From down here in the Southern Hemisphere it sometimes feels like life's one long party North of the equator.
Pancake Day, Bonfire Night and St Patrick's Day... it's a case of so many celebrations, so little time in my adopted (UK) home. Meanwhile, here in Australia, we have precious few opportunities to break out the balloons, crack open the fireworks and par-tay!
Well, today is Australia's national day, cunningly entitled 'Australia Day' in my homeland. It's the day we celebrate all things Green and Gold: slipping on thongs (not flip flops!), putting on our sunnies (sunglasses), drinking from tinnies (cans) and swatting the blowies (blowflies!) Ahhh summer in Oz!
Australia Day is the time to crank up the Barbie (barbeque) and throw a snag on it (a sausage - of the vegetarian variety if you're me)!
Australia has no shortage of national dishes; the aforementioned Barbie – snags, prawns, calamari, you name it – not to mention pavlova: a towering concoction of meringue, whipped cream and fruit finished off with seductive passion fruit and named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pávlova. Yummy.
My personal favourite is the Lamington. I grew up eating these and whenever I indulge they bring the childhood memories flooding back.
Lamingtons are rectangular cubes of (usually vanilla) sponge cake coated with chocolate frosting, rolled in desiccated coconut; they are sometimes sliced lengthways and sandwiched with an ooze of cream or strawberry jam. There is an Uh-Mayzing shop called Luscious Affairs near me in Melbourne and they make the BEST Lamingtons with chocolate sponge. I've never had fully chocolate ones anywhere else so they're pretty special.
To help me share Australia Day with you here's my favourite Lamington recipe - I can't remember where I picked it up but it gives fabulous results! Time to get baking...
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
2 (8 ounce) packages flaked coconut
1 jar of your favourite jam
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8x12 inch rectangular baking tin.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and put them to one side.
3. Cream together the 1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar and the vanilla in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well as each is added. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well.
4. Pour batter into the prepared baking tin and bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool. Store overnight to allow cake to firm up prior to icing.
5. For icing mix confectioners' sugar and cocoa in a large bowl. Heat milk and 2 teaspoons butter until butter melts. Add the milk to the sugar mixture and mix well to create a loose, but not runny, icing.
6. To ice, cut cake into 24 squares. Slice each square lengthways and spread with your favourite jam (or use a thin skim of cream if you prefer). Place coconut in a shallow container. Dip each square into the icing in the bowl, then roll it in the coconut and sit it on the rack to dry. The Lamingtons will drip so place a sheet of baking paper under the rack to catch any spillage.
Footnote: Check out the divine Luscious Affairs at www.lusciousaffairs.com.au and if you're reading this in Australia and need a bit of guidance in the kitchen, check out their fantastic cooking school and catering company.