts to become translucent, add the ginger, garlic and lemon grass, stir and sear, then the vegetables.  Keep them moving for a few minutes, then add the meat back in, then the liquid.  Bring it back up to boiling and cook until the vegetables are just crisp tender.  Turn the heat off, add in the herbs, stir them through and serve.  Chili lovers may like some finely diced chili as a condiment.

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It’s a while since I’ve posted a kangaroo recipe. Though I’m very critical of the intensive farming of animals for meat,  I’m not a vegetarian.  If you’ve ever seriously tried to grow enough to feed your own household (let alone enough to fully support it), you will know that food webs include predators, prey, animals, plants, insects, funghi, bacteria – the whole complex web.  If you take animals and predation out of the system, it teeters and falls.  Try to make compost or keep soil fertile without animal manures – pretty quickly you realise that you either go very hungry or use industrially produced chemical fertilisers – a short term fix that leads down a slippery slope.  Life enriches itself, knitting the web deeper, adding complexity and resilience with  every generation but like a Jenga tower, if you remove a critical bit it collapses.

And both herbivores and carnivores are critical bits. You could no doubt build a stable system as a vegetarian, but you’d have to co-opt other animals to be the carnivore predators in the system, and humans are actually capable of more moral distinction in predator ethics than goannas or quolls or eagles or snakes. So I’m comfortable with the notion that being an ethical predator is part of what being human is all about. The ethical questions for me are around whether the animal lives a “normal” life for that kind of animal, whether it is killed cleanly and without cruelty, whether the species as a whole is safe, and whether its part in the whole web is being fulfilled.  Australian beef and lamb are mostly free range and grass fed, but on all these counts, I see kangaroo as the red meat of choice.

The Recipe

The baking dish I use for this is 30 cm by 20 cm. It makes 6 generous serves with a green salad on the side.  Leftovers are to fight over.

The Pasta:

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • 1 cup plain flour.  I use the same high gluten baker’s flour that I use for my sourdough, but you can make at least half of it wholemeal flour or buckwheat flour or spelt flour  if you like.
  • eggs,
  • a good swig of olive oil. 
  • a good pinch of salt.

You want a dough that is soft but not sticky. If it is too dry it will be tough. Flour the benchtop and knead just for a minute, then let it rest for a few minutes, covered with a wet bowl, while you make the sauces.

The Meat Sauce:

Brown 500 grams kangaroo mince in a little olive oil in a large, heavy pan over a high heat.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up clumps.  When it is brown, add:

  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 capsicum diced
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped fine

Saute until the onion starts to become translucent, then add:

  • 300 grams of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 500 grams tomato passata or about 1 kg of fresh tomatoes.
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil and/or oregano
  • salt and pepper

Allow this lot to simmer while you make the white sauce and roll out the pasta, adding water if needed.  You want a sauce that is fairly wet but spoonable rather than pourable.

The White Sauce

This is a cheat’s white sauce that is much faster and easier, and just as good as the traditional bechamel sauce.You don’t need to wash the food processor.  Blend together:

  • ¾ cup plain yoghurt
  • ¾ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 50 grams of grated mature cheese
  • pinch grated nutmeg

Assembling and Baking

In the baking tray, lay a fairly thin base layer of the meat sauce.

Divide the pasta into three balls, one half the size of the other two, and at least visualise the meat sauce and the white sauce divided into three.

Flour the benchtop well and roll out one of the balls of dough very thin.  If you keep flipping it you should be able to get it very thin.  Trim it to the same size as the baking tray, roll  the rolling pin under it and transfer it to the baking tray.  Add the trimmings to the small ball of dough.

Cover with another layer of meat sauce, then a layer of white sauce, then another layer of pasta.  Repeat.

Cover the final layer of pasta with a final thin layer of white sauce.  Sprinkle grated cheese fairly thinly over the top and bake for around 30 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.

It’s really good hot, but so good the next day that it is worth making a double batch.

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Saag is the dish I order whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, and this time of year, with silver beet and mustard both in bulk in the garden, one of my home cooking regulars.  I posted a vegetarian Saag recipe a few weeks ago, in the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge series.  This meat version is, sadly, no more photogenic. Traditionally mutton or goat are the meats used, but kangaroo is my red meat of choice these days, and it works really well in Saag.

The Recipe:

Serves two generously.

Heat a little olive oil in a big pot or pressure cooker.

Dice 500 grams of kangaroo steak and add it to the hot pot.

Into a cup, put:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel or dill seeds
  • the seeds from 5 cardamom pods

(It’s better if you use whole seeds for this)

As soon as the kangaroo meat starts to brown, add the seeds.  You may need to add a little more oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, till the seeds start to pop.  (Don’t let them burn).

Then add:

  • 2 finely diced chilis (more or less, depending on how strong your chilis are and how spicy you like your food.  Saag is more aromatic than hot though).
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a heaped teaspoon of grated or finely diced fresh ginger
  • a heaped teaspoon of grated or finely diced fresh turmeric (or substitute a scant teaspoon of turmeric powder)

Cook stirring for a minute or two more, till the spices all coat the meat, then add:

  • a cup of stock.
  • the shredded leaves from a BIG bunch of silverbeet.  Just the leaf stripped from the stem, chopped reasonably fine.  It will be much more than you think should go in, but it reduces, and it’s the heart of the dish.
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cm of cinnamon stick

Pressure cook for 15 minutes, or simmer for 40 minutes.  If you simmer, you’ll need to add a bit more water.

It should end up with the meat and silver beet in a little bit of sauce. Take it off the heat and stir in 3 heaped dessertspoons of greek yoghurt.  Stir vigorously to break up the silver beet and make the sauce creamy.

Serve over rice, and/or with naan bread.

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Sadly this isn’t one of my better examples of photography! I’ve been waiting all year to post this recipe.  Chili con Kanga is good on its own, but this time of year there is a little window of time when avocados, limes and coriander are all in season together, and the salsa with it makes it sensational.

I always make a great big pot of this when I make it, and we have it for dinners and lunches several times.  It will serve six or eight people for dinner easily, or you can freeze it or keep it in the fridge for several meals.  Or, you can halve the recipe.

Less red meat and more vegetables is a good idea, for health, environment, and hip pocket reasons.  And less factory farmed meat and more wild harvested, free range, organic meat is a good idea for the same reasons.  This combines both.

The Recipe:

Cook 400 grams dry beans till they are soft.  I soak them first and use a pressure cooker so they cook quickly.  The post about Bean Basics has my basic bean cooking method.  I don’t think it matters what kind.  They all add a different character to the dish, but they all seem to be good in their own way.

Brown 1 kg kangaroo mince in a little olive oil in a heavy pan.

In a big pot, saute together:

  • 4 onions (chopped)
  • 6 garlic (chopped)
  • 6 chilis (more or less, depending on how hot the chilis are and how hot you like it)
  • 3 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons smoky paprika
  • 1 capsicum (chopped)
  • 6 carrots (chopped)

Add the browned kangaroo mince and the beans, along with:

  • 1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or a good teaspoon of dried)
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 kilogram chopped tomatoes  (or a big jar of passata)
  • 2 big tablespoons tomato paste (leave out if you use passata)
  • 1 dessertspoon treacle (or brown sugar)
  • 2 cups of water
  • a good grinding of black pepper, and salt to taste

Simmer for half an hour or so until it reaches the right consistency.

Avocado, Lime and Coriander Salsa

Mash together:

  • An avocado
  • Juice of a lime
  • a big handful of coriander leaves, chopped fine
  • salt to taste

Serve the chili in bowls topped with a good dollop of avocado salsa, and, if you like, some warm tortillas to mop up with.

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The kangaroo mince in our local supermarket comes from South Australia. It’s really unfortunate. Coz otherwise it fits every criteria for the Witches Kitchen definitions of good, good and good.

It’s good for you – lean, low cholesterol, high iron, organic, free range. It tastes good – pretty much like lean beef mince – in things like this I can’t tell the difference. And it’s virtuously good – soft feet, no greenhouse gas farts, wild harvested and ethically killed, from species that are not in any danger.  It’s just not local. At least the kangaroo mince in the supermarket isn’t.  But in the scheme of compromises, it’s a small one.

The Recipe:

The key to a good burger patty is cottage cheese in the mix.  It makes it hold together nicely without going dry.

To make 4 large patties, mix

  • 300 grams of kangaroo mince,
  • one finely chopped onion,
  • lots of garlic,
  • a finely chopped chili  (or not)
  • a good swig of Worcestershire sauce,
  • egg,
  • a couple of big spoonfuls of cottage cheese
  • a couple of  spoonfuls of wholemeal plain flour
  • salt and pepper

Use your hands to squish it all well together. The mix should be sticky but not sloppy.

With wet hands, shape into burger sized rissoles.  Fry in a little olive oil for a few minutes each side.

Fried onions are essential, so while the burgers are cooking, fry some sliced onion in olive oil. I like thick slices of fried tomato too.

You also need some home-made 2 minute mayonnaise.

Allowing everyone to assemble their own is a nice way to serve, so while the burgers are cooking, make up a platter of greens – cucumber, lettuce and rocket. Assemble some condiments – chutneysauce, mustard.  Burger buns, the fried onions, the kangaroo patties and dinner is served.

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Some friends for dinner who had never eaten kangaroo before and were a bit dubious.  In this pie, you really can’t tell the meat is kangaroo – it could just as easily be chuck steak.  Not that I usually try to disguise it – kangaroo is our red meat of choice these days, for all sorts of reasons –  ethical, ecological, cost, health benefits – but taste is also up there.  Maybe I’m just used to it now, or maybe methods of harvesting and processing have changed, but I find the kangaroo meat I get in the supermarket these days isn’t gamey at all, and for most people it’s just the idea of eating kangaroo that gets in the way. For me, the idea works the other way.  I like the idea of organic, free range, non-greenhouse-gas-producing, adapted-to-the-environment meat. My problem is with the idea eating meat from factory farmed animals.

You could easily undo the health benefits of a very lean, low cholesterol meat, by putting it in a pie with a standard shortcrust though.  I’ve been playing and experimenting lately with making pastry without butter.  This pastry is a bit fragile and tricky to roll out, but it is lovely and short and no saturated fat.  Meaning the whole recipe is super heart friendly.

The Recipe:

The Pastry:

Mix 2½ cups of wholemeal plain flour and a teaspoon of salt in a bowl.

Fill a cup half full of low fat milk and top it up to full with olive oil – half a cup of each.  You don’t need to mix them.

Tip the cup all at once into the bowl.  Stir and then knead just enough to combine into a dough.  Don’t overwork the dough or it will get tough.

Cover the bowl and put the dough in the fridge to cool while you make the filling.

The Filling

Put a handful of plain wholemeal flour in a plastic bag.

Dice 400 grams of kangaroo steak and put in the bag.  Shake to coat the meat in flour.

Heat a good dash of olive oil in a heavy pan till the pan is very hot, then brown the floured meat.  You will probably need to do it in two batches so it sears rather than stews.

While the meat is browning, dice two onions and several cloves of garlic.  Take the meat out, add another dash of olive oil, and sauté the onions and garlic.

At this stage I like to add a little bit of something with some heat – either a diced chili, or a teaspoon of seeded mustard, or a couple of teaspoons of green peppercorns. They all create something different but they’re all good. But if you don’t like spicy food you can leave it out.

While the onions are cooking, slice 250 grams of mushrooms.  Add them to the onions.

Return the meat to the pan and add a jar of tomato passata and half a cup of water.

Simmer to reduce and thicken.

Filling and Baking

While the filling is simmering, roll out the pastry.

This pastry is quite fragile.  The easiest way to do this is to divide the dough into two balls, one slightly bigger than the other.  Put a sheet of greaseproof paper on your bench top, put the bigger ball on it, and cover with another sheet.  Roll the pastry out between the two sheets, turning once or twice to un-wrinkle the paper. You can then peel the top sheet of paper off, flip it into the pie dish, then peel the other sheet off.

Line a pie dish with pastry, fill, cover with the other sheet of pastry.  Pinch the edge decoratively and poke the top with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake in a medium hot oven for around 30 minutes till brown.

Really good served with potato or parsnip mash and steamed greens.

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This recipe is challenging. It is much better the next day.  Now that is hard to achieve in our house!

I don’t have a freezer, not even a little one in the fridge.  We live with stand alone solar power, have done for nearly 30 years now.  It’s a very good way to learn about the electricity use of various appliances, and how to make educated decisions about their costs and benefits. And a freezer has never warranted the cost.

Thus I’ve never got into the habit of cooking ahead.  But this one, when I make it I make a decent sized batch and we eat it for a couple of lunches and dinners.  It’s just as good cold as hot and good enough to still look forward to the third time!  We rarely manage to postpone the first serving, but the second one the next day really is much better.

If you’ve visited here before, you will know my thoughts about kangaroo as the red meat of choice for Australians. This recipe is a kind of fast and easy moussaka-ish dish rendered double healthy by using, besides the very lean kangaroo, low fat dairy foods, eggs, and lots of vegetables.

The Recipe:

Part One: The Meat Sauce

This is simply a matter of making your favourite  bolognese sauce using 300 grams of kangaroo mince. My version is:

In a heavy fry pan

  • brown 300 grams of kangaroo mince in a little olive oil, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Add two diced onions and two diced carrots and continue cooking till they start to brown.
  • If you like a bit of spice, add a sprinkle of crushed dried chilies or chili powder
  • then add
    • lots of chopped garlic,
    • some diced mushrooms,
    • good handful of finely chopped oregano,
    • and (this time of year) a jar of tomatoes.
  • Depending on how rich your tomatoes are, you might also add a spoonful of tomato paste.

Salt and pepper to taste and simmer for a few minutes till it is a nice thick sauce consistency.

Part Two: The White Sauce

This version is much faster, simpler and healthier than the traditional bechamel.

In a food processor or blender, blend together:

  • 3 eggs
  • 250 grams low fat cottage cheese
  • 250 grams low fat greek yoghurt
  • 60 grams low fat feta

Part Three: The Silver Beet

Remove the centre vein from a dozen large silver beet leaves but don’t chop the leaves.  Blanch by pouring boiling water over them in a pot, putting the lid on, and leaving for a couple of minutes, just to soften them so they will lie flat.

Part Four: Assembling and Baking

The baking dish I use for this is 30 cm by 20 cm. Spread half the meat sauce over the bottom, then a layer of silver beet, a couple of leaves thick over this.Spread half the white sauce on top, then the other half of the meat sauce, another layer of silver beet and another layer of white sauce.

Sprinkle grated parmesan lightly over the top, then bake in a medium oven for around half an hour until the top is lightly browned.

It’s great served with a green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

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