Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Healthy BBQs

For those of us working in the Caribbean at the moment, the barbecue season is well and truly under way… lots of big juicy steaks, sausages and burgers sizzling away over hot smoky grills. Where would yachting be without our dock parties and beach barbecues? The only problems are the kilos you pile on and what to do if a guest has requested a low fat diet. It takes the fun out of it, especially for those of us who love our red meat cooked on the old barbie. Well folks, there are alternatives available that don’t involve you having to turn veggie.

I was fortunate to spend a few weeks in Australia earlier this year. Whilst I was Down Under I got to taste kangaroo and emu, and I was really impressed not only with the flavour and versatility of these meats, but also by their health credentials. To learn more, I went to visit an Aussie game farm in Yarra Valley, Victoria. I had a chat with farmer Ken Lang, who was thrilled to share his knowledge and show me some of his fantastic animals – he has over 60 acres full of deer, goats and emus. The Aborigines and the first pioneers were eating kangaroos long before cattle and sheep were brought in from Europe.

Eating kangaroo and emu meat is not only good for you but better for the environment too. These animals do far less damage to their habitats than introduced cattle. As they’re free range and shot in the relative wild, their meat is very tender, while sheep and cattle are herded together for slaughter, causing stress and resulting in poorer meat quality. Only four out of the 48 kangaroo species are harvested commercially – and only within strict quotas.

Farmer Ken loves kangaroos and told me they’d never be extinct. The kangaroo is an incredible animal. It survives droughts by pausing its reproduction system, suspending foetal growth until the rains return. Another cool thing kangaroos – and emus – can do is develop a layer of fat under the skin in winter, which they lose during the mating season. This fat layer is not found in the muscle, thus making it around 98% fat-free. Both kangaroo and emu meat are also extremely high in protein and iron.

Ken introduced me to some of his emus, running around with his Fallow Deer (venison is also a very healthy meat). Emu oil is used for therapeutic uses: it is proven to dissolve cholesterol and is an anti-inflammatory. Emu meat is a by-product, with supply exceeding demand.

The cooking methods and flavourings are endless. It’s important not to overcook these meats: being so low in fat they can dry out easily. And as they don’t need much cooking, they’re ideal for barbecues. Choose emu fan fillet or flat fillet and kangaroo fillet or sirloin. Seal it on a high flame, allowing it to just warm through, then let it rest for a couple of minutes. Simple!

Purely for research purposes, I was forced to have a barbecue and come up with a couple of recipes for your next dock party! If you need any other information just go to – Ken lectures on cuts and muscle definitions, and his wife Mary can also supply more recipes and advice.

Soy marinated fillet

500 g emu or kangaroo fillet
100 ml dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Half a thumb-sized piece of fresh
ginger, chopped

> Make sure your meat is perfectly dry and
free of blood before use;
> Combine all the other ingredients together
and leave to infuse for a couple of hours;
> Pour the marinade over your fillet and leave
for about an hour;
> Use a high heat to seal the meat well –
remember not to overcook it;
> Slice thinly and serve with some shredded
spring onions and a squeeze of lime juice.

roo burgers

800 g minced kangaroo meat (sirloin or fillet)
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bunch of fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 egg white

> Fry the garlic, onion, herbs and paprika and
leave to cool;
> Mix it into your mince with the egg white and
season with pepper – but no salt until just before
you cook it;
> Shape into four meat patties – don’t make
them too thick as you don’t want to cook them
too much;
> Place between burger buns with salad and
whatever relishes you desire.

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