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.
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
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.
NOTES: I made this in 2018 and accidentally put the butter with the condensed milk so I melted them together and it was quite hot when I added the liquid to the biscuits and coconut. This was not ideal - a bit more mushy than usual but edible. I took some photos and have replaced some of the original ones with my photos of the finger shaped bars.
On the stereo:
Propaganda ‘900: J Orphic and Jorvalla