There have been two times in my life when I have woken up with vomit between my legs.
Both times I had no recollection of the events.
Both times I was under the age of 10.
That’s what happens when you spend an afternoon binge eating cheerios and tomato sauce, eating Cheezel rings from your fingers like you’re Liberace, licking hundreds and thousands and margarine from the top of white sliced fairy bread, sucking down gallons of sugary red cordial and stuffing in handfuls of thickly iced hyper colour birthday cake. Ahhh – Aussie kids birthday parties in the eighties – more toxic than a night out on the town with Britney Spears.
During the decade of disrepute that was the eighties I was the happy, pig-tailed guest of honour at a number of backyard birthday parties arranged by my Mum. On the menu there were the usual sausage rolls and party pies, which were mostly eaten by the adults, a reproduction of a birthday cake from the Women’s Weekly cookbook series, Wiz Fizz for the hard core, plastic cups of colourful soft drink to aid the hyperactivity and lolly bags for my friends to take home and break into when the sugar crash kicked in a couple of hours post-party.
On the night of my actual birthday there was always a special family dinner too (never on the same day as the party thank goodness!) when I was allowed to choose the menu. Schnitzels were high on the list as well as homemade lasagne and cheesecake for dessert. In my husband’s house on the other side of Brisbane he usually lobbied his Mum for roast chicken followed up with condensed milk caramel tart.
Fast forward 30 years and things are not far removed – just a bit more grown up. It’s ‘Birthday Week’ in our house right now – we’re exactly one week apart on the Calendar – which makes birthdays easy to remember! I am happy to say that my eyes are no longer bigger than my tummy and I’ve moved on from kids birthday party food binges. These days I generally request a menu of prawns, oysters and champagne, which he expertly gathers on the way home from work. A week later, when it’s his turn, he likes me to conjure up another vintage Women’s Weekly classic – Swiss Chicken – with loads of naughty potatoes either pureed with cream, dauphinoise or roasted in duck fat followed by something chock full of chocolate for dessert. Oh, and champagne too – that’s a given. I pretty much need to take a day off from all other commitments to bring it together but I feel real happiness when cooking for family and friends so it’s absolutely all worth it.
When it comes to ‘chock full of chocolate’ for dessert, making a decadent birthday cake seems a bit over the top when there are only two of us, although I know his work colleagues would gratefully accept the leftovers the following day! Instead we have our own birthday ‘dessert’ tradition that incorporates his favourite childhood chocolate. Mars Bar Slice is a recipe that ticks all the boxes. I can whip up a batch in just 20 minutes and he can demolish it in about the same. The plan is always for him to take the leftovers to work for morning tea the next day hence, in preparation, I often make a second batch to ensure his colleagues don’t miss out!
So this week I will wish a Happy Birthday to my better half with Swiss Chicken and a batch or two of Mars Bar Slice and I might throw in a copy of Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar to read as a birthday gift…NOT!
Mars Bar Slice
- 3 Mars Bars, chopped
- 3 cups Rice Bubbles
- 90g Butter, cut into small cubes
- 200g of your favourite Milk Chocolate
Line a 20cm x 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
Gently melt the Mars Bars and butter over a low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Be warned, I have made the mistake of heating this mix too quickly. It splits and is unusable, so remember that slow and steady is the trick!
Once the caramel and nougat parts have melted and you have a smooth consistency, take the mixture off the heat and quickly stir through the Rice Bubbles until they are evenly coated. Still working quickly, press the mixture into the baking tin to form the bottom layer of the slice.
Then gently melt the chocolate over low heat and pour this over the top of the rice bubble base, smoothing the surface with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.
Place the slice in the fridge until the chocolate topping is reset. When you are ready to cut the slice into squares, remove it from the fridge for about 30 minutes first. This will allow your knife to slip through the crunchy base to cut small squares more easily. You should get between 16 and 20 pieces depending on how generous you are!