Home cook Barbara Sweeney and chef Sharon Salloum joined forces on Wednesday, December 2, to prepare an Aussie barbecue at SSI’s Community Kitchen.
Barbara is a writer with an interest in food. She contributes stories to Country Style and The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food and curates the food writers’ festival Food & Words. After being approached by SSI’s Community Engagement Team, Barbara accepted the offer straight away and took charge of its organisation.
Between cooking and managing the army of volunteers busily bustling around the kitchen at Auburn Centre for Community, Barbara reflected on the concept of ‘Aussie BBQ’ in today’s Australia.
“The idea of an Australian barbecue has become a caricature,” she says. “As cooks, Australians have evolved and become more innovative and creative, adapting to new culinary influences. But still, the barbecue, in our minds, remains the same. Hence today’s menu.”
Despite being quite an easy menu, Barbara says that the trick is to get the timing right. Each dish is prepared in an order that means all dishes will be ready to serve at the same time.
“Yes, timing becomes an issue when cooking for so many people,” said Sharon Salloum in agreement. “This is why we are using every cooking method available at the moment: we’ve got meat in the oven, frying on the stoves, on the barbecue outside, vegies boiling, etc.”
“I’m not used to cooking Australian food, but thanks to Barbara, who had everything ready, this was very easy.”
Sharon’s lack of experience with the most popular of Australian cuisine, however, is balanced by her extensive knowledge of Syrian food, which led her to open a restaurant inspired by her heritage and traditions. Alongside her sister, Sharon runs Almond Bar, an intimate venue in Darlinghurst, where diners can enjoy Syrian mezza, cocktails and Middle-Eastern desserts.
The combination of these two exceptional chefs at SSI Community Kitchen resulted in a perfect Aussie BBQ, where meat, vegies and salad were ready at the same time to delight of all attendees.
"I had a great time," said Barbara after the day had concluded.
On the barbecue
20 halal beef sausages
4 kg lamb chops
4 cobs corn
1 tin sliced pineapple
1 tin baby beetroot
3 brown onions
12 hotdog buns
Selection of squeeze bottles: tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, dijonnaise
Barbara’s first tip for a good barbecue is simple: always cook the vegetables before the meat. This will avoid them being in contact with the fat and resulting in an oily, greasy appearance. We start by placing the corn cobs, the baby beetroot and the chopped onion on the barbecue, previously sprayed or coated with cooking oil.
Once the vegies are cooked, preheat a barbecue grill on medium heat (not too hot!) and place the meat on the plate. Just before cooking, season the meat with salt and pepper. Now for another tip -probably harder to follow for the impatient types: do not keep turning the lamb chops over. In fact, they should only be turned over once during the whole process.
Salads and Vegetables
Margaret Fulton’s Sour Cream Coleslaw
½ white medium cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green capsicum
½ cup finely chopped spring onions
½ cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup whole-egg mayonnaise
1 cup light sour cream
a dash of Tabasco
Place cabbage, celery, capsicum, spring onion, parsley in a large bowl and toss till well combined. In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise and sour cream and stir till mixed together. Flavour with Tabasco to taste. Pour over the cabbage mixture. Toss and chill well before serving.
Margaret Fulton’s Scalloped Potatoes with a variation
2 Kg sebago potatoes
1 clove garlic, halved
2 brown onions
1 carton of thin pouring cream
250 ml full cream milk
100 gr shredded cheese
Salt and ground pepper
90 gr butter
Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the potatoes and onions, and slice them thinly. Rub a shallow ovenproof dish with the cut clove of garlic, then butter dish generously. Arrange the potato slices in one layer in dish, then add a layer of onion slices. Repeat this same procedure, making sure the finishing layer on top is potato. Then cover with a layer of cheese. Scald the milk and add nutmeg, salt and pepper, to taste. Pour over the potatoes in the dish. Sprinkle with the cheese and dot with the butter. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the potatoes are tender and golden. If potatoes seem to be browning too quickly cover loosely with foil for 30 minutes of cooking time. Serve in the dish.