Sunday, 21 August 2011

Licking the spoon

My earliest memory of thinking “YUM” was as I sat next to the kitchen table in my Grandmothers farmhouse, watching her whip up a batch of buttery and sweet shortbread.  She worked with such skill and dexterity...I was transfixed.  It was like being a moth drawn to the flame of a candle (although there was no burning to death issue of course...)

But watching my Gran – whom we called Mama – was a hypnotising affair.  I owe all I know in the way of culinary skills to her.  There was nothing my Mama could not make.  She had a pantry filled with treasure!  I can remember sneaking into the pantry and gazing up and the wooden shelves crammed with little jars of gems like maraschino cherries and glace pineapple and opening strange mystical jars filled with pungent smelling pieces of what looked like wood or bark.  These days I now know those pieces of “wood” are cinnamon and star anise. 

I never left that pantry without sneaking a little bit of treasure into my grubby pocket and running to the bottom of the garden – till just behind the orchard - to taste my stolen loot!  I will never again think those pretty red things – all shiny and plump – are worth popping into your mouth whole.  Whole red chillies...umm not any time soon!

Of course, being a nipper surrounded by a pantry filled with delicious discoveries and a Grandmamma with the skill of conjuring up a delicious feast without as much as a glint of perspiration on here beautiful face...has given me much to aspire to.  If I can be half the cook my beloved Mama was, then Nigella you had better watch out!  Mama left me her hand written recipe book filled with personalised notes and tips, and mention of who the recipe is from like “Mrs Caldron’s tropical trifle” or “Kay Rilye’s chocolate pud”.  I wonder who all these people were, and how my Mama knew them.

When I page through this batter splattered, and oil spotted treasure, held together with browning cello tape I feel closest to her.  A book painstakingly put together with cuttings from Good Housekeeping 1956 and hand drawn instructions of how to fold a piping bag. I miss you Mama, but you are in me and I am a lucky girl because of it!

But for now, I practice and practice and learn and discover.  Here is my Mama’s shortbread recipe...and if you’re lucky you’ll get the delight of licking the spoon! YUM!

 Mama’s Shortbread

What you need:
  • 120 grams REAL butter – not too soft
  • 60 grams castor sugar
  • 180 grams flour (sifted twice)
  • Pinch of salt
How to make:
  • Knead the cool butter into the flour, sugar and salt mixture to form a ball.
  • Press into a flat baking tin and decorate with fork pricks.
  • Bake in the oven for an hour on 130

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