Australian Functional Ingredients – by Vic Cherikoff

Australia Day - make mine marla

If you are concerned about your health and the environment, the best choice of red meat protein is marla (kangaroo). Research shows that domestic meats are pro-inflammatory which may lead to all sorts of nutritional diseases. By comparison, game meats are far less inflammatory (5 biochemical markers were monitored before and after consumption of different meats). And if the environmental consequences of what we eat is important to you, marla is adapted to this country (sure, populations can explode in some areas at times) whereas sheep and cattle are not friendly to our ecosystem with respect to erosion or greenhouse effects.

So. If you enjoy a tender piece of marla – here’s how to cook it. Btw, this method is recommended for any meat, including seafood.

Incidentally, if you are not overly fond of what can be a strong game flavour in marla that’s near (or past) its use by date, you can mask it effectively by squeezing lime juice over the meat as a marinade. Lemon juice also works but lime is better.

Heat up your oven to 160C and let the fillet or rump come to room temperature. Bake the meat on an oiled tray or sheet for 5-6 minutes and then turn the meat over and bake for another 2 minutes. The best indication of doneness is a meat thermometer and a measurement of 55 to 60C (rare to medium rare) in the middle of the steak but experience will guide you over time. A chef’s trick is to insert a metal skewer to reach the middle of the steak, leave it in for 5 seconds and then pull it out and press the part of the skewer that was in the middle of the steak against your lip. If it is cool, it needs more. Warm and it is done.

There are lots of sites on the temperatures for meat cooking and this site is a good one giving both temperature scales too. Here’s a pic from their site on the doneness of meat:

To finish the cooking, take the steak from the oven and sear just the service side on a hot hotplate or hot skillet to give it a little colour (not to further cook so be quick and with smaller pieces of steak, avoid this step entirely). Take the meat from the heat and leave to rest for a few minutes. Slice across the grain once it’s done.

I use dry seasonings after the marla is cooked as the heat brings out the flavours of the ingredients without burning any volatiles off at the high cooking temperatures. Try Wildfire spice, Aussie Furikake or Red Desert Dust as a simple sprinkling or mix Alpine pepper, Mintbush marinade or Rainforest Rub into a little butter and melt this over the just-cooked meat (as it rests). Marla is also perfect for our Mountain Pepper sauce, Illawarra Plum sauce or make a spectacular jus with our fruit confits:

If you have it, use chicken stock that you save from the pan juices left over from baking chicken. I add a little water to the pan (just before washing it), heat this to lift all the flavour components and pour this liquid into a clean jar. Put the lid on, allow to cool to room temperature and then chill until needed. You can do the same with the pan juices left over from baking the marla or any other red meats too. Before use, remove the layer of fat and use the stock for reduced sauces. This simple process makes flavoursome sauces far better than the stock liquids or powders you get in the supermarket and which are full of salt and chemical flavour enhancers.

Anyway, to make a delicious fruit sauce for the marla, heat chicken (or beef) stock in a saucepan to reduce it to a thick jus (literally, a meat ‘juice’). Add a splash of soy and maybe a little red wine vinegar and red wine. Keep reducing it. I like to use Wild Rosella confit and Quandong confit together and to do this, I take a heaped tablespoonful of Rosella confit, syrup and all and slice the rosella flowers finely. I do the same with a little less of the Quandong confit, slicing each fruit half into thin strips. Once the jus is reduced to a thick liquid, add the prepared confit and any syrup on your cutting board. Serve over the sliced meat sprinkling the fruits over evenly as a garnish.

Vic Cherikoff