18 June 2008

Eating the national emblem

Poor old Skippy - what an utter nightmare.

One minute, he's bouncing happily through the outback, ears flapping, tail flopping, with not a care in the world.

The next, he's heralded as the latest superfood - delicious, nutritious and fabulously low fat - the natural solution to global warming, and 20.4 million Australians are being urged to "throw a few kanga bangers on the barbie".

JANE FRYER Mail Online

On the subject of one half of our national emblem, six species of kangaroo have died out and seven have become endangered since the arrival of Europeans in Australia. It's shocking. But the good news is, the remaining thirty-five species of kangaroo have proliferated, protected from their predators by the fences put up by farmers and pasturalists in order to feed the nation with traditional agrarian crops and beasts.

The populations of those 35 species have exploded thanks to better access to water, via dams and cattle watering points and from agricultural clearing creating increased grassland areas. Consequently there are now annual culls of kangaroos, as they have become a threat to the balance of rural life and are considered agricultural pests.

The number of each species that can be taken is set annually by state wildlife authorities after management plans have been approved by the federal government. This figure is around 15-20% of the total population, and is adjusted according to seasonal conditions.

Five species only of kangaroo are commercially harvested. Licensed practitioners, who have undertaken training in animal welfare, hygiene, and firearm competency are used. Harvesting is undertaken humanely by professional shooters. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) indicate that the kangaroo industry is indeed operating in a humane manner. Kangaroo culling is according to them, considered one of the most humane forms of animal slaughter, "An animal killed instantly within its own environment is under less stress than domestic stock that have been herded, penned, transported".

Each kangaroo that is taken must be identified by a numbered, plastic, lockable tag issued by the state regulatory authority, and only tagged animals can be processed. In order to ensure there is no overexploitation of any species in any given area detailed reports are then made and evaluated on a seasonal basis.

Now, a report commissioned by Greenpeace claims that Aussies can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by eating less beef and more ‘Roo’. In its favour, Kangaroos have no impact on the environment nor on carbon emissions. They need less food than sheep or cattle, are better adapted to drought and are far less damaging to the fragile topsoil than their sharply-hooved bovine counterparts.

While whole ecosystems are lost when forests are cleared to plant crops and toxic pesticides for maintaining crops also cause animal deaths, the kangaroo meat industry is sustainable and does not threaten the survival of the kangaroo or other native animal populations.

Unlike cattle and clearing land to grow grains and vegetables Kangaroos thrive in bushland. They do not need wheat in their diets and will not contribute to the global grain crisis caused by our growing demand for grain, beef, sheep and poultry. They also do not create greenhouse gases in the form of methane as cattle do.

As a food source, roo is not only delicious and healthful - being very lean, high in protein, iron and high in polyunsaturated fat - it is unfettered by the diseases associated with cattle and carries lower risks of food poisoning. And you know what? It tastes bloody good.

The Aborigines have been eating it for 40 000years and now it’s our turn to embrace it. In principal, treat it like venison, seared quickly then allowed a generous resting time for succulent meat. It has its own particular flavour which like prime beef needs only the slightest enhancement, but also stands up well to strong seasonings, whether you take an anglo - juniper, bay leaf and peppercorn - route or even a spicy curried approach.

For more information and recipes visit Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia


Lemongrass Kangaroo

Serves 2 for a main course, or more if sharing dishes

Deal breaker: Without a mortar and pestle and either fresh or frozen Lemongrass (Citronella) and Vietnamese Fish Sauce (Thai is way too pungent) this recipe will lack the necessary subtlety of flavour.

300g Kangaroo fillet

4cm of Lemongrass stalk

5 thin slices Galangal

5 thin slices Ginger

½ a small disc of light palm sugar

1tbs of Vietnamese Fish Sauce (not Thai)

½ tsp Kecap Manis

1tsp Cambodian Onion Paste

1tsp un-toasted sesame oil

3 tsp canola/peanut oil

1 small clove of garlic

4 Snake/Long beans

2tbs water

1tbs Xiao Xing wine

¼ red onion

1 small tomato

Salt & pepper

5 Mustard Green leaves (Gai Choy)

Lay some freezer film or plastic wrap over the kangaroo fillets and spread, flattening them out with the blunt edge of a cleaver as you would when making a schnitzel. Slice into bite sized strips and place in a plastic bag.

In a mortar and pestle pound slices of lemongrass, then add the galangal and then ginger. Bruise the spices, releasing the juices and break down the fibres.

Do. Not. Use. A blender.

Add Palm sugar. When assimilated into the mix add the fish sauce and Kecap Manis. Finally add the Onion Paste and un-toasted Sesame Oil and then tip into the bag with the meat. Massage marinade into the meat and chill for 90minutes.

Cut the snake beans on the diagonal into 2.5cm pieces and finely mince garlic by flattening under the blade of a cleaver. If you pull the cleaver across the board as you smash down on the clove with your fist, you will be left with a pulp, which you can easily chop finely.

Heat wok or skillet with 1tsp oil. When the oil is at smoking point throw in the beans and garlic, moving them quickly around the pan. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and cook down until the water has evaporated. Remove from pan.

Do not clean wok. Heat 2tsp oil in the pan and when at smoking point add in the kangaroo fillets and marinade. Do not toss fillets, brown them. Kangaroo needs to be cooked very quickly because is very lean - like venison - and then rested. Over cooking will make it tough. When both sides begin to look charred, stir through the Xiao Xing wine and when the meat mixture has darkened remove from the pan to rest. Do not clean wok/pan.

Dice the tomato and finely slice onion, add both to the pan over medium heat to cook down. When the onion is cooked, place the beans and garlic back in the pan with a tablespoon of water. When they have warmed through mix in the kangaroo and season with salt and white pepper. Do not use black pepper - the galangal has sufficient bite (like horseradish) for the dish so black pepper would be overkill.

Slice Mustard Greens horizontally into 1.5cm strips. Place kangaroo mix from the wok onto the bed of greens and garnish with coriander and Thai basil if you have them. Serve with anything - rice or quinoa or mashed potatoes - whatever suits your mood.


Anonymous said...

There was an interesting report titled "Paths to a Low-Carbon Future" by Mark Diesendorf from the Sustainability Centre that suggested that reducing beef consumption by 20% and making the shift to kangaroo meat would cut 15 megatonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by 2020.

Reason enough to put Skippy on the dinner plate I say!

purple goddess said...

I've long been a fan of eating one of the representatives on our national emblem, but so many places serve it overdone in a horribly sweet red currant glaze (and we all know how I feel about meat and fruit)

I am a huge fan of Kanga Banga's, as I find the meat a bit slimey.

Andy idea why that would be?

stickyfingers said...

Nice one Mellie! I guess the 'bottom line' is that kangaroos don't have lethal farts like cows do >_<

PG - Redcurrent Roo is to Apricot Chicken **Bleh**

I've never experienced slimy roo, which I suspect is caused by butchers oiling it to stop the rapid oxidisation that happens with the meat. I buy mine cryovac sealed so don't have a problem with it, in fact the texture is usually similar to venison.

Ran said...

i love roo. but i cannot convince my mother to eat it, she thinks they are dirty and diseased!? But she will eat lamb (small amounts) and ham and all that strange processed food you get from supermarkets.

I think there is just a weird thing in peoples heads that stop them eating it. They think it isnt 'real'. I love it. it is cheap, stores well in the fridge and is yum.

PG I havent had the slimey sausages thing. I quite like them as I feel like i am being 'healthy' and still getting bangas!