Solla Sollew


There are spells of time frequently described these days as ‘the zone’. Living in a delightful, even exhilarating parallel universe, is often cited as ‘being in the zone’. Runners coin it and psychologists advise of its pursuit during times of anxiety. Many shake their heads despondently, thinking it unachievable. Not so, every one of us has been there, long before it held its modern-psycho title and simply didn’t recognise it for what it was.

As you sat as a child before a reader, who filled your auditory canals with text, and your visuals with correlating  illustration, your very being travelled to another realm. Objects in the room around you dissolved like Max’s bedroom, where vines grew in it’s place. The reader no longer visible, only fascinating words and intriguing pictures feeding a hungry imagination. And once the story reached its conclusion, only then did you become aware of your delicious absence – some glorious time away like the Pevensie children’s journey to Narnia via the wardrobe’s rear. You were lost (happily) in a book.

Even now, as grown beings, we still disappear into narrative, and how wonderful it is not only to make the excursion, but to reflect on it afterward and will others to do the same, pressing your copy urgently into their hands.

I recall with great clarity, the post-lunch summer afternoon I sat cross-legged as a six-year-old, on a timber classroom floor and made the tumultuous journey to ‘the City of Solla Sollew, on the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo, where they never have troubles! At least, very few’.

Solla Sollew

So absorbed was I by the magic of this tale, that when the teacher closed the covers, I could swear I had just scampered across that exquisite pink bridge and onward to that place of wonder. Even now, when I recall that tale, my memory of Solla Sollew is one of delight. Living in a land of sunshine and colour, smiles and sweetness. And of course snoozing on those billowy pillows …

billowy pillows

Quite marshmallowey don’t you think? Yes, this utopian land I am convinced, is inhabited by Solla Sollewians who dine exclusively on pavlova. What more fitting a dish for this decadent town could there be? Brittle shards of crispy meringue offset with the spongy sweet centre. Topped with rich fresh cream, fragrant banana,  strawberries and a passionfruit tang following through. Make yours on a day when time needs no measure – there is plenty of beating and mixing to be done and of course with the mix-master whirring and the sugar sprinkling definitely an opportunity to get into the zone.

4-5 egg whites at room temperature (or enough to reach 150ml)
1 cup caster sugar
1 tspn white vinegar
small container of thickened cream
1 small banana
2 passionfruit
approx 6 strawberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  3. Beat the sugar in, 1 tablespoonful at a time and beat well between each addition to ensure it dissolves into the egg whites.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 6 minutes.
  5. Add the vinegar and beat for a further 2 minutes.
  6. Draw an 18 cm circle on baking paper and lay on a flat tray.
  7. Pile the meringue mixture inside the circle – heap it up.
  8. Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 120 degrees celsius.
  9. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Leave in the oven to cool with the door open.
  11. When cold top the meringue shell with cream, thinly sliced banana and strawberries, then drizzle passionfruit across it all.

fruit topped pavlova

Postscript: Pavlovas and Solla Sollewians aside, I owe a great deal to Dr Seuss for the enchanting itineraries he devised for me through his pen.



Apple crumble basics

Each of us carries through life a mental collection of recipes (size of which depends on age, experience or inclination) that can be executed by heart without reference to text or screen. These are the dietary life-lines that we draw upon in times of pantry shortage, time paucity or sheer lack of energy and inspiration. Normally consisting of a handful of basic ingredients, these dishes come together quickly and are reliably enjoyed by all and sundry. When a dessert situation such as this arises in our kitchen, and I need to draw on my cerebral spirax, my only requirements are an apple tree and a passionfruit vine….

Fruit crumbles are the simplest and most cost-effective way of getting a hot caramelised sweet onto the winter table. Throughout the coldest months, the fruit selection pales beside it’s summer sisters, but the offerings are perfect for baked puddings. Apples, pears, rhubarb and frozen berries stew beautifully under the crisp, oaty crumble blankets.

The topping constituents will already be in your pantry and I daresay your fruit bowl or crisper will contain the rest. So toss it all together before dinner and as you sit down to eat, slide it into the oven. By the time you are ready to land for the evening with that well-earned cup of tea, the crumble will have cooled just nicely to scoop and devour.

This apple and passionfruit crumble is a great one to commit to memory, for your next kitchen question mark.

apple and passionfruit crumble

5 – 6 medium apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
4-5 passionfruit
1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
60g chilled butter, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine apples, passionfruit, and white sugar. Spoon this combination into a baking dish.
  3. To make topping, combine topping ingredients in a bowl and rub butter into the mix until it all resembles the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  4. Sprinkle the topping mix over the apple mix and bake for 30-35 minutes or until topping is crisp and browned and the fruit is bubbling.
  5. Serve with cream or vanilla ice-cream.

apple crumble and ice cream

Postscript: passionfruit are at a premium right now, so subtracted, you will enjoy a lovely apple crumble, but added, it will be superb!



Not sure about you, but anything custardy really takes my fancy.

Vanilla slices, tarts, croissants and buns all plump with custard, beckon whenever I pass a bakery window. Even a simply produced stove top pouring custard can add a whole new dimension to a slice of cake nearing its ‘best before’. Indeed, custard ladled over any pudding gets the thumbs up from me.

Passionfruit Custard Slice is a true culinary treat – the passionfruit tang harmonises perfectly with the creamy filling. Add to it the nice crisp crunch of the base, and to coin Jamie Oliver, it will brighten up your life.

The foundation of the slice consists of lattice biscuits – not to be confused with the lattice from this post. (Buried in the deep recesses of my memory, I can recall as a child, my auntie serving these biscuits as a dessert smothered in hot stewed rhubarb and cream). Do you have a lattice biscuit memory?

Piled up on your prettiest serving plate, these slices are the perfect accompaniment to rich coffee, warm friends and hot gossip.

1 packet Arnott’s Lattice biscuits
1/3 cup custard powder
2 cups milk
1/4 cup castor sugar
2 cups icing sugar
pulp of 2-3 passionfruit (dependent on how juicy yours are)

  1. Lay 9 biscuits on the base of a tray (in 3×3 rows) lined with baking paper.
  2. In a saucepan, mix custard powder with 1/4 cup of the milk until it is completely blended.
  3. Add the rest of the milk and the sugar and stir over a medium heat until the custard comes to the boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
  4. Leave custard to cool slightly with plastic wrap over the top to stop skin forming.
  5. Pour warm custard over the biscuits and arrange another 9 biscuit layer over the top.
  6. Refrigerate until set (approx 1 hour).
  7. Sift icing sugar into a bowl and add passionfruit pulp a spoonful at a time, mixing well. Icing needs to be thick rather than runny so it sets well on top. Spread icing over the top biscuit layer and refrigerate until icing has set.
  8. Cut into squares using the shape of the biscuits as your guide. Makes 9

Postscript: …or in bed with a cup of tea and a magazine.