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If you’ve visited here before, you will know my thoughts about kangaroo as the red meat of choice for Australians.  The recent controversy about live cattle exports has brought it to the front of my mind again.

I am comfortable with being a predator as a general concept.  There’s an essay here, from a book by Lierre Keith, that captures the ethics of it so lucidly. But I am not at all comfortable with intensive farming of livestock, or abbatoirs.  I’d much prefer a wild animal hunted cleanly.  Australian beef and lamb mostly falls somewhere in the middle.  But then, when you add greenhouse gases, and soil conservation, and water management into the ethics equation, kangaroo comes out way ahead.

This has been one of our favourite winter meals lately – fast and easy, healthy, warm and tasty, cheap and ethical – all the boxes. The combination of hot soup, ginger, lightly cooked vegies and kangaroo meat feel just right for this time of year.

The Recipe

Serves 3 or 4 for dinner, 2 or 3 if you are very hungry.  Like many Asian recipes, it comes together really fast.

The Meatballs:

In the food processor:

  • 300 grams kangaroo mince
  • 1 onion
  • 2 dessertspoons soy sauce
  • half a thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 2 dessertspoons cornflour (corn starch if you are in USA – but then if you are in USA, maybe venison is the comparable meat?)
  • salt and pepper

The Stock:

  • 5 cups of stockor 5 cups of water with a couple of dessertspoons of miso
  • half a thumb sized piece of ginger, julienned
  • chili chopped fine

Bring the stock to the boil, then add the meatballs.  Use wet hands to make small balls and drop them in one by one.  Cook 5 minutes from last meatball in.

The Noodles

  • While the meatballs are cooking, put some egg noodles on to cook in boiling water – more if you are active, less if you are keeping carbs down.

The Vegetables (all julienned):

Add to the meatballs in the stock:

  • 2 spring onions
  • 10-12 beans or snow peas (I’m still harvesting the last of the green beans)
  • 2 carrots
  • 3-4 leaves of chinese cabbage

Cook just a couple of minutes.  Don’t overcook.

Seasoning at the end:

Put the noodles in bowls and ladle the meatball soup over top.  Taste and add seasonings to taste.  I like

  • a teaspoon honey
  • a little swig of soy sauce
  • a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar
  • chopped coriander on top to serve

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We hosted a meeting over dinner at our place, which meant 10 people for a casual dinner on a weeknight.  I wanted to use kangaroo – kangaroo is my red meat of choice, for a whole heap of reasons – ethical, ecological, nutritional, and not least economic. Kangaroo mince is less than $7 a kilo, beef mince is nearly double that, and heart smart lean beef mince even more. Cooking for 10 it makes a difference!

But not everyone was used to kangaroo, so to be safe I decided to go middle-eastern. Many middle-eastern recipes use goat meat, or lamb that is from breeds much less fatty than Australian lamb, and the spice profile is designed for stronger flavoured game meat.  It means they often work well for kangaroo.

If you make your own hummus and bread and salads out of the garden, a Morroccan style feast like this can feed 10 people very well for less than $10, or a family for a few dollars.  Hah, Curtis!

The Recipe

Dice an onion and saute in a little olive oil in a heavy pan over a high heat.

As soon as the onion starts to soften, add 500 grams of kangaroo mince.  Cook over a high heat, breaking the mince up with a wooden spoon, until the mince starts to brown.

Sprinkle over 3 cloves of garlic chopped fine, and  3 good teaspoons of Moroccan spice mix.  I like to make my own spice mix because I can grow most of the ingredients and fresh turmeric, ginger, and chili are all super healthy.

To make your own, using a mortar and pestle, crush together:

    • a nut sized knob of fresh turmeric and one of ginger,
    • a fresh chilli
    • a sprig of fresh coriander or culantro,
    • a teaspoon of mixed dry cumin and cinnamon,
    • a pinch of cardamom and nutmeg and just a whisker of cloves.

Continue cooking, stirring, over a high heat for a minute, then add 3 dessertspoons of  chopped macadamia nuts, and 3 dessertspoons of sultanas.

Keep cooking and stirring for a few minutes more until the nuts start to brown.

The perfect way to eat is to slather hummus or babaganoush (or both) on a slab of Turkish bread or Pita bread, cover with spiced mince, tabouli, tomato salad, and cucumber-yoghurt salad and eat either as an open sandwich or a roll.

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kangaroo stuffed summer squash

The kangaroo stuffed peppers were so successful that I decided to try the same stuffing with squash, which is also at the peak of its season. I hadn’t intended to blog them, but they were so good.

The Recipe:

The stuffing is the same one I made for the stuffed peppers.  There were only the two of us for dinner this time, so I just scaled it down. Adjust the quantity depending on the size and number of your squash. These ones were about 10 cm across and took a bit over an hour to cook.  Smaller, younger squash will be faster.

While the stuffing is simmering, cut the top off the squash and use a dessertspoon to scoop out the middle.

Fill with stuffing, put the lid back on, and arrange in a baking dish with a good fitting lid.

Pour half a cup of water in around the squash and add a diced tomato for every couple of squash.  Salt and pepper.

Bake, covered, for around 1¼ hours until the squash is tender.

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Capsicums and chilis are right in season now and I’m harvesting both.  These ones are a banana pepper, and they’re either a very mild, sweet chili or a  capsicum with a bit of spiciness, depending on how you look at it.  They’re slightly laborious to stuff – the larger more common bell peppers would be easier – but for chili lovers the edge of spiciness is so worth it!

And kangaroo mince stuffing marries so well with that capsicum spiciness.  Those of you who have visited before will know my thoughts about kangaroo as the red meat of choice for Australians. Kangaroo mince in particular is lean, healthy, ethical, cheap, and lends itself to recipes where there are enough other flavours going on to distract people who are new to it.

The Recipe:

This recipe makes a dozen of these banana peppers, and three is a good sized serving with vegetables or salad, so it makes a main dish for four for just a couple of dollars.

You need a baking dish with a nice tight fitting lid.  I have an ovenproof pyrex casserole dish that is perfect. You could cover with aluminium foil, but I avoid foil – it’s one of those thoughtless trash products that need to be much, much more expensive to reflect their true cost.  Aluminium uses a huge amount of energy to produce (and thus contributes a huge amount of carbon).  You can argue that in cars this is offset by light weight, and in cans it is offset by recycling, but in foil it is hard to argue that is it worth it for something of such fleeting value.   And, I don’t care if there’s no definitive evidence that aluminium and Alzheimers are not just co-incidentally associated, I don’t like it.  And, apart from anything else, aluminium reacts with acidic foods to create aluminium salts might be harmless but taint the dish. Yuk.

So, first step, find a good oven dish and turn the oven on to heat up.

In a heavy pan, sauté

  • 300 gm kangaroo mince
  • 1 large onion diced fine
  • several cloves of garlic chopped

When the kanagaroo is browned, add

  • 300 gm chopped tomatoes (about 4 good sized tomatoes)
  • 2 dessertspoons of currants
  • 3 dessertspoons bulghur or couscous
  • half a cup of water

Simmer for a few minutes until the water has been absorbed. Turn it off and stir in

  • about ¼ cup (packed) of chopped fresh mint

While the stuffing is simmering, prepare the peppers. Chop the tops off and swivel a knife blade around inside them to loosen the seeds.  Wash the seeds out under running water (a butter knife is a good implement).

Stuff the peppers full of stuffing.  The fat end of a chopstick is a good implement for pushing it down to the tips.

Arrange the stuffed peppers in your baking dish.  Pour over ¼ cup of water and cover with sliced tomato.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Put the lid on and bake for around 40 minutes in a medium oven, until the peppers are tender.

I served these with braised snake beans and potato.

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I’ve made this chutney in bulk (scaled up to 8 cups of tamarillo flesh) with roast lamb for a wedding feast.  But the sweetness and acidity go really really well with kangaroo fillet, cooked on a barbeque or pan fried.

Kangaroo is the red meat I believe is the most ethical choice for Australians, for all sorts of reasons, and tamarillos are one of the easiest things of all to grow in sub-tropical climates. The tree does not cope at all with frosts, but if you can find a frost free site, it is a small, attractive, short-lived perennial tree that bears a really prolific crop of fruit that are immune to most pests and fairly resistant to the ravages of flying foxes or birds.

Tamarillos are my daughter’s very favourite fruit, but for most tastes they are a bit acid for fresh eating but they go really well as a tomato substitute in many recipes.

The Recipe

Scoop the flesh out of 7 tamarillos.  A dessertspoon is the best tool for this.

Put them in a pot with a little splash of water over a low heat.

Add

  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • a small thumb sized knob of ginger, grated
  • a small thumb sized knob of fresh turmeric, grated
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • a small onion, finely diced

The longer it is cooked, the better, but you can get away with simmering, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or so.  Add a little more water if it gets too thick.

Right at the end, add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs.  A mixture of basil or Thai basil, mint, and coriander or culantro work best.

Serve alongside any kind of meat, or on a sandwich with meat or cheese, or  with savory omelette, or with pakoras, or … you get the idea.

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We celebrated New Year’s Eve at a barbeque with neighbours. It’s one of the things I love about living in a functioning community – socialising within walking distance.  I could go on about greenhouse footprints but really it’s enough that I can drink half a bottle of red wine and wander home in the starlight wishing happy New Year to the owlet nightjar that lives on the way!

I took kangaroo kebabs to the barbeque.  Normally I buy kangaroo fillet steak to make kebabs – it’s so cheap compared to beef fillet, and you really don’t use a lot of it in kebabs. But there was no fillet steak this time, so I bought diced kangaroo which is much tougher and usually best suited to long slow cooking.

It is the very end of the pawpaw (Carica papaya) season here.  We’ve been harvesting several every week for four months now, all from one really prolific tree.  But the bounty is almost over and the wet weather is causing them to develop a fungus disease called anthracnose if we let them completely ripen on the tree.

Which means they’re perfect for green paw paw salads and tenderising diced kangaroo. Pawpaw has an enzyme called papain which is the main ingredient in commercial meat tenderisers.  Green pawpaw has more of it but ripe pawpaw has enough to work as a marinade.

The Recipe:

An hour or two beforehand:

Soak 20 kebab skewers.

In the food processor, blend together

  • a small pawpaw (200 grams or so), thinly peeled and de-seeded
  • several cloves of garlic
  • knob fresh turmeric
  • an onion
  • a chili
  • two dessertspoons of lemon juice or some other acid – I still have Eureka lemons fruiting, but you could use verjuice if you have unripe grapes, or wine.
  • some sweetener.  I prefer treacle, but you can substitute honey or brown sugar.  Somewhere between one and two dessertspoons – more for a green pawpaw and less for a ripe one.
  • a dessertspoon of  soy sauce

Massage the marinade through 1 kilogram of diced kangaroo meat, cover, and leave it in the fridge.

Dice a small eggplant into cubes a bit bigger than the kangaroo.  Sprinkle with salt and put it in a colander.

An hour or two later:

Rinse the eggplant and squeeze out the moisture.  It will have shrunk to roughly the same size as the kangaroo cubes.  Thread the marinated meat onto skewers, alternating with eggplant, capsicum, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and mushrooms.  Pour the remaining marinade over the skewers.

Cook on a hot barbeque for a few minutes each side.

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If you don’t have kale, I think the filling in this recipe will work just as well with cabbage if you  reduce the water and the cooking time a little.

But if you don’t have kale you’re missing out!  It’s a real super-food, with a big range of vitamins and minerals and some important anti-cancer phytochemicals.  And it’s also really delicious, especially cooked long and slow as in this recipe. I have so much cavolo nero kale in the garden at the moment, just half a dozen plants yielding more than we can eat or foist on visitors, but I keep expecting the white cabbage moths to arrive soon and end the bounty.  So I’m making the most of it.

Kangaroo is my red meat of choice, for a whole heap of reasons. – ethical, ecological, nutritional, and not least economic. This recipe made a big platter of rolls, enough for dinner and lunches, or a platter of party finger food.

The Recipe:

Cut the top two-thirds off  30 large cavolo nero kale leaves.

You will use six of the bottom thirds (where the central vein is thickest) to line your cooking pot.  Put the rest of the bottom thirds aside to use for another recipe (or, if you have garden bounty, feed them to the chooks who will think it is Christmas and give you super high vitamin A eggs in return).

Blanch the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes, just to soften them so that they roll easily.

While the kale is blanching, saute a large onion, finely diced, in olive oil.  Add 500 grams of kangaroo mince and brown.

Add:

  • a teaspoon of coriander powder
  • a teaspoon of cummin powder
  • half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 good dessertspoons of pine nuts
  • 3 good dessertspoons of currants
  • half a cup of rice (we have a local grower growing biodynamic rain-fed rice)
  • half a cup of finely chopped mint and /or parsley

Saute for a few minutes until the rice goes white and opaque.

Lay a kale leaf, top side of the leaf up and vein side down, with the leaf tip towards you. Place a dessertspoon of the mince mix near the tip and roll, folding the edges over to make a nice tight roll.

Line the bottom of a heavy pot with the 6 blanched kale bottoms.  Arrange the filled rolls on top of them in layers.

Mix together and pour over:

  • 100 ml lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 3 cups of water
  • swig of olive oil
  • salt and pepper.

Put a lid on the pot and simmer on a very very low heat for about two hours.  Towards the end, watch that they don’t boil dry.

They’re good hot but even better cold.

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I nearly share a birthday with my father, so I made these for our shared birthday dinner.  We had family and friends for dinner, and  the last thing I wanted to do on my birthday was to be so busy I missed all the jokes.  The recipe is elegant enough to be a celebration dinner, economical for a large group, and it can be made well ahead of time.  And those of you who have visited before will know my thoughts about kangaroo as the red meat of choice.

The Recipe

The Meatballs

Finely chop

  • 2 medium onions
  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic
  • a cup of fresh oregano leaves

In a big mixing bowl, add them to

  • 1 kg kangaroo mince
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 dessertspoons of worcestershire sauce
  • a good grating of black pepper

Use your hands to knead the mix until it is well combined.

Wet your hands and shape the mix into balls (wet hands will stop them sticking).  Fry quickly in a hot pan in a little olive oil until they are browned. (They don’t need to be cooked through).

The Sauce

In the same pan, saute

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 chopped capsicum

Add about 1 kg of peeled tomatoes (I used tomatoes that I had bottled last summer) and 3 or 4 bay leaves.  Cook for a few minutes (depending on your tomatoes) until it reaches a good sauce consistency. Taste and add a little salt, and maybe, depending on the sweetness of your tomatoes, a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar.

Assembling

In a casserole dish with a tight fitting lid, put a layer of sauce in the bottom, add your meatballs, and pour the rest of the sauce over.

Bake in a low oven for an hour or so, or until your guests are ready to eat.  It won’t matter if it sits in the oven longer.

I served the meatballs with a double batch of  Green Green Polenta, and asparagus and snow peas sauteed in butter and lemon juice, and it served 9 comfortably with birthday cake to follow.

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One of the best things about Australian cuisine (besides its base in fresh produce)  is its multiculturalism.  We are recipe bower birds, picking up anything that is bright and shiny from other places and taking it home!

One of the worst things about Australian cuisine is the ignorant way we have dismissed the heritage of knowledge about local food by indigenous Australians, that a wise culture would have treasured.

Which brings me to kangaroo as a case in point.  Kangaroo meat is good!  It is lean, healthy, high in iron and zinc. It is cheap, partly because of supply and demand, but also because kangaroos are adapted to our climate, soils, native grasses, and seasons. It is ethical – kangaroos live a good free range life in the wild and are harvested by professional shooters who don’t make a living unless they are very competent.  It is environmentally responsible – kangaroos have soft feet that don’t destroy our very fragile soils and a breeding cycle adapted to the drought and flood climate of much of Australia. And perhaps most important of all, kangaroos don’t fart greenhouse gases.

And it is delicious! Gradually I am experimenting with all my old recipes, finding those that work best with kangaroo.  This one is a  kangaroo and bean stew, based on Turkish spice profile.  As we near the end of winter, I am making the most of having the slow combustion stove going to cook slow cookers like beans.

The Recipe:

Brown 500 grams of diced kangaroo meat in olive oil in a pot or pressure cooker. You are aiming to sear, not stew it, so you will need to have the pot quite hot and do it in two or three batches.

Remove the meat from the  pot, add some more olive oil (kangaroo is very lean and won’t render fat the way beef or lamb will), and add:

  • One large onion diced
  • Four or five cloves of garlic, diced
  • A good tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
  • Two teaspoons of garam masala
  • One teaspoon each of ground coriander, ground cummin, and ground cardamom

Saute till the onion is soft and the spices are cooked a little.

Add about 500 grams of peeled tomatoes and a little water.

Simmer for about 30 minutes or pressure cook for 10 until the meat is tender.

Add 300 grams of cooked beans.  I used the dried seeds from my Blue Lake beans saved from summer for this recipe, but canellini or haricot beans work well.

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of plain yoghurt.

Taste and add salt and pepper.

It’s good served with couscous and a green salad with lots of fresh mint in it.

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