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Comfort Cooking

As we get older, nostalgia takes over many areas of our life and we often yearn for things from the past. We are all, to some extent, encumbered by memory. We can’t totally recreate what was, and is no longer, because these memories usually encompass a person we once loved and who is, perhaps, gone from our lives.

Sometimes though, it is possible to recapture some elements of that nostalgia. If I’m feeling low, I find I am comforted by cooking certain foods from my childhood that seem to have disappeared from our menu. As I savor them, I can see my mother in our old-fashioned kitchen and I feel her love in the taste and flavor of the past. Here are some of her recipes:

Shepherd’s Pie

I remember this from cold winter days, coming home from school to find this marvelous dish waiting for me.

Ingredients: 1 lb. lean ground beef 2 chopped onions 1 1/2 tablespoons flour 1 16 oz can tomatoes Diced carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes and celery 4 large potatoes mashed with a pinch salt Margarine

Directions: Brown the meat and onions, stirring. Sprinkle flour over them. Add the tomatoes (broken up) and all the vegetables, with just enough water to cover. Simmer until all the vegetables are soft (approx. 45 minutes). Place in a deep pie dish, cover with mashed potatoes dotted with margarine. Bake at 350° until the top is golden brown.

 

Rice Pudding

Do you remember the A.A. Milne poem that goes on about “What Is the matter with Mary Jane? And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again…”? I always thought her a spoiled brat because rice pudding was one of my childhood favorites and I still enjoy this simple, creamy dessert.

Ingredients: 1 cup soft cooked rice (moist – not dry) 1 ½ cups milk 1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs 1/2 teaspoon vanilla nutmeg

Directions: Beat the milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add the rice. Place in a greased pie dish with nutmeg sprinkled over the top. Stand in a dish of cold water (to prevent curdling) and bake at 350° F until set (about 45 mins.) Delicious as is, but superb with cream or ice-cream.

Trifle No party was ever complete without a trifle for dessert. It’s a great way to use up stale cake and makes a festive centerpiece for a party meal.

Ingredients: 1 stale sponge cake Raspberry jam 8 small macaroons 1/2 cup sherry or sweet red wine 1 packet instant red jello 2 cups custard filling Whipped cream

Directions: Cut stale sponge cake into fingers shapes, and spread with jam. Use them to line a deep glass bowl, peeping over the top. Arrange macaroons in the bowl and pour wine over them. Make jello and allow to cool. When cold, cut in squares and cover cake and macaroons. Pour custard over everything and top with cream.

You can decorate the trifle with sliced strawberries, almonds, bananas, kiwi fruit or chocolate and silver sprinkles. It’s a simple dessert, but your guests will think you worked on it all day.

 

Apple Crumble Everyone loves this, and it’s quick and easy.

Ingredients: 4 large Granny Smith or green cooking apples Water 2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey Juice of 1/2 lemon 1 cup self-raising flour 1 pinch salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 2 tablespoons. margarine 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 tablespoons dried shredded coconut

Directions: Simmer sliced apples in a little water until soft. Mix with syrup and lemon juice. Place in pie dish. Mix flour, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Combine with margarine until it is the texture of breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the apples, and then sprinkle with coconut. Bake 30 minutes at 350° F. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

 

Scones

These were my mother’s standby if unexpected visitors arrived and we were out of cake. Australians love them. In England, Devonshire Tea is scones, strawberry jam and cream. We preferred them piping hot with butter and a good, strong cup of tea.

Ingredients: 1 tablespoons butter 2 cups self-rising flour Pinch salt Equal parts milk and water

Directions: Rub the butter into the flour and salt. Add liquid slowly – enough to form a soft dough. Work quickly without kneading. Place on a lightly floured board and pat to a thickness of 1 inch. Cut into shapes with a floured scone cutter (or use a wine glass). Bake on a greased tray in a hot oven for 12 minutes. You can add chopped dates or raisins to the dough for sweeter scones, or grated cheese and rosemary for savory ones.

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