AUSTRALIAN CUISINE HAS been shaped by the people who settled in Australia. For the majority of Australian history, food traditions were based on the native bush foods of indigenous Australians.
British and Irish cooking came to Australia with the arrival of the settlers in the late 18th century. The 19th and 20th century immigrants from the Mediterranean and Asian culture had an influence on the Australia cuisine during this period.
Today food eaten by Aussies shows a world-wide influence and includes organic and biodynamic, Kosher and Halal foods. British traditions are still dominant in takeaway foods as well as home cooking, with pies and fish and chips always an Aussie favourite.
Digestive Biscuits (Aussie)
In recipes calling for digestive biscuits, Americans and Canadians often use Graham Crackers as a substitute.
The sweeter graham crackers come in a variety of flavours like cinnamon and chocolate.
Digestive biscuits are richer, and while slightly sweet, are often eaten with cheese. They are also available coated on one side with milk or dark chocolate.
In the USA they grow two basic types of sweet potato. One is commonly called a yam although it is not a true yam. It has a darker, thicker skin with vivid sweeter orange-coloured flesh inside. When cooked, it’s generally moister than the normal sweet potato.
AUSTRALIAN FOOD CONFUSION An American was chatting with an Aussie on the Internet, when she said she had to stop to make her hungry son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (also called P B & J). The confused Aussie said she had never heard of a “dessert” sandwich.
It took a while for the equally confused American to discover that jelly to Aussies is the same as Jello (gelatine) to her. In other words, the Aussie wanted to know why her friend would want to eat a Jello and peanut butter sandwich.
The cultural differences in food can be quite entertaining. However, when you’re trying to use a recipe from another country, it’s nice to know what they’re talking about. You’ll find on this page some common cooking conversions.
Cornflower/cornstarch is used to thicken sauces. It has no taste of its own to interfere with your recipe. To use it, blend with double the amount of cold liquid. Stir it into the sauce to be thickened. Keep stirring as the mixture comes to a boil. It will thicken and become clear.
Cooking with fats can be rather tricky when you’re substituting one for another. In general, you can substitute butter for shortening.
For most things that substitution works for me, however, in a bickies recipe I have, it didn’t work. They were runny when baked and looked awful. Luckily they tasted good, but not good enough to
serve to anyone. I’m still working on that recipe.
Crisco Vegetable Shorteningis a white, solid fat made from vegetable oil (soybean and palm oil). If you see a recipe calling for Crisco, they’re talking about vegetable shortening. (Crisco is a brand name.)
You’ll find Crisco a common ingredient in US cooking. It is used for frying, cakes, pastry and frostings as well as other things.
* Copha is the brand name for solidified coconut oil. Available in solid blocks or cubes, it is white but becomes clear when melted. Copha is high in saturated fat and trans-fats.
While some people use lard as a replacement, you might want to try vegetable shortening or butter instead for a healthier alternative.
Michele and several other Americans have written me to say that Copha is NOT an alternative to white vegetable shortening (Crisco). If you are making frosting or anything that needs to be whipped, do not use copha.
Double cream has a fat content of 48% making it very rich. It’s the most versatile of the creams because it can be boiled, whipped and frozen well.
Thickened cream has a fat content of at least 35%.
Single cream has a fat content of at least 18%. It’s also known as pouring cream and commonly used in soups, sauces and desserts.
Creme fraiche has a fat content of at least 35%. It’s a naturally fermented cream with a velvety texture. Used in both sweet and savoury dishes, creme fraiche has a slightly tangy, nutty flavour. It’s a good choice when you need a cream that can boil without curdling.
Sugar and Other Sweeteners
Always remember, while a certain substitute might work fine for one recipe, it may not for another. So always test a recipe before using it for an important event. Or try it on a friend who has a good sense of humour and loves an adventure.
** Golden syrup is similar to corn syrup in the USA. For a sweet flavour choose light corn syrup and for a slightly molasses flavour choose dark corn syrup. (If you see a recipe calling for Karo, they’re talking about corn syrup in the US.) You’ll need to experiment to find which type of corn syrup works for the particular recipe you’re trying.
*** Caster sugar is a bit finer than granulated sugar in the USA. The only thing that’s about as close in the US is superfine sugar. However, for most recipes you can use caster sugar for granulated sugar.