How to make a pavlova
Did Pavlova originate in Australia or New Zealand? Who cares! It is delicious and easy to make. Dan Lepard shows you how.
Australia has no shortage of incredible food – the whole country is liberally peppered with world-standard restaurants and innovative cafes steered by imaginative and heartfelt chefs. But, as Australia Day approaches, it's time to break out those uniquely Aussie and occasionally daggy foods that may not be fancy, but they're the ones that care packages from home are made of.
Named after the ballerina Anna Pavlova, the not-this-again, hotly contested debate still rages: are the origins of this iconic dessert from Australia or New Zealand? Whichever side of the ditch you're cheering for, the good old pav still sits proudly on the dinner table. Our plate-sized meringue with its soft centre is classically topped with whipped cream and passionfruit pulp, perhaps kiwifruit and fresh berries, occasionally Peppermint Crisp if you're my Aunty Audrey. A special shout out goes to the Chocolate Ripple Cake, the dessert saviour of all those who can't wrangle a stove.
They're simple but luxurious – two chocolate biscuits sandwiched with chocolate cream and coated in creamy, shiny chocolate for good measure. They landed on our shelves in the early 1960s and their allure refuses to wane with the decades. Go for the classic, available wrapped in milk, dark or white chocolate, or pick up a limited-edition Adriano Zumbo collab in flavours such as Red Velvet and Salted Caramel. Make sure your Australia Day celebrations include a Tim Tam Slam (biting off opposite corners of the biscuit, dunking it in tea or coffee, sucking the drink up through it then scarfing the biscuit before it disintegrates).
Nothing tastes more summery than a ripe mango. When the season comes and you see crates of these hefty nuggets of tropical, fragrant fruit, they evoke visions of the sunny, beachy days just up ahead. Whether you dice and invert a cheek of mango ("hedgehogging") then buck-teeth right into it or chunk some into a salad with Asian herbs, either way it's a prime way of remembering the wonders of Australia's produce.
The recipe for these iconic biscuits was designed to have maximum nutritional value (hence the oats) and to be able to stay fresh on the long sea journeys to reach soldiers in Gallipoli (hence no eggs in the mix). Their lovely, dark flavour comes from using treacle or golden syrup as a binding agent. Bake a batch, store them in a decorative old tin, just like they were sent over in, and spare a thought.
The fish and chip shop dim sim
A far cry from the dainty versions we see nestled in bamboo baskets at a Sunday yum cha session, the good old dimmie, served sweating in a soy-drenched plastic bag, is one of those guilty takeaway pleasures – a baby fist of meat and cabbage wrapped in a thick, wonton skin-like pastry and either steamed (if you want to be sophisticated) or fried (if you're hungover).
Milk bar lollies
Remember when you were a kid and you'd spend far too long ruminating over the local milk bar's mixed lollies, putting together the perfect 20-cent selection of Mates, Pineapples, Strawberries and Cream? Maybe a couple of Musk Sticks, a Wizz Fizz, a Redskin, a White Knight? How about a Choo-Choo Bar? Australian mixed lollies are a whimsical lot and so much fun to revisit. Grab a bag of Allen's Party Mix and make a beeline for the Teeth – you know what to do.
Black coffee and smashed avocado
There are times when you're travelling and the concept of brunch is proving a bust. At that point, all you want is a perfectly brewed long black and some good ol' smashed avocado with mint and lemon on grainy bread. Sure it's become a cafe standard here, ever since Bill Granger started serving it with lime, olive oil and salt at his cafe in 1993, but when you don't have access to it, you realise what a fresh and tasty staple it is. Add a cracking cup of coffee, the kind small Australian roasters make so beautifully, and it's like contemporary Australia at a glance.
It's hard to imagine we were a nation of Marmite lovers, hesitant to change camps when Vegemite came on the scene in the early 1920s. But perseverance from the Fred Walker Company (including a short-lived puntastic name change to Parwill: "If Marmite…then Parwill!") paid off and now that salty, dark spread made from brewer's yeast, packaged in jars with sunny yellow lids and labels, lives in just about every household in the country, adorning white toast and confounding tourists.
We may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but we're a country blessed with a sunny festive season where the afternoon is spent in the surf instead of in slippers. With that comes a bounty of lush, fresh seafood, including sweet, succulent prawns. Whether you like barbecued king prawns livened with a simple squeeze of lemon or a retro prawn cocktail in a glass, they are another wonder of Australia's natural riches.
An enduring, campy classic, this iconic ice-cream has been around since the late 1950s. A centre of vanilla ice-cream, wrapped in toffee ice cream, dipped in chocolate and speckled with biscuit crumbs, it's well worth revisiting. It's also worth noting you can get it in a tub now, too. Special mention has to go to the Pine Lime Splice, a zingier confection of vanilla ice-cream covered in a pineapple and lime ice shell.