recipes

Solla Sollew

pavlova

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.

recipes

Pound

Cream cheese pound cake

Pound cake. Just how did this traditional bake come to be named so? Here are my four theories:

  1. From the increment of weight gained per slice consumed.
  2. Where your dog winds up when you are too busy scoffing a slice to remember to close the front gate.
  3. The sum your British mates will offer you for a piece.
  4. The manner in which the neighbourhood children will strike your front door when the freshly baked aroma escapes the kitchen window.

Surprisingly, none of my suggestions come even close. The name originates from the fact that early American pound cakes contained one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Simple to remember, straightforward to prepare and superb to eat. I guess what typifies a pound cake is its density. With no rising agents such as bicarbonate of soda or baking powder added, the resulting crumb is butter rich and firm – so satisfying when you just want to eat a decent whack of cake, nothing ‘fly-away’ about it.

Here in the sunburnt country, our version is known as madeira cake. Not quite as hefty, but certainly as well-loved. I grew-up knowing it to be ‘plain cake’. A slice wrapped in waxed paper tucked in my lunch-box was such a treat, while across in Germany, the school children were unwrapping Eischwerkuchen, and the French, quatre-quarts. So you see, we were all eating an interpretation of the same recipe – just happy kids eating cake.

Today, a serious pound cake was on the agenda, so it was the American region that I turned to – Cream Cheese Pound Cake. So generous in quantity, this recipe allows you to make two. Wrap your second in clingwrap, and that’s the baking done for next week as well. Strawberries are ripening beautifully in our northern states right now, so a punnet was economically converted into sauce to spoon across each slice.

To sum up, a pound cake represents stability. A pound cake made with cream cheese represents moisture-rich stability. A cream cheese pound cake bathed in strawberry sauce represents gluttony.

Pound cake with strawberry sauce

250g butter, softened
250g cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups plain flour
2 tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line two loaf tins.
  2. Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
  4. Add flour and salt in two batches, beating until just combined.
  5. Pour batter evenly into both tins. Tap tins on bench to release air bubbles. Bake for approximately 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Cool in tins for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack.
  7. Slice and serve with strawberry sauce or just as it is!

For the strawberry sauce, hull and slice a punnet of strawberries and place in a small saucepan with two tablespoons of sugar on a low heat. Let them simmer away slowly, keeping a close eye, and shortly you will have softened fruit in a thick juice. Add a splash of water if you need to and maybe whizz with a stick blender if you like your coulis smooth. Serve warm over thick slices of poundy.

a slice of pound cake

Postscript: So robust is this cake, It could easily be dubbed ‘Slab Cake’ and marketed to our tradies…..