Food Memories

I did something wild and crazy on Monday evening – I applied to a new BBC TV Programme called: The Box! It comes from the makers of Masterchef, and I am guessing from their description – it will be similar to the ‘Invention test’ – where you have to make something wonderful with whatever ingredients you have to hand. Friends and family are often telling me I should go onto the ‘Great British Bake Off’ (I have applied a couple of times)… so why not give this a go. And, if I don’t get on – well – at least I tried. 🙂

I know this blog is mainly about ‘craft’, but actually – I think food in itself is a craft. Maybe a pot noodle isn’t, or beans on toast – but a lovingly prepared, created and crafted dish, that’s different and special.

I do love food so much – and I am so thankful we get to eat at least three times a day! Imagine if we were like crocodiles – they can survive up to THREE YEARS without food!

The application form asked lots of good questions that really got me thinking – like ‘What has been your proudest cooking moment so far?’ (which by the way was – when I was 11, I cooked a three course meal, all by myself for my mum and dad on Father’s Day!) Thinking about my foodie past reminded back to a wonderful article I read a couple of years ago by Skye Gyngell in RED magazine “My Life In Recipes”, where she considers the ingredients and recipes that have inspired her throughout her life so far. I can’t find a copy of the original article, which is a shame – as I remember it being such a lovely read.

Some of my own first food memories I treasure dearly are from going to visit my wonderful family in Ireland, and particularly to my Grandma’s house on the south coast, on a small beautiful island called Cobh. When she was able – I remember beautifully rustic soda breads – the smell of fresh baking emanating into every pore of her delightful cottage. Fruity and traditional Barnbrack cakes, where I would I always, ALWAYS get the ring (my family swear it wasn’t fixed!). Big piles of fluffy potatoes, where the skin would just gently drape off before being swathed in golden swirls of fresh butter. I remember the large hams boiling on the aga, and cabbage stewing for colcannon. Fresh mackerel caught down by the shore, and frying them with garlic and butter to please my dear grandma. (I used to think it stunk the whole house out, but grandma loved it!)

Back at home, it was the fresh garden produce that I remember – digging the first potatoes of the season – and watching for the treasures to appear from the earth, the excitement of finding a hidden courgette underneath those canopies of leaves and bright and beautiful flowers. Podding the broad beans sat under our apple tree – fascinated with the silky and smooth delicate interior. Bright and crisp rhubarb fit for stewing with ginger, or crumbles. Fresh loganberries from the garden on a warm summer’s day – the bright juice no doubt ending up on my no doubt clean top!

My dad has always been the ‘chef’ of the house. If we had and have people to stay, he will get every recipe book out and plan, and invent and create a masterpiece. Sometimes delicate and sophisticated crab pancakes, or succulent chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms and garlic. Or just beautifully simple lasagne – rich with layers of thick ragu and white sauce, sheets of fine pasta…and a few secret ingredients! Or wonderful Asian dishes – where he will spend time getting quality produce and whipping up ‘delicious and nutritious’ concoctions. Or delicately spiced curries that sometimes, might be slightly hotter than planned! The BBQ king of the UK, at the first hint of sunshine, it is always sausages and charcoal at the ready.

However, the recipes I yearn for when requiring comfort on a cold Wintery day – like today (it’s March – where is Spring?!) – are my mum’s beautiful hearty dishes, that you can always rely on. Are also cooked from scratch. And put a smile on a weary face – making the world appear a much nicer place to be. Quiche – with crumbly, delicate pastry, thick wedges of beautiful fresh eggs and cheese, herbs, using whatever vegetables are to hand and often delightfully contrasted with salty bacon. Or using up the left over roast with thick chunks of chicken, ham, leeks and a silky, smooth comforting sauce in her perfect and most requested chicken pie. I think every mum has the best roast potatoes, but I am sure, my mum’s really are the best. They are legendary – they are perfectly golden brown, crunchy on the outside, and wonderfully hot and fluffy on the inside. I’d come home from school to hearty liver and onions, Irish beef stew or sausage casserole that would have been whipped up sometime early in the morning and would have gently bubbled away for hours on end – until meltingly tender and served with a substantial portion of lightly seasoned buttery mash potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables.

Now, I try to replicate these idyllic meals in my own home – whilst I don’t always succeed in matching the ingredients or method entirely – it brings a warm and satisfied glow to know I have a golden chicken pie in the oven waiting to be devoured, and to think that these recipes will be recreated, adapted and handed down for generations to come.

In the meantime, wish me luck for the application – let’s see if we can do a blog post of ‘The Crafty Lass does… TV!’

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