Cooking for me links me to my family. I come from a long line of cooks on my maternal side. Starting with my Great-Grandmother, who apparently worked in the Kitchens of one of the great London Hotels (Dorchester? Savoy etc? the detail has been lost) around 100 years ago. She was sent out to earn her living as a young woman along with her sisters due to reduced family circumstances. One of her sisters had to sing for her supper, quite literally... she ended up becoming an Opera singer at the Met in New York.


But back to my Great- Grandmother. After marrying my Great-Grandfather and post WW1 they moved to Australia where she used to supplement the family's income during the Depression by essentially working as a Caterer from home - she did a line in fancy hors d'oeuvres that she'd been taught in London and that she'd sell to local housewives hosting cocktail parties. She passed down her love of cooking through my maternal line - My Grandmother inherited her hand written recipe books and her wooden spoon and baking tins. 



Unfortunately, there is a strong lack of sentimentality in that side of the family as well. My mother was very unhappy to discover that my Grandmother had thrown the recipe books out around 25 years ago, as she thought the recipes were dated and not things that we'd cook today. But my Grandmother was also an excellent cook, with her own collection of recipes, and my sisters and I have many fond memories of cooking with her. She was an accomplished baker, and would often have us bake cakes and little biscuits (cookies for US readers) with her. 


One of my precious things is the recipe book that my Grandmother hand wrote for me when I first moved out of home with all my favourite recipes of hers in it. I love it for so many reasons... because it has her handwriting in it, which is such a lovely reminder of her.... because of the love that went into that little book with the time it took her to write it all down... and because it's a reminder of the love in the family that we all have for cooking, and of all the times we sat as a family and shared those meals together. Something that is in the past now.



My mother was also a very competent cook. She was renowned amongst my friends for turning out a cake or batch of biscuits almost every day for us to eat after school (we were so used to this that we regarded it as perfectly normal). She would happily entertain large crowds, more casually when older, but initially as a younger woman in the 80's there would be regular, fairly elaborate dinner parties with experimental recipes pulled from Vogue Entertaining and later Gourmet magazine using exotic ingredients.... like avocados (really... they were exotic in the early 80's in Adelaide) all sourced from Adelaide's Central Market. 



My sisters and I have all inherited this family love of cooking, and this was definitely nurtured by Mum.  When I lived in London, food was very expensive for a very poor student like me. I was living off mince meat as my only form of protein, and complained to Mum that I was sick of Bolognase. Rather than sending me money, as I'd hoped, Mum sent a ten page fax of recipes using mince that she'd copied out of Gourmet Traveller magazine, some of which I still use today.  Later on when I was living in Melbourne, Mum used to write down new recipes she had discovered on the back of postcards that she'd mail to me. They'd always be a surprise as I wouldn't know she was sending them. They're now one of my treasured links to my Mum. Every time I cook one of her recipes, I look at the cards she sent me so long ago now, and see her handwriting and think of her.


I thought I'd share one of my Mum's old favourites. She was well known for her Chocolate Chip Biscuits - it was one of the first recipes I learnt, and one that I cook with my children all the time. The recipe has been requested by friends so often that it's definitely a tried and true recipe... Mum thought that originally it came from an old Women's Weekly Cookbook back in the 70's. Just mix together in the food processor and add the chocolate chips and nuts at the end. Watch your spacing on the baking tray - they tend to spread. The mixture also freezes well, I'll often only bake up half and roll the rest into a log shape to put in the freezer for another day.... otherwise they tend to disappear fairly quickly.



Chocolate Chip Biscuits

125 gm softened Butter
1/3 Cup soft brown sugar
1/2 Cup Caster Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
1 1/2 Cup Self Raising Flour
Generous quantity of dark Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
generous shake of Nutmeg and Cinnamon. 

Mix together, then space generously heaped teaspoonfuls on the tray

Bake in a moderate 160 C oven for 10-15 minutes until golden. The ones pictured above spent a couple of extra minutes in the oven due to a few distractions....



Such as my helper. If you have one of those, you may end up with an extra egg in the mixture, or rather a lot of chocolate chips.... it's a forgiving recipe so will still work out!

Happy baking.

27 comments:

  1. I hope you scan in all your handwritten recipes and have them printed and bound into a book, so that this lovely family legacy continues to be passed down!

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    1. That's been on my 'to do' list Liene.... my grandmother didn't do a recipe book for all my cousins, and there's a bit of envy from those who don't have their own cookbook (they are much younger than me, so missed out). I'm planning to do a cookbook with photos and her recipes and give them as Christmas gifts... but its been on the list for a while now! xx

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  2. What a gorgeous post. I want me some of those choc chip biscuits. Kx

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    1. You need to bake a batch in your gorgeous new kitchen... which must be finished by now?? xx

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  3. What lovely photos and memories and recipes are such a special thing to pass down the generations- love the postcard idea- might have to keep that in mind when mine leave home!

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    1. Definitely do that for your children - I have to say that the handwriting is the key part in keeping the memories alive for me - an email of the recipe wouldn't be the same. xx

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  4. Lucky you to have such a wonderful legacy! I really missed out on the basics of cooking - a bit like not learning the alphabet and then having to read a book- end result, I am a very basic cook. Over the years I have tried various recipes with a hit and miss result. When it's a "miss" I would get very disheartened and wonder what went wrong having followed the recipe faithfully. I believe that really good cooks have a "feel" for food and that's the difference. Sigh.

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    1. Some recipes just don't work out at all... and I've made my fair share of misses as well. I think you're right though, you get a feel over time for a combination of ingredients that work, or what you can substitute if something isn't in season or in your cupboard. Mum was very good at that - I've still got a long way to go! But keep trying, it really is a skill built up over time xx

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    2. Dear Heidi
      What a lovely legacy from your mother and grandmother! Very precious family traditions and heirlooms to cherish! Must remember about the postcards and to send recipes to my little grand-daughters when they're a bit older. When we travel we always send them each their own postcards from interesting places -they love them.
      Linda, I didn't learn to cook either (I blame my dear feminist father). Soon after we were married we had our first dinner party in London. Husband invited the sister of one of his old girlfriends. I decided to cook roast beef (heaven knows why - maybe I thought it would be easy) - but because we were hard up, bought a very cheap piece of meat and probably cooked it on too high a heat and too quickly. It was like a tough old boot and completely dried out. Our carving knife wasn't strong or sharp enough to fine slice it so husband hacked off enormous indigestible lumps that we all chewed and chewed and could barely swallow. To begin with it was hugely embarassing and there were long silences as we masticated desperately but in the end we all got the giggles. I almost didn't have another dinner party after the mortification! But she was a lovely person and as a result of the dinner, through her job and contacts she organised invitations for us to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, the Royal Enclosure at Ascot during Gold Cup week, etc etc. We were often very lucky with our dinner guests. Another time, a friend of my sister-in-law's, an opera singer at Glyndebourne, thanked us by sending complimentary tickets to a performance. Best wishes, Pamela

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    3. Love this story Pamela - so funny! I think we've all had a story like that. I remember in my early cooking days cooking steak using silverside... tough as bootstraps! At least she didn't mind the lack of edible dinner and rewarded you with tickets to such wonderful events. xx

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  5. I love cooking too. I use lots of recipes that my Mum and grandmothers used.

    Never thought I would wind up on a farm but given that I have being able to bake and cook has been one of the most useful skills to have! Interestingly my brother and father also cook well and would do at least half the cooking in their homes. Not so with the farmer however!

    Love your Mum's recipe cards and the story about the mince!

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    1. Being able to cook on a farm is a definite asset, but having said that my Dad's mother was a terrible cook, and was in a small country town... we all have memories of some sort of "curry" that had chunks of tinned pineapple in it, the rice was yellow and came with currants in it. Horrible! She did make a great Trifle and Cornish pasty though.

      As for the mince - I can remember complaining on the phone to my mum and saying "I don't think you realise - I've lost a lot of weight because I can't afford to eat and I have to walk everywhere (it was 36 pence to the Dollar)" and mum saying "yes, your Father and I think it's a very good experience for you to have". Tough love! xx

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  6. Your scone picture is really teasing me!! My mum said she would bring me scones after I gave birth, but she ran out of time. Then my sister offered to cook them for me, but my Aunty made such a yummy and filling dinner, that I declined. And I am still craving them like no ones business.
    I think I just need to cook myself up a batch.

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    1. Go and make them! I made a batch for afternoon tea yesterday - so quick and easy, and so delicious... think you'll be able to manage them even with a newborn. xx

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  7. This post made me smile because it does encapsulate those moments - almost Proustian.

    Your chocolate chip cookies and the recipe brings up all these little stories.

    Love the story. Your mother's reaction to moaning about only eating mince made me laugh!

    I also cherish handwritten moments. What a lovely family heirloom to pass on xx

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    1. I know! So typical of mum to send me the recipes rather than money!! Handwritten things are so precious now that we do all our communication via email. I really have no letters from family members and only a handful of cards. xx

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  8. I have my mothers and grandmothers cook books with annotations I know what you mean about handwriting being a link.

    is that a ...trifle? that I would like to try

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    1. It is a trifle - definitely try, they are so easy. The secret is Booze.... lots of it!

      You're very lucky to have the cookbooks passed down, and to know which ones to try in advance. I used to try to keep my cookbooks pristine, but I've now given up and I'm letting them get splattered. xx

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  9. Heidi... what a lovely post... These recipes are precious and something so beloved a mother can leave to her children. I have only one of my mother's hand-written cook books - I think I might scan them and create a book as well... Inspiring as always Heidi!! xx

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    1. Definitely scan them - your children and grandchildren will thank you for it I'm sure. Such a lovely thing to hand down through a family. xx

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  10. What a beautiful and meaningful legacy to have.
    I come from a long line of baking and cooking people, too, although the baking gene has skipped me. I do bake (in fact I did this weekend) but it's not a regular occurrence by any means. I am definitely going to try that chocolate chip biscuit recipe at some point, though.

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    1. Try the biscuits - they really are fullproof, even a non baker could turn out a good batch.

      It is a nice legacy to leave - I'll always thing of my mum and grandmother now when I cook, and hopefully my own children will as well. We ate the last of mum's strawberry jam on Friday with scones, and talked about her. I was sad that it had finished, but it was a nice thing to share with the children, whose memories of her are fading so fast. xx

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  11. And that cake looks utterly delicious! Makes me want to bake one right now!

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  12. Somehow stumbled upon your blog and had to leave a quick note for you as I don't often come across others in Adelaide.
    Your photos had my mouth watering - those scones look absolutely delicious!
    And how invaluable to have your grandmothers hand written recipes. Such a treasure.
    Will be back soon I'm sure. xx

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    1. Hi Andie, there's a few bloggers from Adelaide... mostly house related though I think. The scones are delicious, and really, really easy - CWA scone recipe. V. lucky to have my mother's and grandmother's recipes. Shall pop by your blog xx

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  13. The cookbook idea with family photographs and recipes is brilliant, it would be such a lovely Christmas gift. x

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  14. The handwritten recipe book was really nice and wonderful.It feel pleasant to receive a handwritten recipe book from someone important to you.I'd really like to learn baking.Looking forward for more updates.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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