ArchiveMarch 21, 2020

Mothers Day

If ever a celebration was warranted, it’s Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis from Virginia in the US originally initiated the special day to honour her own mother who lost nine of her thirteen children before they reached adulthood. Later, she was deeply saddened and totally disenchanted that the day she intended to devote to mothers became a means of ‘profiteering’ and a ‘Hallmark holiday’, after the company who first released Mother’s Day cards in 1920.

Mother’s Day evokes so many memories chatting to some friends, we agreed that most of us were total pests at some stage during our teens. In later years one looks back with regret for the torment and annoyance we caused our long suffering parents and hopefully we have found the courage and humility and the right moment to tell them how sorry we are for the hoops we put them through.  Invariably we don’t remember just how abominable and unreasonable we were until our children are going through the same phase.

Mother’s Day gives us all, young and old, the opportunity to let actions speak louder than words. 

If cooking isn’t your forte, you could treat your Mum to a slap up meal in anything from a ritzy restaurant to the local cafe depending on the finances.  If you are broke as well as culinarily challenged, then it’s time to get creative and offer your services.   How about a practical ‘gift token’ to wash and valet the car or clean out the fridge.

If you have green fingers, a pledge to weed the flower bed or dig the vegetable patch will be greeted enthusiastically.  You might even manage to buy a few fresh herbs to plant into a tub or hanging baskets.  An offer to do the washing up every evening for a week, or even once would win you serious brownie points. Most Mums loathe ironing with a passion, so that’s definitely another way to show your devotion, if you hate ironing then grit your teeth and cheer yourself up that you are developing life skills – that’s the sort of Mumsie remark that my daughters hate!  I am one of the rare people who love ironing but rarely do it.

If you have the cash, newspapers, magazines and the internet are bursting with ideas for special Mother’s day gifts over and above the usual cards and flowers – a voucher for a Spa treatment . . . a ticket to her favourite retro gig, a Louis Vuitton bag. . . .

And NO I don’t want an expensive tub of anti-aging cream. I’m totally happy with my wrinkles – honourable scars built up over the years. If I could make a wish it would be that all mothers could be released from the beauty industry’s insistance that we must look ‘forever young’. So let go of ‘aging anxiety’ and embrace your natural beauty.

Flamboyant gifts are all very fine but this is a cooking column so some of my late Mother’s delicious recipes. How fortunate were we that she loved to cook, this is what memories are made of. 

 Mummy’s Sweet White Scones

Tender and delicious scones with crunchy sugary tops – one bite transports me back to the kitchen of my childhood

Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3inch) cutter

900g (2lb) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

A good pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. rich milk to mix

Glaze

Egg Wash (see below)

Crunchy Demerara sugar or coarse granulated sugar for coating the top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round.  Roll out to about 2 1/2cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones.* Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease.  Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in crunchy Demerara or coarse granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with homemade jam and a blob of whipped cream or just butter and jam.

Egg Wash

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

* Top Tip – Stamp them out with as little waste as possible, the first scones will be lighter than the second rolling.

Fruit Scones

Add 110g (4oz) plump sultanas to the above mixture when the butter has been rubbed in. Continue as above.

Cullohill Rhubarb Pie

My mother’s break-all-the-rules pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter – it makes a gorgeous tart, use whatever seasonal fruit is best

Serves 8-12

Pastry

8 ozs (225g) butter

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

12 ozs (300g) white flour, preferably unbleached

Filling

2lbs (900g) sliced red rhubarb (about 1/2 inch thick)

13 ozs (370g) -14ozs (400g) sugar.

2-3 cloves

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Scalloped Potatoes

This was the dish we all asked mummy to make when we came home from college at weekends. We all love beef kidney but if you are not a fan use all beef but it won’t be quite as delicious.

This filling and economical dish was one of our favourites for a cold winter’s evening.

Serves 4-6

3.3lbs (1.46 kg) ‘old’ potatoes, eg Golden Wonder, or Kerrs Pinks

1 lb (450g) stewing beef

1 beef kidney

1 lb (450 g) chopped onions

2-3 ozs (60 -75 g) butter

13-15 fl ozs (375-450ml) stock or water

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned flour

1 oval cast-iron casserole (4 pint/2.3 l) capacity

Wash the beef kidney, remove the core and cut into 2 inch (1 cm) cubes, sprinkle with salt and cover with cold water.

Cut the stewing beef into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes.

Peel the potatoes and cut into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices, put a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the casserole.  Drain the kidney pieces and dry with kitchen paper, toss the beef and kidney in seasoned flour and scatter some over the potatoes with approx. one-third of the chopped onions and a few knobs of butter, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add another layer of potatoes, then meat, onions, and so on up to the top of the casserole, putting some knobs of butter between each layer and ending with a neat layer of overlapping slices of potato.  Season each layer carefully otherwise it may taste bland.  Top with a few knobs of butter, pour in the boiling stock, cover and cook in a low oven, 150C/Gas mark 2 for 2 ½ hours approx.   Serve on hot plates.

This reheats very well.

Farmhouse Chicken

Serves 8

A whole meal in a dish, this was and still is, a favourite family supper in our house.  We used to serve it in a big black roasting tin.

1 x 31/2lb (1.575kg) free-range organic chicken

white flour, well-seasoned with salt & pepper

11/4lb (560g) streaky bacon in one piece

2 tablespoon sunflower or arachide oil

14oz (400g approx.) onion, finely sliced or chopped

12oz (340g) carrots, thinly sliced

5lb (2.3kg) large ‘old’ potatoes approx.

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pint (1.1L) chicken stock, made from the giblets and carcass

Garnish:

1 tablespoon or more coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Deep roasting tin (15 inch/38cm) square approx..

Preheat the oven to 230˚C/450˚F/Gas Mark 8

Joint the chicken into 8 pieces; separate the wing joints so they will cook evenly.  Cut the rind off the bacon; cut (8oz/225g) into lardons and the remainder into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices.  If salty, blanch, refresh and dry on kitchen paper.  Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and cook the lardons until the fat begins to run and they are pale golden; transfer to a plate.  Toss the chicken joints in seasoned flour, sauté in the bacon fat and oil until golden on both sides, remove from the pan and put with the bacon.   Finally toss the onions and carrots in bacon fat for 1-2 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice a little less than half into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds.  Bring the stock to the boil Arrange a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the deep roasting tin.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Top with a layer of seasoned chicken joints. Cut the remaining potatoes into thick slices lengthways, 11/2 inch (4cm) approx., and arrange cut side up on top of the chicken (the whole top of the dish should be covered with potato slices). Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour the boiling stock into the roasting tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx.  After 30 minutes put the strips of bacon on top so they get deliciously crisp with the potatoes.  Test after 1 hour – it may take a little longer. If it is getting too brown near the end of cooking, cover loosely with parchment paper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

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