It’s not until you’re far away from home, that you begin to notice (and miss) all the little things: the sound of cicadas at night; the heavy heat that fills the day and doesn’t diffuse ’til dusk; the sound of kookaburras laughing at the sunrise, their chortles bursting happily from their feathery, puffed-up chests. It wasn’t until Australia Day rolled around (26 January) that I really began to miss home.
I saw friends uploading photos of barbecues on the beach, and felt pangs of jealousy. Back home, I lived ten minutes away from the beach, and I used to run down there whenever I needed to clear my head. There’s something incredibly soothing about staring out at the vast expanse of sea and sky; shades of blue melting into one. Seeing the edge of the earth makes you feel so incredibly small and insignificant; suddenly the thoughts and worries that gripped you all day loosen their grasp and float away with the tide. I would flop onto my back, staring up at the cerulean dome of sky, digging my toes into never-ending sandy softness. I loved being surrounded by more grains of sand than I could count; cupping them in my hand and watching them drift softly down, like time stood still.
I miss everything about Sydney. The heat, the humidity. Long summers and lazy breakfasts. Tropical fruit smoothies and fresh sushi. Eating breakfast at cafés on the water; feeling the breeze delicately lift wisps of hair while I’m enjoying my morning coffee. I miss finding sand in every shoe and nook and cranny. I miss cold mangoes and melted Tim Tams.
Luckily for me, I found an amazing recipe for a Tim Tam cake on the interwebs. I figured, why have just one Tim Tam, when I could have one giant Tim Tam? So I got some friends around (needed an excuse to buy that much chocolate and butter) and celebrated Oz Day in true Aussie style – with Tim Tams, lamingtons and pavlova.
The Tim Tam cake was quite a process. The first step was getting 4 blocks of chocolate through the checkout without getting judgmental looks. Having arrived safely home, I set about preparing the chocolate sponge. Butter, sugar, 3 eggs (added individually, mixing in-between), flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, milk and water. While it was baking in the oven, I made the chocolate ganache by bringing cream to the boil (that bubbles quickly, let me tell you) and pouring it over 400g of chopped chocolate, pouring and cooling the mixture until thick and luscious. The Tim Tam filling was made with butter, icing sugar, malted milk powder, milk and crushed Tim Tams. The trickiest part of the whole cake was cutting the sponge in clean, equal halves without breaking it. My sponge broke in a few places while I was trying to slice it. Let’s just say that the ganache covers a multitude of sins.
At any rate, it brought back wonderful Tim Tam memories of home. The Tim Tam you have after a big workout, sitting at your desk, legs aching, still hot from the shower, and you sink your teeth into it for instant happiness. Or the Tim Tam you have in the office kitchen, leaning against the counter, stealing a few minutes of stress-free time away from your desk, or over a mug of hot coffee while your friend tells you her latest boy story. There’s a Tim Tam for every occasion.
The next thing on my agenda was lamingtons. I’d never made them before; but I have distinct memories of my mum calling my name from the kitchen, asking if I wanted to watch her dunk the little cubes of sponge into their chocolate and coconut baths. The process always fascinated me; I could’ve watched her for hours. This time it was my turn. Man, is it messy! It’s fine, if you’re a finger-licker, but unfortunately I can’t bring myself to lick anything while baking. The dirtiest bowl, dripping in melted chocolate, can’t tempt me. For some strange reason, I have a complete aversion to tasting anything until the end product. To me, the act of baking feels like an incredibly delicate and fragile task, and I don’t want to diminish the magic of that process by taking a taster break.
Oooh naked lamingtons. Where are their chocolate clothes??
By the end of the night, I was a very happy little Vegemite! Perhaps because I also managed to sneak some Fairy Bread onto the scene …
As I quickly found out, eating white bread with butter and sprinkles is not a thing that kids do in other parts of the world; as suggested by the quizzical looks on my friends’ faces when I tried to explain what fairy bread was. Well, I guess that’s just another reason why Aussie kids have it good.
Happy Australia Day everyone!