Tag Archives: Australia

Tiramisu / lamington-misu

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the odd but great things that has happened to me over the last year or so is that I’ve started liking almost all of the foods that I used to dislike and avoid. One of the most significant epiphanies was on eating my Uncle Mario’s superlative tiramisu. I not only started liking this dessert, I became positively obsessed with it.

So for my last birthday, spent in Italy, I asked Mario if he would make a tiramisu for me. In the end he not only made it, but taught me how it is done – such a perfect birthday present for someone like me!

Me receiving wisdom

The really genius part of this tiramisu recipe is the zabaglione. Cooking the egg yolks makes the cream so much more significant somehow: the flavour is much more complex and the texture much lighter. Other non-negotiables for this recipe are good coffee (preferably espresso) and high-quality savoiardi. The soft savoiardi that Mario uses were a revelation and I’ve been able to track some down here down under.

The final part of my story for today is set in Australia, because yesterday was Australia Day, which means compulsory barbequing and eating in this part of the world. When I was thinking about what to take to the event we went to I was split between making a tiramisu and the urge to do something with an Australian theme. I eventually had my second epiphany associated with this dessert and decided to make a lamington-misu.


This was a fairly straight variation on the main recipe, using lamington fingers instead of savoiardi and skipping the cocoa layers (as the lamingtons already have chocolate icing). It was good fun, tasted good and was a great gimmick for our national day, but I have to say the classic beats my experimental version every day!

Tiramisu – the superlative classic version as taught by Mario

120g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons Marsala or Amaretto
500g Mascarpone
500ml-ish fresh coffee, sweetened to taste
Cocoa (pure, no sugar)
400g-ish Savoiardi biscuits (weight needed will depend on the size of the biscuits, your dish etc etc. The soft ‘morbidi’ version are far superior to the dried)

1. First make a zabaglione. In a heatproof bowl mix the 4 egg yolks with 60g sugar and the Marsala/Amaretto. Set the bowl tightly over a pot of simmering water and whisk like crazy until the eggs become a light colour and foamy. It’s ready when the consistency is like pouring custard and there is no raw egg taste.

2. Quickly mix the zabaglione with the mascarpone.

Mascarpone + zabaglione = pure delight

3. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy, then add the other 60g sugar until you have soft peaks. Gently combine the mascarpone and the egg whites. This is your heavenly cream mixture.

4. Get yourself organised with: a large serving dish; a shallow dish for dipping the biscuits in coffee; the cocoa and a sieve.

5. Dip the savoiardi into the coffee and turn then add to your serving dish until you have one layer of biscuits. Spread a layer of the cream mix over the top and then add a thorough dusting of cocoa. Repeat this in layers until you finish with cocoa on top – three full layers is a good guide to aim for.


life is like an almond tree (at the moment anyway)

Well then.

It’s been a while.

Life has rather emphatically resumed, and blogging and its associated delights have been pushed aside by an influx of real work.

For the first time in over a month I’ve had the time to take a deep breath and think about writing. Since it’s been such a while I though I might get this show back on the road with a little autobiographical aside, a bit of back-story covering the last month or so.

When I came home to Australia I had a plan. Back to university full-time. Six months of income support from The Man and then onto a research scholarship (these are awarded once a year and I’ve missed the round for 2011).

Unfortunately The Man is a philistine and didn’t want to support me in my endeavors to spread the light of learning and enquiry. End result, I had to get a job.

Two weeks after getting home I was ‘back in black’ ‘workin nine-to-five’, and other song references. I was also spending 3 hours a day commuting from the farm to the office. Spare time was taken up with house hunting and looking for a continuing job. Time passed, or rather raced.

Last week everything changed again, as Andrew and I moved into our own house, he started university again, and I started a new job at one of the local universities. I’m now working part-time, am poised and ready to submit my Masters application and life is getting back onto the planned track.

With a more forgiving work schedule I’m now hoping – no definitely planning – on having more time to get blogging again – I mean I’ve barely been cooking over the last two months. I’m also hoping that getting back into research will provide some good topics to mull over in this space.

I’m writing all of this back at the farm (we’re having the internet connected at the flat tomorrow) and I’m current sitting in the middle of ten acres of blossoming almond trees. They’ve been bare and quiet all winter, leaves and fruit both shed in the autumn. Suddenly though, everything is happening, as they burst into flower in preparation for next year’s harvest – I think you see the metaphor!

So, that’s it really. My life to this point, from another point a few months ago, and illustrated with photos and metaphors from the farm in bloom.

I hope – no intend – to see you soon!


a continent of migrant stories

This post first appeared on www.crikey.com.au

Australia is a country of migrants, with an exciting mix of cultures and peoples that enriches our society and shapes our national identity. We’ve got nothing on Europe though.

Look at any historical moment in Europe over the last few millennia and you’ll find constant demographic movement. Well before the EU was a twinkle in the European coal industry’s eye, the Romans, Goths, Huns, Normans and others were happily marching across the European continent. In their wake they left, amongst other things, a swirl of languages, cultures and genes that have caused endless headaches for drawers of borders (just look at the town of Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog in the Benelux region).

Migration around the European continent (including the British Isles) wasn’t just in the form of marauding armies of course. An endless flow of individuals shifted from one region to another in search of work, opportunity or warmer climes.

Come 2011, and despite all of the supposed extra freedom of movement, travel around the European continent feels fairly restricted at times. Those times tend to coincide with moments of crossing the French borders, as a train full of passengers (including a number of migrants and activists) discovered last week on their way from Ventimiglia in Italy to Nice in France. The train was stopped before crossing the border, igniting a minor diplomatic storm between France and Italy.

Over 20,000 asylum seekers, primarily from Libya and Tunisia, have arrived in Italy since January. French authorities have been doing everything in their power to prevent these displaced people from moving into France, including closing the border to trains from Italy.

A week before this border squabble hit news headlines, my husband Andrew and I happily climbed aboard the first of three trains that would take us on the same route from Italy to France, on our way to Barcelona. We chatted happily about following in the footsteps of Hannibal, who crossed the Alps here with his elephants over two thousand years ago.

On the train from Nice to Marseille.

As we crossed into France the train stopped at a small-town station. A group of French police boarded the train and checked each passenger’s passport. A few minutes later I looked out the window to see a young man, flanked by police, being marched off to detention and, no doubt, deportation. I think he must have been younger than I am.

That young man, displaced in a foreign country, made me think about my own family; particularly another young man who seized on an incredible opportunity to escape the crippling poverty and oppressive class determinism of his home land.

Last September I got off a plane in Edinburgh, and a little tingle went up my spine as I realised that I was the first of my family to ever go back to Scotland. We were in Scotland to meet up with my parents on their odyssey to visit the family roots.

A few weeks later, stepping off a ferry on the tiny island of Shapinsay in the Orkneys, my father and I returned to the place where our ancestor, John Gillen Heddle, had left in 1857. He was seventeen, illiterate, probably illegitimate and very poor. He must also have been incredibly brave and unbelievably enterprising to take the opportunity he was offered: to migrate to the relatively new colony of South Australia, with a one-way fare provided by the South Australia Company. He had probably never seen a map, probably had no idea that he was travelling about as far away from his home as it is possible to go. He would certainly have known that he would never see or hear from his mother and sister again.

My ancestor John shows up on this census aged eight and already working as a servant.

As we walked around Shapinsay my mum and husband rhapsodised about how beautiful it was, how they would love to live here, how totally idyllic the landscape was. Dad and I stayed quiet, but at some point we looked at one another and realised we were clearly thinking the same thing – we just wanted to escape.


That tiny island off the top of the world was very nearly a beautiful, idyllic prison for our family, but the determination of one young man changed everything. He escaped, we escaped, thank anything!

The main town on Shapinsay. Utterly beautiful, but a little on the quiet side.

John Heddle’s story goes on to have an almost cinematically wonderful ending. On the long journey to Australia he became very ill, but he was cared for by a family also making the long trip south. The Tyley family, from Bristol, were of a different ilk to John. They were travelling to South Australia to buy land and expand their business. Their daughter Emily taught John to read and write while she nursed him. Emily and John married and had 14 children, while he worked as a groundsman and then supervisor of the parklands that still surround Adelaide’s city center.

Leaving the Orkneys, we travelled to other spots with family connections: Border towns where my Irving ancestors entertained themselves by stealing cattle from the English farmers over the border; Cornish tin-mines where the Trebilcock men scratched a living from mines that stretched out underneath the Atlantic Ocean. We even visited the austere street in Aberdeen where my paternal Grandfather grew up in a tiny overcrowded flat. He ended up in Australia after having illegally jumped ship in Fremantle in the 1930s, adding ‘Mc’ to the family name as part of his successful bid to avoid detection.

My family were all as poor as mud, but I couldn’t be more proud of them. Thanks to their desperation and initiative they left their homes and grasped the opportunity offered by migration to another country. The very privileged life I lead is a direct consequence of their actions and a visit to their homelands gave me a huge sense of gratefulness.

After a wonderful week in sunny, beautiful Barcelona Andrew and I got on to the night train that would take us back to Turin in Italy. On the way we were woken by the French border control twice – as we entered France and again as we crossed into Italy. A week later, watching the Italian news report on the stopped train, my thoughts returned to that young man escorted away from his dash for freedom. How lucky we are, whose families were able to take their chance at a new life in the new world.