Friday, 2 July 2010

Lemon Slice and some Nostalgia

It has been another of those weeks. Ill health, new speed restrictions on Sydney Road, and an expired parking permit have all been sent to try me. Fortunately I have had lemon slice to cheer me up. This is another of my childhood slices that immerses me in nostalgia.

I am not usually interested in sweet lemon recipes. When my mum made lemon pudding or lemon meringue pie when I was little I went without dessert. When lemon tart is brought to morning tea at work I find it easy to refuse. But when lemon juice meets the magic of condensed milk and marie biscuits in lemon slice, I must have a piece.

Like hedgehog and chocolate caramel slice, lemon slice is a classic Australian slice that every housewife made when I was growing up. I think it was the favourite of my oldest sister. They were often found in cake stalls, church fetes and biscuit bins. It harks back to a time when everyone had a lemon tree in their backyard. It was easy enough for kids to help out with making it. Today you will find lemon slice in cafes but all too often it is cut into monstrously large slabs that have dried out in the display cabinet and don't resemble the slice that I grew up with.

I made a batch of lemon slice last year and intended to blog it but I misread the recipe. Instead of adding half a tin of condensed milk, I added a full tin. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why it was so gooey. I had made it take to meet up with some other mothers and was a bit embarrassed at it. They loved it. After all, you can never have too much condensed milk.

This week I made lemon slice when I was at home with Sylvia because she was too sick to go to child care. We had plenty of lemons on the tree and I thought lemon might be good for our colds. E loved it last time. Sylvia was quite interested in watching me crushing the marie biscuits and helped by sampling a small piece of biscuit or two. I didn’t have much time. By the time I was mixing it together I was racing to get it in the tin because she was so grizzly. So I can tell you it comes together in a flash with no baking.

I found the freshly made slice quite sharp with the lemon juice, perhaps because the last time I had double the condensed milk. This slice goes against a lot of my preferences. Not only does it have a predominant lemon flavour but it needed icing (frosting) and was better for firming up in the fridge. The icing took the edge off the lemon. The contrast of the smooth buttery slightly sour biscuit with the tooth-achingly sweet pastiness of the icing and the slight crunch of the coconut is just right.

For those wondering where the recipe came from, I cannot say. It went into my sweet recipes notebook many years ago when my handwriting was neater and my waistline slimmer. I assume I got the recipe from my mum. After all she has been making it all my life. I have written up what I did for the icing but my mother would never be so precise.

Nostalgia never goes out of fashion but lately it has seemed to be the dish of the day. Here are a few nostalgia trips I have seen recently:
  • My personal favourite is the competition at Big M for voting for revisiting past flavours. I never drink flavoured milk like Big M but I have fond memories of my dad jumping on a Big M carton and of how popular blueberry Big M was at primary school, even though personally I though it tasted like dishwashing liquid.
  • I can’t mention nostalgia without reference to MasterChef on Wednesday where the teams botched their challenge of baking traditional Australian recipes for the CWA ladies. I felt smug that I can bake the scones and fruitcake, and have made lamingtons with my mum (should blog them someday). As for the Neapolitan cake, I haven’t made one with the coloured layers but I can make a butter cake.
  • Some people seem nostalgic for the good old days when apparently everyone was married with kids. Our new Prime Minister is not only female but also childless and living in a de facto relationship. My angriest moments this week were over Bettina Arndt’s rant about this de facto relationship being a bad influence. According to this article, it seems you still aren’t allowed to choose career over children, even when your career takes you into the most powerful position in the country! Betina Arndt needs to spend more time baking scones! (I'll refer you to Myf Warhurst's response if you want to read more.)
  • Last night I read a beautifully-written post by Kim at Affairs of Living about her life long love affair with rhubarb that comes from her family’s nurturing of some of the best local rhuabarb plants. She writes “I love knowing that my great-grandparents ate rhubarb pies made from these same plants. … It is almost like great-grandma is right there with me when I'm picking a stalk.”
  • Finally we are experiencing the coldest wettest winter for the first time in years.This morning on the radio, Jon Faine was talking about covering up his frangipani tree with a garbage bag to protect it from frost.I so rarely hear anyone preparing for frosts these days but it reminds me of my mother trying to protect her young jacaranda plants from the frost when I was little.
I am sending this post to Anh from A Food Lovers Journey who is hosting this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging (#240). This event highlights uses of fruit, vegetables, herbs and seeds around the blogosphere and it is coordinated by Haalo and was founded by Kalyn.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: A Tale of Carrot and Feta Dip
This time two years ago:
Sparkles the Rabbit Cake
This time three years ago:
The Worcestershire Sauce Puzzle

Lemon Slice
from my mum

1 packet (250g) marie biscuits
½ cup (90g) coconut
½ tin (400g tin) of condensed milk
125g butter, melted
juice of 1 lemon

Lemon Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp softened butter
extra coconut for sprinkling

Line a slice tin (about 18 x 28cm) with greaseproof paper. I didn’t worry about greasing the bits untouched by paper because there is so much butter in the slice.

Crush marie biscuits – I used a rolling pin and then the bottom of a drinking glass to bash the biscuits about in a large mixing bowl. You want a few small chunks and a lot of finely crushed crumb. Mix with coconut. Pour in condensed milk, butter and lemon juice and stir until combined. Scrape the mixture into prepared tin and smooth with the back of a spoon.

Make icing by mixing icing sugar, lemon juice and butter with a few dribbles of hot water (between 1-2 tablespoons). Adjust ingredients slightly, if necessary, until you are happy with the taste and spreading consistency. Spread icing over slice and sprinkle generously with extra coconut.

Place slice in fridge to firm up. Cut into squares or bars and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

On the stereo:
Propaganda ‘900: J Orphic and Jorvalla

15 comments:

  1. Oh, I do like the sound of this Johanna. Unlike yourself I love lemon, so this is a must-try for me :)

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  2. That Bettina Ardnt article was infuriating! Now she doesn't deserve a slice of this ;)

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  3. Okay, I promise not to make my Lemon Delicious when (I'm thinking positively - "when") you come visit Canberra :D

    That Masterchef episode was hilarious, wasn't it? How on earth could they be so lacking in basic skills? As my Dad texted me, they ought to spend "less time on foams, more on basics". :P

    Don't even get me STARTED about that Bettina Ardnt article. BA are her initials? More like BS. Grr!

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  4. Reminds me of my childhood Johanna. My daughters love this slice - not that I make it often. Delicious!

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  5. Thanks Jacqueline - if you love lemon you will love this

    Thanks Lorraine - agree wholeheartedly

    Thanks Hannah - when I come to canberra I will be on a mission to find your stash of amazing chocolates - and yes the masterchef episode was funny - I know what skills I would prefer to have

    Thanks Ann - I don't make it often either but I should

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  6. oh I want to veganise this!!! yum yum!

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  7. I'd love this - I am a citrus and a condensed milk fan. Id on't think I have ever had this particular slice, so a new one is always welcome.

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  8. Just lovely, Johanna! I have been thinking of lemon slice, too!

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  9. thanks carla - saw cindy mentioning that there was soy condensed milk at the new veg place near the vic market and thought of this slice - would love to see how you go if you do give it a vegan makeover

    Thanks cakelaw - funny how some things seem to be so old hat that everyone must know them and blogging always makes me realise that my world is not everyone else's world - hope you try it - you would love it

    Thanks Anh - lemon slice is a lovely slice to contemplate - I think of it often

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  10. Lemons on your lemon tree - sigh! The slice sounds really good - I like lemons. Hadn't heard a great deal about your new PM, other than she is a woman.

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  11. Sorry to hear you weren't feeling well! Hope the lemon slice cheered you up. Interesting to learn about some of the nostalgia over there--and amazed at the criticism of your PM! But how very cool that she got elected in the first place, no? :)

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  12. I actually really love lemon flavored desserts, especially when paired with coconuts! I'm sorry you haven't been feeling well...hope you're doing better!

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  13. It's really interesting that you don't like lemon tart but you do like lemon slice! I've always loved lemon desserts. Now I have another one to try out! I love old family recipes.

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  14. Thanks Choclette - lemons on the tree are much better than lemons hidden by Sylvia - sigh!

    Thanks Ricki - actually there is a lot of controversy about the way our PM came to power - she wasn't elected but challenged the sitting prime minister to the leadership of the party - but we have an election coming soon so we are all agog to see how she does

    Thanks Joanne - we are a bit better - I am sure the lemon helped - it is medicinal isn't it?

    Thanks Ashley - I tried some lemon cake last week and just lost interest - but just love this slice despite rather than because of the lemon

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  15. I have been making this from an Alison Holst book for years! Yum :)

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