Dessert, I always say, is the most important meal of the day. These days it’s apple with custard topped with cashew nuts and raisins. Last month it was custard with plums, and it was cherries in summer. I’ve never actually eaten cherries before – not the fresh kind. As for the plums, I have a vague memory of eating one on a train to somewhere when I was a child. It doesn’t matter – I’m sure Australian blue plums taste much better. Now I’m discovering fruits I’ve never heard of before. Sometime ago, someone gave me a nectarine. The shops are selling tamarillos – fascinating, but I haven’t worked up the nerve to eat one yet.
Tea-times are very important too. I spent months trying to pick a good tea. Call me a tea snob, but I don’t think Australian cafés do tea like I do. I’ve finally settled for Lipton’s black tea – a vast improvement on the boiled water that passes for breakfast tea here. I can do a lot with a Lipton tea bag – cardamom tea, ginger tea, or just…tea.
But what to do for a snack? It’s rather frustrating how almost every cake in an Australian shop is topped with loads of sugary icing. I’m a bit of a cake connoisseur, of the plain cake kind. I’ll eat carrot cakes, apple cakes, Dundee cakes and Madeiras, but you can hold the icing. I’m also a bit appalled at how practically every biscuit in Australia has chocolate cream, chocolate chips or is dipped in chocolate. Australia’s most famous biscuit offering are the sinfully coated Tim Tams. I like my chocolate…as chocolate. I’ve taken to eating ANZAC biscuits out of sheer desperation. No…not really, the ANZAC bikkies are not too bad. I’m getting quite addicted, in fact.
Which brings me to the lamington. If you’re reading this from Mumbai, this word will conjure up visions of a crowded street with computer-gadgety shops. Think instead of jam-filled, chocolate-coated sponge cakes sprinkled with coconut. I bought my first packet of lamingtons the day before I was flying home for Christmas. Then, when the time was right, I produced the packet with a suitably dramatic flourish as “something typically Australian”.
“Lamingtons?” said my mother. “Like the road, you mean?”
I should mention here, that Lamington Road falls very low in my mum’s list of places to visit in Mumbai.
However, after the first bite, Australia’s tea-time snack went down very well with the family. And made me crave lamingtons for a good month after I returned.
So what next? I’m still on my culinary quest for that quintessential Aussie dish. It might well be dessert. I still haven’t figured out what a Pavlova is….