"There are few things more proudly Australian than the slice. England's Elizabeth David ignores them and they don't feature in Delia Smith's books. There's nothing between "slash" and "slivovitz" in the Larousse Gastronomique or between "skyr" and "slipcote" in The Oxford Companion to Food." Matt Preston
The second recipe in my old recipe notebook is also from one of my fellow teachers at Preshil - Pat Winterbottom - a gentle, wise, patient and very Australian lady who was much loved by her students. Her recipe is for what she calls Chocolate Rough Slice, but which I now know is often known as either Coconut rough slice or Chocolate coconut rough slice.
It did somehow have overtones of the Country Women's Association to me. So I tried to find out a bit about its history but came up with nothing. Indeed Matt Preston is really the only food writer I have come across who has written about slices and their origins at all, although Stephanie Alexander did do a sort of follow-up. He doesn't really have a story about its origins but does seem to think that they are somewhat British. Which is odd when he says the British do not have them. And indeed they do not. I cannot remember having eaten anything similar back in England in my youth. So if it has Anglo origins where does the Anglo bit come in? Or are they truly an Australian invention of Australian country women before all those non Anglo immigrants came along?
"the humble slice can also be read as a culinary, or even cultural, identifier of Australia's Anglo-Celtic heritage. It is the "spanakopita" or homemade salami of generations of Smiths, Jones and O'Briens, if you will." Matt Preston
It is also a bit odd to discover which Australian cooks have recipes for this Australian classic - for classic it is. I thought Belinda Jefferey would be bound to have one. Although she has recipes for just about everything, her 'speciality' if you will, seems to be baking, and her image as a country Australian kind of cook should have meant she had a recipe for this classic. But not that I can find. Donna Hay also does not, although she does have recipes for 79 different kind of slices. Including this one, that she calls, Salted coconut rough. It has chocolate, it has coconut and it has rough in the title, and I guess it looks sort of rough, but in a very glamorously aesthetic way. It's really not at all like the traditional version. But it was so beautiful I couldn't resist.
Slices are the sort of things you can toss off quickly and offer to friends who come around for a cup of tea or coffee and a chat - well under normal circumstances anyway. They are also things you can give your kids when they come home from school or put in their lunchboxes - also under normal circumstances. So when are we going to eat slices now? Do we chat over a cup of coffee and a slice with our spouse? Not good for us - all those slices between just two people. Although I guess you could distribute them to friends and neighbours via their letterboxes as little pick me ups for the day. Just one of those little unexpected changes in our lives in the current COVID19 world.
But back to my lucky dip. As I said, it is a classic CWA sort of thing, so here are the CWA and the Australian Women's Weekly recipes, neither of which, I have to say, look much like how I think of this traditional thing. The one at the top of the page is more like how I think of it.
Matt Preston's recipe for Coconut rough slice may well be the same - indeed virtually all of the recipes that I looked at looked very similar. My lucky dip version though is a bit different as it uses Golden Syrup rather than caster sugar like all the rest. So I'm giving it here. Just for nostalgia's sake.
PAT WINTERBOTTOM'S CHOCOLATE ROUGH SLICE
1 tsp Golden Syrup
1 heaped cup self-raising flour
3/4 cup coconut (I assume this is desiccated coconut)
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup condensed milk
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
Cream butter and sugar and Golden Syrup. Add flour and coconut. Press into a flat tin. Bake in a moderate oven 20 minutes until well cooked.
For the topping put all ingredients into a a saucepan over a low flame, and when mixed pour it over the still warm base.
Cut into slices when cold.
I see that the method includes some sugar, although the ingredients do not have it listed. My mistake probably - Most of the recipes I have looked at seemed to have anywhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup sugar. And I noticed there is no chocolate in the bottom bit either. So I am now thinking I have made a few mistakes here.
The lovely picture at the top of the page is from a site called Bake, play, smile and is also pretty simple and similar to the others I have given you.
So in our new world do we need such things as slices. Or are they just what we need on a dismal day like today?
You may have noticed some # things at the bottom of my posts. Wix has taken away the ability of adding tags to posts so that you might be able to find similar posts. They replaced this with the # things. However, I am ceasing to use these because, three times now, when I have been adding them, for whatever reason the whole post was deleted. Very, very frustrating. Besides I'm not at all sure of their usefulness. Without a list of them, what would you know what to search for? So I am deleting the search button as well. If I can.
I am still adding the categories, which are broader subject areas but that too is still a work in progress for Wix I feel, as you can't see the full list. Theoretically there is a More button in the blog menu, but it never seems to stay there. I'm sure they will solve all these things in time, but for now although I'm adding categories I don't think they are much use, and am abandoning the hashtags. But then you probably don't care about these things anyway. It's probably more useful for me when I'm trying to find out if I am repeating myself.