I had high hopes for this month’s International Incident Party – the theme was nostalgia.
I mean, I was the one who suggested the theme. I love all things retro, as evidenced in last year’s Foodbuzz 24×24 dinner based on recipes from 1976 Weight Watchers’ recipe cards. It was a gelatin fest to end all gelatin fests. I also happen to own The New Joy of Jello “cookbook” (and yes, those inverted commas are deserved) and I had planned to do a similar type of tasting party for this month’s IIP.
Unfortunately, life got in the way and entering my 4th week of viral nastiness has put a lot of my plans on hold and made me scale back a lot of others. A party of any sorts was not going to be possible. Enter my dad who will often send me snippets of information and articles he thinks I might find interesting from time to time. Just before I got sick, he sent me an article from the Sydney Morning Herald suggesting that food from the 70s is back in vogue after all these years. It’s a wonderful read (most things by Jill Dupleix are) and evoked memories of my sister and I, banished to the bedroom during my parents’ somewhat raucous dinner parties in the 70s, where
we I would jump on the bed and sing into hairbrushes. Sometimes if we were lucky, the other guests would bring their kids too and we would have our own party. There is even audio evidence of one of our parties when we recorded ourselves singing. I have this tape, fortunately for Amanda, Damon and Paul, I have no idea how to convert that to anything digital so no sharing will ever happen. Ever.
My mum threw a mean dinner party. She still does. Her dinners back then always featured exquisite food – well it looked like it at the time. I am sure going back there was probably a plethora of curly parsley garnishes, prawn cocktails and After Dinner Mints. Oh and pewter goblets. Seriously – who EVER thought that was a good idea? Selangor must have made a killing in the 70s with sales of those – at one time the height of chic but again, I ask you – seriously? Still, for us kids, it was excitement all round if we were allowed to come out to say hi to the guests and if we were really lucky we got to fill those pewter goblets for them. Right up to the top. Très classe.
My dish for this Party is inspired by Dupleix’s article. She states that “Bombe Alaska is back on restaurant menus, this time as cute miniatures as at Sydney’s Rockpool.” Wait a minute - how is it that I have never had a Bombe Alaska? I can’t believe that with all mum’s culinary skills she’s never tried them out on one of these. Or perhaps she did and we were just asleep at that point in proceedings – their parties did tend to go on kinda late. So I decided to try my hand at some miniature Bombe Alaskas as my contribution to the Party this month.
I fortunately happened to have some coconut ice cream (recipe below) in the freezer – made by my Grade 6s when we had our Haitian cooking workshop just a few days before I got sick. They were excited to try out my ice cream maker and I was amazed at how focussed they were watching that thing churn. Perhaps I should have that in every class LOL! But I digress!
Said ice cream was pretty solid at this point – am finding that home made ice cream is best if eaten in the first day or so after it’s made (perfect for dinner parties, in fact!) but it worked for me since I was able to cut out tiny squares with no problem. It also meant that the ice cream took longer to melt once cooked which was perfect for photos!
I paired the coconut ice cream with some raspberry jam smeared on tiny tiny rounds of banana loaf. I had bought these for a morning treat (for Neil) and there were a couple left. I sliced one up and cut out tiny rounds with a shot glass. I made four “petit four” sized ones, so two normal sized ones. Normally I would use my mum’s banana cake recipe if I were to make from scratch and should you wish to not be a cheat and make this from scratch, I have provided the recipe below as well) I froze the cake/ jam/ ice cream bundles for a couple of hours and took them out just before I slathered them with the meringue.
(see how well the coconut ice cream cooperated for me!)
3/4 cup sugar
125g butter, softened
1 tspn vanilla essence
2 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1 1/2 cups self raising (cake and pastry flour)
1/4 tspn baking soda
1/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2-inch pan and dust with flour.
Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Add in eggs, one at a time ad beat well to combine.
Add bananas to the batter.
Sift the flour and baking soda into the batter, then stir in the buttermilk.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. The loaf will be golden brown on top and a skewer inserted in the centre will come out clean.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cake cooler.
Coconut Ice cream
1 cup milk
1 can coconut milk (shake the can to combine the solid and liquids)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (35 %)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut
Combine the milk and coconut milk and mix thoroughly. Stir in the cream and coconut.
Pour into the container of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Freeze overnight for a solid, easy to work with ice cream. If you’re just eating it you can just freeze for 1-2 hours.
Mini Bombe Alaskas
Ingredients (for about 6)
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg white
Preheat oven to 200 °C or 400 °F.
Beat the egg white to soft peaks with a stand mixer or electric beaters.
Gradually add the sugar, beating well after each addition until the mixture is glossy and thick – it shouldn’t be too runny otherwise you will have a huge mess in the oven and afterwards. Ahem.
Place the meringue mix into a piping bag with a fairly small opening.
Place the rounds of cake/jam/ice cream onto baking sheets lined with greased parchment paper.
Working quickly, pipe meringue around the cake rounds, starting at the bottom and ending on top. Try to make a “peak” with the egg white.
Bake for 4-5 minutes until the meringue is lightly golden on top.
Working quickly again, use a flat spatula to remove Alaskas from the baking tray.
I served mine atop a raspberry coulis but feel free to serve with whipped cream and fruit or another fruit sauce, depending on the flavours inside your meringue.
And the result?
I will be honest here and tell you that this is the only one that worked out properly. I first tried slathering the cake rounds with the meringue using a tiny spatula which was a total disaster. Fortunately, I had an inkling this recipe would not be without its mishaps and had saved one cake round in the freezer. With that last one, I tried piping the meringue around the cake round which was so much easier, and, thankfully, worked! I even got a tiny “peak” atop my meringue!
So here’s the thing. I spent a long time taking these photos (no it doesn’t look like it but have you ever tried to take photos with major vertigo? It feels like you’ve had a few drinks and are on a boat. Welcome to my life right now) and only dug into this about 40 minutes after it came out of the oven. It was surprisingly, really good – the meringue was a nice fluffy consistency and the ice cream had not finished melting but had melted enough to soak the cake layer, infusing the banana loaf with coconut flavour. I was suprised how well it stood up to the time factor since when I was baking it, I was thinking how much this would suck to make for a dinner party since you would be stuck in the kitchen (at the end of the dinner) making these à la minute. I think because my ice cream was so solid and I froze the little cake/jam/ice cream bundles for a while, it helped the dessert stand the time test better so it could sit around for a while before being eaten.
The beauty of this dish? If you already have all your components ready to go, it hardly takes any time at all – 5 minutes beating the egg whites, 5 minutes covering the cake rounds with meringue and 5 minutes to bake. Nice.
Would I make them again? I think I would. I am, after all, a child of the 70s!
I had not actually planned to eat the entire thing (actually it was really tiny) but it went very well with an afternoon coffee. Followed by a long nap. You’ll excuse me, right? I find that if someone has to have a nap at your party, it’s the sign of a good one. Check out what everyone else brought to the party below: