Now that the Great Baking Binge of May 2013 has come to pass without severe weight gain or artery blockage, its time to get back into cooking some savoury meals that don’t need blocks of butter and sackfuls of sugar. More’s the pity. This week I made use of Lisa Faulkner’s book Recipes From My Mother To My Daughter, which was a housewarming present from my lovely auntie. I really warmed to Lisa when she was competing on Celebrity Masterchef a couple of years ago; she seemed so sweet, likeable and performed pretty well under extreme pressure. Her food always looked like something I’d order in a restaurant and managed to avoid the ridiculous pretentiousness and clichés of some Michelin starred food. Keep it simple people. In short, she came across as a fantastic home cook. I love the title of the cookbook and the whole concept of passing recipes down through different generations. While I’ve inherited a cracking chilli recipe from my dad and am always being given recipes from my auntie, I wish I had some recipes from my mum that had been passed along to me. I have really strong memories of baking bread rolls with my mum when I was young, ‘helping’ her make cake batter in the food processor (by help I mean taking a spoon to the mix and shovelling it into my mouth….some things don’t change) and watching her decorate homemade birthday cakes, the best one being covered in green icing made to look like grass with plastic cows scattered on top. It’s clear where I’ve inherited my baking gene, but it would be amazing to have a battered notebook or pile of recipe cards in my mums writing to draw on in times of foodie need. Hopefully when I have a family of my own I’ll be a good enough home cook that my own children will want to cook the same recipes when they grow up. Better keep on practicing then. Lisa’s mother died when she was young too and her and her sister took on the role of cooking for the family using their mothers recipes which they grew up eating, and which feature heavily in this cookbook.
Feeling in need of some comforting food, I gave beef bourguignon my very first go. As you may know, I’ve grown fairly fond of French food yet have never tried this classic of the region. I know, as if I dared to call myself a fan of French food. Being the unsophisticated oaf that I am, I don’t drink red wine (again, the nerve of me calling myself a French food fan) but we had some bottles gathering dust in the kitchen. It wasn’t that they’d been there long, they were housewarming gifts, but everything in this house ends up covered in dust if left lying around for longer than 5 minutes. Just ask the cat. Beef bourguignon is traditionally made with burgundy wine, of which I had none. Faced with a choice between a French or a Spanish wine, I thought it would be best to stick with French, although being so clueless about wine I wouldn’t have put it past me to completely disrespect the French by chucking in a Spanish red wine. Gerard Depardieu would be furious. Anyway, the dish takes about three hours to cook in the oven after a little bit of stirring on the hob, and I served it with mashed sweet potato. The beef was meltingly tender from the slow cooking and the wine sauce had thickened into a luscious, velvety, rich sauce. I’m not normally a huge fan of mushrooms served whole but the button ‘shrooms had a pleasing texture and had absorbed a lot of the boozy sauce. It all went really well with the sweet potatoes and despite the fact I hate red wine, cooked down in a stew I completely forgot my dislike of the stuff. Annoyingly I chose to cook this recipe on the one hot day of the week so it felt slightly unnatural to be eating a wintry stew while the sun was shining outside. Ironic too as the rest of the week has been pretty dire weather wise and the beef would have gone down an absolute treat. Still, it tasted mighty fine and is another great staple to help me on my way to home cooked perfection. For tasty home cooked food as well as some more adventurous dishes for the brave amongst you, you can’t go wrong with this gem of a book.