Do you remember your mum buzzing around the kitchen preparing your meals? She might have had a notebook of recipes to refer to, with bits of torn paper falling out, their sellotaped edges dried out over time. My mum’s is an A4 hardback curiosity, with some recipes from her schooldays, written in ridiculously pretty old Irish, and putting my scrawl to shame. (You should see me speed type though…)
She might have had a few trusty Delia books or the whole ‘Simply Delicious’ series from Darina, beaming and bespectacled on each cover. But not that many books were needed. Old favourites appeared over & over, some meals appearing as if by magic, buns & brown bread churned out with muscle memory. I know different now and I reckon I was a pretty ungrateful child all told. Though I ate a lot of raw veg, a trait Dominic has picked up to my delight. The work! The work put into feeding a family and feeding them well every single day while going out to paid employment 5 days a week. I have half the amount of children my mum has, and a husband who cooks too. My dear late dad was no caveman, but porridge or a mixed grill was about the height of his expertise. I didn’t understand how she was in the kitchen so much but now, as I wipe counters at 8am and 9pm with 9 hours in the office in between I get it. Now I get it.
As an ungrateful teenager I spurned meat and by extension her cooking by turning vegetarian and she took a deep breath and bought a new book, a Linda McCartney one. She sourced chickpeas in a town with one little health food shop. I wasn’t particularly interested in them which is ridiculous considering my veritable obsession with them now. Wexford is well stocked these days from Only Natural to Green Acres to Pettitts supermarket (now part of a national chain) you can find most exotic foodstuffs faster than you can say Maldon Sea Salt.
But I digress! I still it find it hard to make the same meal over and over and to that end I’m always looking for new recipes. (Our best laid meal plans have come a little undone) I don’t own too many books but I love the food pages of The Irish Times and The Guardian. I especially love Domini Kemp. She’s not a vegetarian chef, but I like her approach and find her recipes easy to follow so when she does do veggie stuff I always pay attention. Her spanakopita is a big favourite here too.
Last weekend, she featured a Store Cupboard Feast and I made two of the three recipes this week. It would have been three for three apart from the fact I don’t keep any of the No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream ingredients in the house (except coffee!). Double cream would be a dangerous fridge staple if you ask me.
Spinach Polpette is right up my street, on my doorstep, squatting in my house. I made the spinach mix and tomato sauce the night before and lobbed it all into the oven when I got in from work.
I’ll tell you what I have inherited from my mum? A certain anguish at turning the oven on for just one thing. So why just make dinner when you can make cake aswell? I love finding a good flourless recipe so the Chocolate Olive Oil cake caught my eye too. I made it with orange & almond flavour 70% dark chocolate. It works, but it was saved for after kid’s bedtime and a sneaky treat in work the next day.
For every basic pasta meal or lazy omelette we throw on the table* I do a mental high five when I see such a simple nutritious meal being savaged by baby, pre-schooler and husband. The dollops of spinach are perfectly sized for a 1 year old fist. Teddy is all about the self-feeding right now. Pre-loaded spoons are out the window (or in the cat’s bed depending on where they land) and he prefers to use his hands or practise filling the spoon himself.
So mama-chefs: whether you’re in and out of the kitchen all day, or running out to the office, whether you’re amateur or professional I bet you’ve got a bowl of weetabix languishing somewhere turning into cement. But y’know what. It’s not your turn to wash up.
*Nothing wrong with that, in fact Go Dad Go! did a fun post on 10 Cheap & Easy Kids Meal’s recently. I’m a fan of 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 & 10 myself.