Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Happy Kitchen - Part 1
The kitchen is my favourite domain when I'm not working away in my ridiculously claustrophobic cluttered office.
It is a place where my senses come alive.
Comforting aromas of cinnamon and gently stewed apple remind me of my Jewish Grandmother.
An amazing cook who had that natural talent of producing really good homecooked food with none of the additives that I have recently discovered make me feel so ill.
Grandma Rose had a repertoire of delicious Jewish recipes that I have been gradually rediscovering over the years through ancient, crumbling butter stained books and of course research on the internet.
I was a lucky child. All the significant women in my life were incredible cooks. Cooks of the old school that knew how to turn a drawer full of slightly bendy vegetables and meat cuts of a frugal nature into the most wholesome and mouth watering meals.
Infact I often call my Mum for advice when I know that a google search would frustrate me.
What is the best recipe for pastry? How many eggs for a bread and butter pudding? Which cut of beef will taste the best roasted (on more lucrative weeks!)
There are family favourites that I have tried to emulate from Mum. For example a fish kedgeree which is one of the few things that EVERYONE in the house enjoys from grumpy baby to fussy teenager.
The only issue I have is this. I use exactly the same ingredients as Mum. Cook in the same manner and garnish in the same way.
So why does it not taste as good? I like to think I have inherited the family gift of culinary skill but this simple dish disapoints me time and time again.
The answer must be the age old riddle "Why does food always taste better cooked by someone else" or more importantly "Someone you love and respect".
The kitchen is also an escape for me. Somewhere I can potter about to the calming tones of Radio 4 and enjoy my own space. Infact it is the only place I can do this until a small person comes in to grab my legs and beg a snip of carrot or a few raisins!
One of the other joys of the kitchen is being able to amuse my 3 year old. Cooking with Mummy is one of his favourite things and recently my heart was warmed by his nursery school teacher telling me that, during a cake making session, Leon had exclaimed "I love to do this with my Mummy at home"
Today we decided to make some gingerbread men. What we were after was that gorgeous soft, bitingly "gentle"man.
I had in mind treacle and brown sugar with plenty of lovely butter, one of my many edible vices!
This is the recipe we used:
1lb2oz plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarb of soda
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6oz soft light brown sugar
3 tbsp black treacle
2 tbsp golden syrup
Sift all dry ingredients and mix together in a large bowl.
Melt butter, sugar, treacle and syrup together. Cool slightly and whisk in a beaten egg.
Mix wet ingredients into dry and roll out while dough is still warm.
Cut out shapes, we used people and hearts, and place on a lightly greased baking tray.
The eagled eyed amongst you may notice the rogue "boob" cookie at the top of the plate!
Bake for 10 mins at 180.
Your kitchen will fill with the divine aromas of cinnamon and sugary treacle.
My son really loved squidging the soft deep brown dough and using cutters from my huge collection.
When they had cooled sufficiently we made a little royal icing using a paste of icing sugar and water and "glued" on some white chocolate dot eyes and mini marshmallow buttons.
Of course the best part was seeing my children devouring these toothsome cookies after their lunch. They were truly delicious and so gorgeously soft and moreish, quite unlike the filthy hard, brittle substitutes available in supermarkets.
I will be publishing more snippets from my Happy Kitchen and adding favourite recipes as the mood takes me.
Do please comment and it would be wonderful if you could add a favourite recipe for others to try.
Reuben loves to mess about with his brother's little tea set and it *sometimes* distracts him from the wails of "boob" when I'm trying to make the dinner!