Australia: Fancy or plain tucker that's so Ozzie

By Jo McCarroll

I'd always thought "modern Australian cuisine" was a bit of a work in progress, a mongrel mix of European and Asian influences, the sort of food you could eat pretty much anywhere, just somewhere with better weather.

As I ate my way around Queensland, I was amazed at how wrong I had been. "Rae can cook as fancy as you like," boasted Bruce Hurley about his wife who does the cooking at their B&B in Kilkivan, a town of 400 people.

The region is famous for redclaw, a freshwater crayfish, and for peanuts - nearby Kingaroy is the "peanut bowl" of Australia. The world's oldest peanut thresher is in the local museum and at the Bell Tower distillery, peanut liqueur, amazingly drinkable after the second glass, is available.

"But when farmers come into town," says Hurley, "what they mainly want is meat."

So I ordered a steak - the size of Queensland - and a bottle of wine.

I'd thought the red continent would serve red meat with red wine but in South Burnett, two-and-a-half hours north-west of Brisbane, what grows best is a Verdelho, a fresh and fruity white, native to Portugal.

A few glasses wash the steak down a treat so I order rainberries and yoghurt for afters.

Ooooh, the rainberries - an indigenous rainforest product like grapes but with a tart, spicy kick.

There's further unique Australian flavours on Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, 123km long, off Queensland's southern coast.

At Kingfisher Resort on the island's west coast, visitors can talk about and try bush tucker, foods usually found in the Outback, the most common of which is the macadamia nut.

Bush food takes in a lot more products and they are becoming increasingly available, but only macadamia nuts are commercially produced.

One of the chefs served us bunya nut pesto with chicken, rosella chutney with prawns, and let us try wild limes - he says they're fantastic in Corona. And indeed they prove to be - adding that uniquely Australian flavour to the whole experience.

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