Back in the 50's, an older friend of mine used to visit the prisoners at the Fremantle Jail with her school; the girls were to cheer up the prisoners. They'd sing and put on plays, and then serve afternoon tea. And they'd play terrible pranks. One regarded lamingtons. The girls would cut up bathroom sponges, bind them together with shaving cream, and ice them as usual. An unsuspecting prisoner would take a big rubbery bite, pause... then roar with laughter. What good sports they were, says my friend.
These days it's very hard to imagine a school sending a group of girls to visit a men's prison bearing cake; and even harder to imagine prisoners roaring with laughter when the best looking bit of food they've seen all year turns out to be a sham. But perhaps it didn't really matter. The 'lamingtons' were iced and coconutted as usual – and as everyone knows, the outside is the only part of the lamington worth eating. The sponge is invariably dry, something to politely mumble one's way through rather than actively enjoy.
Thinking about this, it occurred to me to fiddle around with the date-paste-bar idea and turn it into the outside of a lamington. I admit it's not a local seasonal food, but my justification for putting the recipe on this blog is two-fold. One, it's an incredibly quick, easy and healthy snack food that requires no packaging, very useful for lunchboxes. Two, we are about to move house and I'm cooking my way through the depths of the pantry; this is a great way to use up dried coconut, and date paste!
Unapologetically, then, I present to you: lamington bars. Lovely in a lunch box; delightful cut into squares and served with a short black or a hot tea; and not a bathroom sponge or shred of gluten in sight.
Gluten Free Sugar Free Lamington Bars
- 180g date paste
The date paste should be moist enough to work with; however, if it seems dry and hard, soak it in water for an hour before using. You can use the soaking water to sweeten a smoothie.
Combine the first five ingredients in the large bowl of a food processor. Whizz for several minutes, until it forms small glossy pebbles. If the mixture is struggling to come together, slowly dribble in up to a tablespoon of water, a drop at a time, until it has combined.
Tip half the mixture into a small dish; I use a ceramic dish 10cm x 18cm (4" x 7") bought at an op shop for just this purpose. Using the back of a metal spoon, press the mixture firmly into the dish. Tip in the rest of the mixture, and press the whole into a solid smooth slab.
Cover with gladwrap and place in the fridge for several hours to harden up.
When you are ready to serve, cut using a heavy knife. I slice mine crosswise into ten narrow bars ready for school lunches; or into squares for a sweet little something to share.
(Ingredients from all over the world, but a bought bar would be similar, only with more chemicals and packaging.)