Sunday, 4 March 2012

When cooking up a treat is a treat

I’ve been a bit of a domestic goddess lately, if I do say so myself! I have been delivering veggie delights, making cake creations and even baking my own bread. Some of you may not share my excitement about my kitchen capers, indeed a few years ago I may not have been excited about it.

A few years ago a stressful job working long hours combined with single parenthood left precious little free time and I wasn’t prepared to spend it in the kitchen. The one thing I have always done is sure make my son had meals that were healthy and wholesome (even if some days I seemed to survive on coffee, biscuits and wine). When he was a baby my Sunday evenings were spent armed with my Annabel Karmel book, preparing and freezing pureed fresh meals – probably partly to assuage my guilt at working full time, thinking at least he got healthy homemade food. Over the years, cooking was practical and functional rather than enjoyable and even fun.

These days, thankfully, I have a much better work-life balance, and – who’d have thought it – actually enjoy spending time in my kitchen. Rather than sticking to the one pot veggie meals I have pretty much perfected over the years, I like finding new recipes to try and have added desserts, cakes and bread to my repertoire. I’m intrigued by the scientific aspect of mixing ingredients that react and interact differently, take pleasure in really creating something from scratch, and like the possibility that anything can happen as, even if I follow the recipe to the letter (which is rare), the same dish or cake can turn out a bit different every time. And I love the satisfaction of turning out something terrific, evidenced by clear plates, requests for more or just noises of appreciation.

My recent discovery of the joys of the kitchen has also brought back some happy memories. I inherited my aunty’s bowls (who needs money or jewellery?!) – a set of big ceramic ‘proper’ bowls. I don’t know if they have a particular name but I call them ‘ones like my granny used to have’. When I think of granny I picture her always wearing a pinny, her hands are covered in flour and the house is full of mouth watering warm delicious smells (or she is sitting in her rocking chair, enjoying a bottle of Guinness and shouting at the wrestling match on TV!) Her enormous caramel coloured bowl would be covered with a tea towel and sitting in front of the fire so the dough would rise.

My very own bowl-tea towel combo!
 When we were little and my brother and I stayed at granny’s house we’d come downstairs to a breakfast of freshly made bread toasted, spread thick with butter and then liberally sprinkled with sugar – I can still taste the glorious crunch of it. Later she’d bake a cake and we’d fight over who got to lick the bowl out - the loser got just the spoon. Even into a ripe old age she baked all of her own bread, cooked all of her own meals, and everything was made from scratch.  

With eight children and a husband to feed during her life, cooking was about making hearty nourishing food, coming up with ways to make limited ingredients go a long way, and keeping everyone healthy as possible because, in the old days, you wouldn’t always be able to afford a doctor’s visit or medicines. Oddly enough, none of our family have ever been fussy eaters or ever refuse seconds…

There will always be times I don’t want or have time to make things and there will always be the occasional take away or frozen meal, but I am enjoying discovering the joys of cooking and baking. And using my big ‘proper’ bowls. Granny would be proud!

Cakes have been fab for fund raising!

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