When I was growing up in Australia, the after-school snack was an incredibly important and treasured part of my day, as I am sure it is for most school children. I would look forward to it every day. The constant was always Milo — a delicious chocolate-malt powder you mix with milk (kind of like Ovaltine but grainier and barley based), but many other stars of the breakfast bar also shone.
Sometimes there’d be biscuits, made by us with whomever was minding us while my mum worked at her bustling family medicine practice. And by biscuits, I obviously mean cookies. Obviously. We don’t really have a word for what Americans call biscuits, because there’s no exact same thing. Scones are probably the closest, but those are most often sweet rather than savory. You would not, for example, eat scones with gravy. Ew! Jam and cream for life. So, biscuits (“bikkies”), Milo, fruit, muesli bars (granola bars), sandwiches, and of course, Vegemite on toast. My favorite!
But today, it’s all about a particular Aussie classic. It’s called zucchini slice, and it’s somewhere between a bread (like a banana bread) and a quiche. Slice is a fairly common type of baked good in Australia, a rectangular pan of deliciousness cut into squares — kind of like brownies, but it can be savory or sweet. Zucchini slice is savory. And it is delicious! It’s also not just for kids after school. There’s nothing at all that makes it more suitable for children than for adults; it’s just a common slice made by mums to sneak some vegetables into fussy kids.
So, since little ones and bigger ones are going back to school and you probably have a whole pile of zucchini that you’re wondering what to do with, let me help you out.
I empanelled a bunch of my friends back home for some of their tips on making the perfect zucchini slice. There are as many variations and “must-dos” as one could possibly imagine. Some say to make sure to squeeze all the water out of the zucchini gratings, some say they’ve never bothered. Personally, I think it’s probably a good idea — it would give you a more bread-like consistency rather than a very moist quiche. I didn’t do it for the batch I made just recently, though, and it was still absolutely delicious. There were also suggestions of adding prosciutto rather than bacon, but that seemed extravagant for something so humble. Keep it simple, I say.
In Australia, bacon is different. I know, how can it be different? It’s from a different part of the animal. Here, bacon is from just the belly section of the animal. In Australia, bacon is from the loin and the back, and it has a larger piece of lean meat from the loin attached, and, therefore, a much lower fat-to-lean meat ratio. Also, we leave the rind on, as we do with almost all our pork products. Honestly, what is it with U.S. pork and having the skin removed?! It’s the best part! Anyway, that’s another column. The fat content was the main point of difference I could find with the recipe I used — the slice did turn out quite oily. I made some adjustments in the recipe below.
(adapted from a recipe on Taste.com.au — their most popular recipe!)
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup self-rising flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt)
- 175g zucchini, grated coarsely
- 1 large onion, grated or diced finely
- 150g bacon, chopped into ½-inch strips
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 340F. Line a standard 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper or grease thoroughly.
If you choose to do so, squeeze the water from the zucchini. To do this, use a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel (the former is much easier), place the grated zucchini in the middle, make a “sack” then twist it shut and keep twisting and squeezing. If using a paper towel, pressing into a sieve works well.
Beat the eggs well, then add the flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well mixed.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for around 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Notes: I dotted some halved grape tomatoes on top of the slice when I baked it, but I think this may also have contributed to the finished product being a tad wet. Not sure I would repeat that particular experiment. It also made it slightly harder to cut, and didn’t add a tremendous amount of flavor. Feel free to add other vegetables if you like! This dish is very adaptable. If you try it out, let me know in the comments online!