Growing up on the West Coast of Australia isn’t quite as edgy as saying that you’re from San Francisco, Los Angeles or Portland. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is the epitome of a middle child city; small enough to be forgotten, but big enough to want more. Saying that you were “going to Melbourne for the weekend” was an outright brag, an action known to ripple into a socially acceptable level of envy from everyone around you. As my curiosity for food began to peak in college, I looked to East Coast chefs for a greater food education. I planned each of my interstate trips around the dining scenes that were thriving in Melbourne and Sydney. Every chef was my idol, every meal was an experience, and every restaurant was a destination. Even with a tightly packed itinerary and my stretchiest pants on, there were always too many places and too little time.
Flour and Stone was one such venue; an inner-Sydney bakery institution that I had never had the chance to visit in person. I can’t describe the vibe, tastes and smells of this place, but I can tell you about one of their staple cakes that had captured my imagination. The Panna Cotta Lamington was a curious, delicious-sounding oxymoron — how was it possible that this wobbly, creamy, classic Italian dessert could morph together with Australia’s jam-filled and yet (usually) ironically dry, national cake? For years, despite Sydney being only a stone throw’s away, the opportunity to finally try one for myself seemed to always evade me. Not before long, I found myself living halfway across the world, further away from lamingtons and any taste of home than I had ever been before.
Within a year of finishing university, I serendipitously stumbled across a job offer that brought me to Shanghai, China. Although Shanghai embodied the fast-paced city living that I had always yearned for, the sharp change of environment wasn’t without its challenges; some years passed like days and some days dragged on like years. As I adjusted, my relationship with food changed drastically — I went from hand-rolling gnocchi in the early hours of the morning and making /croquembouche/ for fun on weekends, to ordering delivery to my desk for 3 meals a day. It wasn’t until I truly felt settled in Shanghai-about two years after I had arrived-that I started to regain my love for cooking. I found myself experimenting in the kitchen and pouring over cookbooks once more, nostalgically recreating the flavours and textures of home at every opportunity.
This recipe for Panna Cotta Lamington is the tried and guessed adaptation of the Flour and Stone original. My pastry chef partner taught me how to make this tart raspberry jam filling from scratch. That, along with the overnight panna cotta soak, is what I believe makes this recipe truly special. If you’ve ever been duped by dry, chalky shop-bought cake, much like the ghosts of my childhood lamington’s past, then let this be your remedy. With what's happening all around the world, we all are taking more time for slow weekends, and a lot more of us are spending more time in the kitchen. I encourage you to put on some music, and try this recipe with me! Maybe, for now, we can use cooking as a means to travel to places we have yet to see.