Friday, June 11, 2010

Throw Another Shrimp On The Barbie, Mate!!

Oh man...does any phrase sum up Australia like that least since that infernal movie came out?  I'll admit soon as we drew this week's country, Angel and I quipped "throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate!" in stereo.  So it was a foregone conclusion that ONE of us was going to be cooking some shrimp...outside over charcoal.

It's even funnier that my seven-year-old daughter picked shrimp on the BARBIE.  At least it's funny to me.  Because she loves Barbie dolls.  See?  Never mind.

So when I got home from work last night, I fired up the rusty, trusty grill again.  Seems like a lot of work, taking a half-hour for charcoal to ash over just to grill some shrimp for one minute per side.  Maybe Australian shrimp are bigger, but the bag of shrimp I had to work with were more like cocktail shrimp and I had to put tin foil on the grill to keep them from falling in, and consequently they had almost no smoky grill flavor.  Also, we spent probably 20 minutes just peeling the darn things after they were cooked, and had to microwave 'em before eating if we wanted warm shrimp.

Shrimp On The Barbie

As an aside...I refuse to grill with propane.  No, Hank Hill would not be my friend.  All the BBQ I've had from gas grills tastes...well, like propane.  There's no smoky goodness, there's no similarity to cooking over a campfire other than the charred parts, and that's really what the barbecue grill is trying to emulate, in my opinion, is the experience of cooking over an open fire like our ancestors did all the way back to the discovery of fire itself, when Fred and Barney cooked the first Brontosaurus burgers. (probably)

So I haven't followed the trend and bought myself a fancy-schmancy gas grill; I still cook on a (relatively) cheap charcoal kettle grill.  It's almost 10 years old, it's faded and it's kind of bent-up from the time I kicked it off the deck and hosed it down with wasp killer spray.  Come to think of it, I actually set it on fire once to kill the hornet's nest in it -- I doused it with lighter fluid and touched it off with a propane torch, then stood back and listened to the bees popping like popcorn.  I lost a good set of grill tools that day.

Okay...I'm back.

So, as Evelyn picked out the meal, she liked it.  One of the twins liked the shrimp, and the other liked the green beans. Gable liked nothing.  I'd mark this one as above average on the kids-not-mutineeing scale.

And then there was dessert.  Evie made Lamingtons.  I guess that there are entire bake sales dedicated to these cakes in Australia, and that they are a revered part of the dessert culture there.  We looked at the recipe -- day old sponge cake, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with coconut -- and didn't see what the big deal was, though they sounded good.


Let me tell you -- holy wow, they were fantastic!  I don't know how dipping day-old cake in chocolate and coconut can do it, but they were way more than the sum of their parts.  If you've ever had Hostess Zinger cakes, they were like that, but so much better.  And when served with some whipped cream in or on 'em...well, I had FOUR of them, okay?


Shrimp on the Barbie


  • 1 kg of large shrimp, shells intact
  • 1/2 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sweet basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt
  • A pinch of freshly ground black pepper


  1. Add the olive oil to a small mixing bowl with the lemon juice, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Mix quickly to emulsify to the mixture. Set aside.
  2. Heat up the barbecue and throw on the shrimp. Cook one side for 1 minute. Turn and cook for another minute.
  3. Shell the shrimp, being careful not to burn your fingers, and dip in the garlic basil oil.

Garlic Ginger Beans


  • 800g green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 1 inch (2cm) piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • A handful of flaked almonds
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • Serves 8


  1. Steam the beans for 4-6 minutes or until tender but crisp.
  2. Place garlic, ginger and butter into a mixing bowl. Remove beans from steamer and immediately place into the mixing bowl. Stir well to coat the beans. Add the flaked almonds and stir again.
  3. Serve immediately.



  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of room temperature butter
  • 3/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup of cocoa powder
  • 3 tbs of butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Whipped cream for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
  2. Lightly butter an 8 inch square cake tin. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, use an electric beater to cream the butter and sugar mixture together until pale and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat well after adding each egg.
  6. Add the vanilla to the mixture and mix well to combine.
  7. Next, use a spatula to alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, starting and finishing with the flour.
  8. Spread the batter into the cake tin, making sure it's evenly spread.
  9. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Test the center of the cake with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean.
  10. Cool the cake in the tin for about 5 minutes and then invert it onto a wire rack to cool.
  11. Once the cake has cooled cut it into squares of a desired size and place them in an airtight container. Pop the container in the fridge for at least 2 hours or even overnight.
  12. Now for the icing. Place the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  13. Stir the mixture until it is smooth but still a bit thick. You don't want the liquid to get too thin otherwise the sponge cake won't absorb the coating.
  14. Now it's time to assemble the Lamingtons. Put out some newspaper under wire racks to catch any mess. Place the cake pieces on the racks and have your chocolate icing and desiccated coconut ready.
  15. Quickly coat the sponge cake on all sides in the icing mixture and then gently roll the cake in the coconut. Repeat the process.
  16. The Lamingtons can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days.
-- all recipes from the website

1 comment:

  1. It's funny, no one here calls them shrimp. Everyone calls them shrimp in America but in Australia, they're prawns. Our prawns are huge and beautiful. Usually they're grilled with the shell on for maximum flavour but even without they're beautiful chargrilled with butter or garlic and lemon. Yum.

    The "shrimp on the barbie" was a deliberate tourism campaign with Paul Hogan hired to say that.

    As for Lamingtons - yes, they are absolutely part of everyday Australian life...although I don't know anyone who makes them with day old sponge. If you go to bakeries here, the sponge is fresh that day.

    For a twist on Lamingtons, you get the same sponge and dip them in raspberry jello (while it's warm & liquid) and then roll into the coconut. Fill with fresh cream - yum.