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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Traditional Family Cooking

The temperature has dropped and unusually we have snow on the mountains in May. 
Things seem a bit incongruous with the temperature so wintry but the leaves on the Mt Fuji cherry still holding on.

I love my friends who are always willing to come to dinner despite dark cold nights and it means I can cook meals normally reserved for family groups like roasts and corned meat pieces.
Tonight, old fashioned boil in the pot corned silverside. I soak the piece for an hour or two before cooking to remove some of the brine and then in the fresh water a put vinegar, brown sugar, clove, bay leaf, juniper berries, pepper and a cinnamon stick. The saltiness of the cured meat is lovely with subtle woody spicings and you can experiment to make this dish your own signature. You'll really notice the flavours the next day when eating the cold meat on sandwiches.

I follow my grandmother's lead with the vegetables and serve steamed cabbage but with a pinch of caraway seeds sprinkled over, carrots pulled fresh from the garden also steamed and potatoes and onion boiled in the corned meat water. The potatoes are not peeled and left whole so that they do not fall apart in the cooking. The onions are lightly peeled of papery skin but left intact with the root end trimmed but still on so that these also do not fall apart in the water.

Before I serve I make a huge jug of white sauce with a couple of tablespoons of the meat water added to the milk to give subtle flavour. Just like my grandmother (well maybe she boiled the cabbage!)
Dessert was the quince pie I made earlier in the day. The quinces were poached for eight hours in a Leatherwood honey flavoured syrup of their own juices and were a beautiful contrast to the salty meal.

The table was simply dressed with autumn leaves and some late chillies. I commented to my guests that I thought the doily placemats looked like spider webs caught in autumn mists....but they thought that was a bit of a stretch!!! Well the bright cheery leaves can stay all week and keep me company at table anyway.

What dishes did your grandmother teach you that you still carry the baton for?
 Remember to teach your children and their children because a recipe is only a guide, it is the little tips and know-hows passed that make them family traditions and joys. This knowledge is only accumulated over time and with side by side instruction unless someone has been thoughtful enough to include lots of anecdotal reference in the recipe margins.
We remember to let children help with biscuits and  cake making when they are little because it is a good activity to keep them amused but I think as they grow older we are less inclined to have them at our shoulder absorbing the subtleties of cooking. This has become evident to my daughter who has lived with various housemates.
Perhaps once a week at least, we need to get them off the computer/TV/homework for an hour and schedule some family cooking time. It is absolutely natural that they should be expected to assist with meal preparation at any age and it is part of our job to take a deep breath, ditch the stress of the outside world and share the moment of family nourishment and nurturing. 
Do you set aside at least one night a week for family all together at the table?
Do you have a traditional roast on Sunday still?
I'd love to know what you still cook from your grandmothers repertoire.

( Dedicated with thanks to my mother and her sister, Aunty Leigh whom I used to regularly ring and check details with when I was first flatting on my own and trying to remember all I was taught xxx)

1 comment:

  1. What a delightful post Tanya! The meal sounded wonderful and the table setting evoked a feeling of cosiness as I looked at the photos. I didn't meet my nana until I was 23 and by then she lived in a nursing home but I guess a lot of things that my mum made were originally from nana.


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