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Sunday, 20 January 2013

Mum's the Word

 I had a “My Mum’s” dish at the weekend. You know, those dishes that everyone makes a version of but your mum’s (potato salad, spaghetti bolognaise, chicken soup etc) is The Best?

 It was kind of nice to be reminded of my mum’s culinary skills, as I do feel that she may have got a bit of a bad rap in my previous blogs. Yes, she is practically allergic to anything spicier than Saxa ground black pepper. Yes, her ability to make rock-hard pastry is a family legend. Yes, scrambled (or poached) eggs were a perfectly suitable Sunday night dinner.
 But she also served up home cooked meals for my family most nights of the week for my entire childhood (excluding the odd Fish and Chips or Gus and Rosie’s pizza nights). Granted they were usually of the Meat and Three Veg variety (and more often than not, vertically-grilled sausages or chops with pressure cooked veges – because that was the healthy way to cook them. Hmmm, maybe she was ahead of her time in some areas), but that was probably because it’s what her mum served up her family, and what most families (including mine) still get served up most nights. And she also makes a mean roast dinner (her roast pork with crackling was, and still is a favourite). And she once made sesame prawn toasts from scratch because that’s what I said I wanted for a Special Dinner (followed by banana fritters for dessert. I had obviously not heard about cholesterol at that age).

 And more importantly, she cooked the Foods of my Childhood; those dishes that immediately take you back to your kitchen table or backyard and make you feel like a kid again. Such as her chocolate cake (made with drinking chocolate not cocoa) topped with chocolate icing and dessicated coconut. Or her “stringy egg” chicken and corn soup. Or for my brother, her cauliflower and cheese sauce. And how could I forget (thanks Little Bro)Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding! (made from the PMWU cookbook) - my first experience with cooking alchemy (you pour water on the top, cook it, and it goes to the bottom and makes sauce - magic!)
 But for me, this recent trip down memory lane was caused by a dessert. We had a big family BBQ at the weekend as we have 3 family birthdays within 2 days. As is standard in our family we all “bring something” to share the Hosting Load. My mum had mentioned that she was on dessert duty and “… I thought I might make a trifle”.

 I was immediately transported to my childhood backyard; the sun was just going down, the smell of charred meat (and fried roast potatoes) hung in the air. The rice salad was half eaten, the cutlery stand only had spoons left and my mum walks past carrying the aqua casserole dish with the 70’s design on the lid. Ace – it’s dessert time.
  Now I know that Trifle isn’t up there with a croquembouche for daring desserts – 'snake cake' (with a few liberal dashes of sherry), topped with canned Two Fruits, custard, whipped cream, jelly (red is preferred but we will accept green) and a generous sprinkling of crushed nuts. In fact, my grandma (who is generally the Matriarch of Making Yummy Things) makes one to a very similar recipe. But it doesn’t taste as good as My Mum’s.

 And I’m quite happy if no one else agrees with me, because that is the essence of a Mum’s Dish – there are lots of different recipes and variations, some will be quite nice but they are Just Not The Same.
 So here’s a salute to my Mum’s Trifle, for its deliciousness and for reminding me that you don’t have to be a sophisticated cook to be a great one.

"Hello gorgeous!"

Looking exactly as it should

  It did, however make me wonder what my boys will remember for their “mum’s dish”. Their Favorite meals at the moment is “circle pasta” (ravioli/tortellini pasta from the supermarket) with veges, or chicken nuggets with veges. *sigh* Maybe I’ll work on memorable desserts…..

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