Braised root vegetables with Vegemite
Vegemite occupies a very specific place in the Australian culinary landscape – and has done for quite some time. It is synonymous with the whitest of bread and buttery toast and very little else. But it’s time for Vegemite to step out of the shadows and look towards more interesting expressions in cooking.
I recall many years ago my grandmother sipping on Vegemite stirred into a mug of hot water. I also recall that despite it being a daily occurrence I always reacted with shock and mild disgust. But now I can see that Nan was a visionary.
Without pretending to have any insight into Vegemite production, I would say it is basically just miso. A much more potent and much less alive miso, to be sure, but it has a very similar profile. And if dealt with using suitable restraint, Vegemite – or its many very good alternative brands – delivers a umami uppercut when rubbed on meats, or vegetables such as pumpkin, prior to grilling. It’s also a hit when stirred through broths or mildly fatty sauces, lifting the flavour intensity to new levels.
So it seems Australians have been sitting on an underutilised commodity. But many chefs have been slipping it into dishes for some time. Now, with the cult-like status of such dishes as Khanh Nguyen’s roti served with Vegemite curry, it looks like this spread might become known more as a bona fide recipe ingredient and less as just a topping on your breakfast toast. It’s time to be inspired.
And while we’re speaking of inspiration, I should mention that my recipe for beef ktzitzot in the June 27–July 3 issue was strongly influenced by Shuki’s version that I regularly scoff down at Very Good Falafel in Brunswick.
Braised root vegetables with Vegemite, brown rice and radish salad
– 1 large carrot
– 1 head fennel
– 1 brown onion
– 2 cloves garlic
– 2 green chillies
– 2.5cm ginger
– 60ml grapeseed oil
– 200ml sake
– 50ml rice vinegar
– 200ml stock
– 1 tbsp Vegemite
– 1 tbsp butter
– 15ml soy sauce
– 1 cup brown rice
– 1 bunch breakfast radishes
– salt and pepper
Grate the carrot, fennel, onion, garlic, chillies and ginger using a box grater.
Add the vegetables with the oil to a heavy-based pot with a firm-fitting lid and very gently sweat them over a low heat for about 20 minutes. Add the sake and the vinegar and cook for a further five minutes before adding the stock.
Cook further until the stock reduces by half before finishing the braise with the Vegemite and the butter. Stir through until the mixture has emulsified and then season with the soy.
Steam the rice by adding one-and-a-half times the quantity of water to the rice and boiling it for 15 minutes before letting it rest, covered, for a further five minutes.
Pick the tender leaves from the radishes then top and tail the roots. Wash the lot in iced water before cutting the radishes into rounds and the leaves into thirds. Toss together and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Plate up each bowl by dividing equal quantities of the rice, the braise and the radish salad.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 25, 2020 as "Spreading the love".
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