Book review: Australia: The Cookbook by Ross Dobson
Ross Dobson is an Australian food writer, stylist and chef who has established cafés and restaurants in the Western suburbs of Sydney, including his latest venture, the Café Royce in Penrith. He cooks classic and contemporary Australian food and is passionate about its place in history alongside its more modern influences.
This passion is evident in his most recent book, Australia: The Cookbook, which spans 50,000 years and 350 recipes, and showcases the rich diversity of Australia's landscape and people. The very first page acknowledges its history, paying tribute to "the Traditional Custodians of the Land, across the many language and cultural groups within Australia's diverse aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities".
A hefty section of the book is written by Jody Orcher, a Ularai Barkandji woman from Brewarrina, who explains Aboriginal Australian native bush food. Indigenous ingredients include Davidson's plum, found in rainforest areas of Australia, which has an "acidic, salty taste"; the desert quandong (which in Dobson's grandmother's Barkandji language is called a Karnpuka Pintyinya), a versatile red fruit that can be used in sweet and sour dishes; and, of course, kangaroo.
There are also guest chef recipes, from Dan Hunter, owner of Brae in Birregurra, Victoria; Mark Olive, founder of Dapbeto's Midden in Dapto, New South Wales; and O Tama Carey, owner of Lankan Filling Station in Sydney.
Recipes include the classic: chicken Parmigiana, meat (party) pies, rissoles (along with a reference to the cult Australian film The Castle), Anzac biscuits and lamingtons or ‘lammos'. Lesser-known specialities are also featured, such as Queensland blue pumpkin soup, stir-fried native greens and kumquat marmalade.
The book is deeply evocative of Australia, reminding me of many wonderful holidays with family and friends. Until we can travel again, this book can serve as a reminder of its professional and peculiar cuisine, whether that's French onion dip, Moreton bay bugs or a sausage sanga.
Australia: The Cookbook, by Ross Dobson (Phaidon, £35)
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