the tiger pizza
If I had to pick a food that truly represented Australia it would just have to be Vegemite. I used to think that you really had to grow up with it to even contemplate that it may be suitable for human consumption and had given up even thinking about trying to convert new comers to the Vegemite way. But a few weeks ago, without even intending to, I managed to get not one, but two Irishmen to eat and actually enjoy it.
Now as those of you who’ve been following stonesoup for a while will know, I whole heartedly subscribe to the Jeffrey Steingarten school of thought when it comes to food dislikes. This is the theory that if you expose yourself to a particular food at least ten times with an open mind that you’ll actually change your opinion of the food in question. And speaking from experience, with my quest to conquer my dislike of bananas, it well and truly works.
If I had been crazy enough to be wanting to turn an Irishman into a Vegemite lover, I guess I would have attempted to employ the Steingarten method, but on this occasion all it took was the suggestion of a 2 Â½ year old. Now the child in question is a gorgeous young shoe-loving lass called Ruby. And when Ruby was asked what she’d like to have on her pizza, she thought about it for a few minutes and then decided upon Vegemite and tomato sauce.
As the pizza chef, I knew exactly what Ruby would really love and took inspiration from a dish I had heard of in legend, but never exactly tried it for myself: tiger toast. When I was first exposed to the concept of having stripes of vegemite and melted cheese on toast from an old family friend, I had thought it was a brilliant idea and was so impressed with Georgio for dreaming up such a treat.
That was until recently when I saw a billboard advertisement for the Vegemite census where anyone can nominate how they prefer their Vegemite. You wouldn’t read about it but the tiger toaster is one of the options along with the streaker, the wormer, the redback (Vegemite on toast with fresh tomato) and my flatmate Kate’s favourite combo: Vege with avocado.
But back to Ruby, it was a chilly Monday evening when the Curmi O’Shea family came over to Darling Point for a bit of Pizza Love and the tiger pizza was the first cab off the rank. Rather than risking burning the Vegemite, I decided to cook the pizza with a simple topping of freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil and then streak on the tiger Vegemite stripes.
It looked pretty enough, and I guess curiosity got the better of the adults because soon everyone was trying a tiny slice of Ruby’s pizza. And while I was expecting the likes to dislikes being divided along the lines of country of birth, I was pleasantly surprised. The golden melted cheese not only tasted good, it tasted amazing with the salty yeastiness of the Vegemite enhancing the cheesy goodness to the point of bringing out lovely complex smoky bacon aromas. We’re talking pizza alchemy here with the whole being so much more than the sum of the parts and with two Irish converts who had done the backflip from hater to fan all in the space of a sliceâ€¦all good things.
No recipe required this week. And please don’t feel like you need to go to the effort of making your own pizza to enjoy the phenomenon that is the tiger. A generous handful of freshly grated parmesan grilled until golden on your choice of toast, then spread sparingly with Vegemite stripes and you’re eating like a true Aussie.