Taking flight – a meal to celebrate new beginnings and a heavenly Lamington recipe

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David and I recently installed the birdcage light I had made and were exceedingly proud of ourselves for being so handy. I appreciate that for most non-useless people out there attaching two wires to a ceiling rose is not difficult. But we are useless. Totally useless. I watched about twelve YouTube videos on how to do this simple task and avoid electrocution, before attempting anything. Three days later I was ready. I turned off all the power. Then double checked that all the power had been turned off. Then I told David that because he was taller he should probably do the actual wire attaching. Ten minutes later, and after a very tentative turning on of the power – there was light. At the same time I also had a flickering of an idea for my new blog post – “Taking Flight”.

I wanted to kick off this blog with a fantabulous meal.  So I settled on some of my favourite recipes against the backdrop of a colourful woodland Taking Flight theme. The table was laid with bird themed plates, jars of all shapes and sizes filled with cut flowers and small woodland birds flying off in all directions.

The meal consisted of 5 whopping courses.

  1. Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Hazelnut Gougeres – courtesy of the amazing vegetarian cookbook by Dennis Cotter – ‘For the love of Food’. The first time I cooked this recipe it completely surprised me. I don’t usually like cauliflower, being one of those few vegetables that falls into the category of “smells nasty whilst being cooked”. But this is sensational.
  2. Parma Ham and Melon – so simple, so classic, so completely delicious. You don’t need a recipe for this. Cut up melon. Open packet of parma ham. Get them both in your gob asap.
  3. Lasagna – David and I recently spent a couple of days in Tuscany and were lucky enough to be taught by proper Italians how to make a proper lasagna (not the Dolmio pasta and cheese sauce recipe I usually make). It was a revelation. It was so good I wanted to bury my face in that tray of pasta Garfield style. I tried to replicate it. My lasagna with, ahem, homemade pasta – was delicious. But it was not as good as the one in Italy. This recipe requires practise. Once I have nailed it – I will let you in on the secret.
  4. Lamb cutlets – oh lordy these were good! This recipe is oh so simple and oh so delicious. I want to share it with you – I really do… and I will in blog post soon.
  5. Lamingtons with an espresso – The Lamingtons are possibly my favourite cakey type thing to eat. Recipe follows below:

Lamingtons (of the most extremely delicious variety)- makes approximately 24

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So I was very surprised to learn that Lamingtons do not appear to be a British thing. A quick Wikipedia search reveals the Lamington to be a dessert of (Kiwis avert your eyes)…..  “Australian origin”. Well I grew up with these in South Africa where they were called Lammetjies and my grandmother made a version that was more delicious than any other I have tasted. The secret is the thick, fudgey sauce which creates a slightly hard coating to the soft ,buttery sponge underneath… drool.

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PS – the sponge recipe below makes quite a dense sponge – more like a madeira cake. The reason I like this sponge is because the dense texture makes it easier to dunk and roll the sponge in the chocolate icing. If however you are more skilled at dunking and rolling sponge by all means opt for a recipe that produces a lighter sponge.

Ingredients:

For the sponge:

4 eggs

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of butter

half a cup of milk

3 cups of flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

a pinch of salt

For the icing:

2 cups of icing sugar

4 -5 tablespoons of cocoa powder

half a cup of water

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups of dessicated coconut

To make the sponge:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 25cm x 25cm cake tin (or something thereabouts).

2. Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and milk and beat until combined.

3. Sift the flower and baking powder and fold into the mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

5. Leave the cake to cool and then cut into squares.

For the icing:

1. Put a large saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter.

2. Once the butter has melted add the water, icing sugar and cocoa. Whisk the mixture to get rid of any lumps.

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3. Bring the mixture to the boil, taking care that it doesn’t boil over. Now if you prefer a slightly stickier icing,  leave the mixture ot boil for about a minute and then take the saucepan off the heat. However, if you would like a fudgey icing then leave the icing on the heat for a few more minutes. You will know the icing is ready either (a) when the icing reaches the soft ball temperature on a sugar thermometer of approximately 118 degrees celsius; or (b) if you don’t have a thermometer, watch the icing which at first will continue to boil and you may need to take it off the heat every now and again to stop it overflowing. But after a few minutes the icing will almost start to collapse of itself, and although still boiling you will notice a distinct change in viscosity – the icing will be a lot thicker and heavier. When it reaches this stage you want to take it off the heat.

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4. Using a pair of tongs, take the squares of cake and give them a good dunk in the icing. Then working quickly roll the iced cake in coconut. Voila – there you have it – Lamingtons!

Lamingtons keep well for at least a week. The joy of the Lamington is that they almost get better with age (up to a point…) as the icing keeps the moisture in the cake, so the sponge doesn’t go dry and crumbly. Joyous.