Monday, 6 February 2017
I love food. Cooking it, eating it, watching other people cook and eat it. Talking about it. Reading about it. I have unashamedly used a recipe book for bedtime reading. One of my best friends is a chef, which my mother thinks "makes sense." I think this is rude but am not entirely sure why. I once went for a meal with a friend and during the meal all we talked about was other nice meals we'd enjoyed. When I think about a past relationship, I often think, "we ate a lot of nice food together." Aged fifteen my friend and I set up a baking business and while our entrepreneurial efforts were quickly quashed by our local health board and some minor detail known to many as "the law", our enthusiasm for cake in all its varieties did not diminish. I love the way food brings people together, and sharing a meal at home has always been an important part of family life for me.
Today, I've deiced to make this "list your favourite foods" post about some family favourites. Recently, my sister-in-law bought Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course for my brother who'd been missing my mum's cooking.
My mum is quite a plain cook. Everything with potatoes and boiled-to-death vegetables. She's "big into" carbs and cooks the same amount for three as when there were seven or eight of us at the table. However, she has a few showstoppers for special occasions. Here are our favourite meals and treats, and links to the recipes. They are all Delia. Obviously.
Pork Chops with Lemon, Mushrooms and Cream
This is baked in foil and served, because it's my mum, with boiled potatoes. It's a treat if someone is coming over, like an in-law or old friend.
I don't think this is exactly the one mum makes, as it's got creme fraiche and "wild" mushrooms (goodness), but it's pretty similar.
Beef in Beer
She's switched this one up on the website too. "Beef in Designer Beer": I ask you. We always make it with cheap beer, without whatever that topping is meant to be, and with mum shouting "NOBODY EAT THE BAY LEAF!"
Serve with boiled potatoes. Again.
I will not eat shop-bought mince pies. I refuse. And this is the reason. The crisp, short pastry my mum makes them with is second-to-none. Always half butter, half lard. Mum has recently branched out into making her own mince meat, some of which is vegetarian, but shop-bought will do just fine.
If you want to emulate the Minnocks further, omit the pinch of salt from the pastry. Mum doesn't allow salt to be added to anything - for better or worse. Baking spread can be used instead of butter - though I know this is a hotly debated issue. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.
Mum has just shockingly informed me that the mince pie recipe she uses was originally from Good Housekeeping - but above is exactly the same as we always make. The more you know!
Lemon Meringue Pie
This isn't one of mum's actually, it's one of mine. A favourite dessert, I have this down to a fine art and Delia's lemon curd always works out really nicely - the secret is a thick bottomed pan and a low heat, and to leave the zest in quite large pieces. I even adapted this to a cupcake recipe once. I can't get enough and neither can most of the family.
Again, the pastry is so crisp.
There you have it. Those are a handful of nice childhood memories for me, and I hope you enjoy making some of your own.