Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Macadamia Nuts Bring Taste of Australia to Chocolate Torte

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Macadamia Nuts Bring Taste of Australia to Chocolate Torte

Article excerpt

AS SOON as my plane touches down in Sydney, I am aware of a big change. Since my last visit three years ago, Australian cuisine has gone world-class.

Leaving the big city, I fly 1,300 miles north to give classes in a restored Victorian schoolhouse in the tropical resort of Port Douglas. The little weekly outdoor market is abloom with orchids and pineapples so fresh that the stems are still moist.

"How do you want 'em, mate?" inquires the coconut man, looking like a character from "Crocodile Dundee." Fresh and with milk? Jellied (with the flesh starting to dry)? Or OK to grate? He shakes the nuts to test ripeness, trims off the fiber with a machetelike knife and hands them over. Back in the kitchen, a local explains how to crack a coconut without fuss: Score an "equator" in the shell with a large knife, then tap the score mark sharply with the back of the knife until the nut splits. Catch the juice in a bowl and scoop out the meat with a grapefruit knife, following the curve of the shell. Uses for the milk and the meat in Asian dishes are legion, but we opt for a cooling custard ice cream flavored with vanilla and rum. Cooking here is an adventure. We taste spiky rambutans, which resemble the more familiar litchi but have less flavor. Sweetsop (cherimoya) and custard apple are mild and fleshy, best eaten raw pepped up with lime juice. I'm much more taken with tart tomatillos (sometimes called tree tomatoes) and passion fruit, which have a perfumed, acid juice that is outstanding in sorbet and cream desserts. (Nothing is perfect - both are packed with seeds.) On to Ayers Rock, the humpbacked red mountain in the outback of central Australia. Here I encounter bush ingredients, curious little fruits and nuts that somehow manage to survive in desert conditions. Salad dressing is flavored with native limes and the poppylike seeds of the wattle tree. Dark, chewy emu (which has almost zero fat) comes with a musty, almost dank relish of small berries called bush tomatoes. …

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