This question, which seems to come up a fair bit, stumps me every time. At the very least, it leaves me scrambling for dishes that do not in any way resemble other cuisines (I mean, tacos. lasagne. pesto pasta).
Sausage sizzle. But thats just a sausage, bread and onion if you’re getting fancy.
Roast? yeah if you’re feeding a family. And have money.
Shrimp on the barbie? Please someone tell me WHO DOES THAT.
So that leaves me with the good ol’ Lamingtons and Anzac Biscuits.
Now. “huh” moment of attempting Australian food in France: coconut in all its forms is easily accessible in Australia. But goodness, trying to find coconut in a French supermarket was not. that. easy. So off then to find Golden Syrup. Not a thing. Oats. Not a thing. Australians: Appreciate those Anzac biscuits. There is actually nothing quite like them anywhere else in the world.
Here’s the fun thing about baking Australian food in France. Try to explain what a Lamington is. “So you bake a sponge.” What’s a sponge. “Ok. So you bake a cake. Chop into squares, roll in chocolate and roll in coconut”. So its like a muffin. “no… its a cake rolled in chocolate rolled in coconut”. Due to the size of Australian Lamingtons, this is also known as a complete meal in France.
Here’s the second fun thing about baking Australian food in France. For food that we would class as typically Australian, it seems I have only a vague notion of the origins. I mean, sure we sent Anzacs to our troops because of rations and their ability to transported, but who in all heck knows why Lamingtons were created. But thats the thing. In Australia, they are just another food. But here, people look at these desserts and ask why on earth they became so popular. I swear I am learning so much more about Australia now that I am in France.
So here’s some history for you. Of the food kind.
Lamingtons. 1900. July 21st: National Lamington Day (yup thats a thing).
The story behind the Lamington is actually pretty contested. Some say it was a kitchen maid who dropped a cake, others suggest a QLD cooking teacher created the dessert. However, the most solid story goes like this: Brisbane Governor Charles Cochrane-Baillie, 2nd Baron of Lamington and his wife Lady Lamington hold a party at his country house in Toowoomba. Chef Gallad (French), in an effort to create a novel high tea, dips some left-over sponge in chocolate sauce, then coconut. Boom. Everyone is impressed, ladies ask for the recipe and only a month later, the recipe is published in the Queensland Ladies Home Journal, as ‘Lady Lamington’s Chocolate-Coconut Cake’. Which in true Australian form was shortened to the Lamington.
a) the chef who created it was French. Good one Straya.
b) he didn’t even get the credit. Well played Lady Lamington. Well. played.
ANZAC biscuits. 1915. April 25th: ANZAC day commemorates the anniversary of the landing of ANZAC troops at Gallipoli.
Born of a problem – any food sent to troops by concerned loved ones had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of 2 months. Based on a Scottish oat biscuit recipe, all ingredients do not readily spoil, especially when airtight Billy Tea tins were used as packaging. A lack of eggs due to bulk poultry farmers joining the services led to treacle or golden syrup being used as the binder. First named ‘Soldier’s Biscuits’, they were renamed after the landing on Gallipoli. By WW2, refrigeration on merchant navy ships was a thing. This enabled a greater variety of food to be sent, such as fruitcake.
Side-note: someone suggested that I add cinnamon to them to make the Christmassy. Back off lady. Anzacs stay the way they are.
Lamingtons are fiddly and messy to make, but oh-so-fun to do with kids. And the best thing about Anzacs is that you always seem to have the ingredients in your cupboard. Either way, I’m pretty proud of these delicious snacks. Cheers Australia.