Hello beautiful people! Yet another week has passed in a flash and I can’t believe that we are already in the middle of August and dare I say it but soon Christmas will be looming. Whether you’re on holiday or just enjoying a ‘staycation’, I hope you’re spending some quality time with family and friends.
Summer is the time when al-fresco dining, afternoon tea, bbq’s, and picnics are all in full swing. Undeniably I think that food always tastes better outdoors or certainly enhances the eating pleasure.
Maybe it’s the sense of being at one with nature, the feeling of being on holiday or even just a break from 4 walls. Like bears after a long spell of hibernation it’s so liberating to be out in the fresh air bathing in the rays of sunlight well, when it’s not raining that is.
my mother June has played a pivotal role in shaping the cook I am today
Social media is bursting with delicious images of cakes and bakes made from the abundance of seasonal fruit and vegetables which are mostly homegrown (the best kind in my opinion).
However like me if you weren’t fortunate enough to be born with green fingers then farmers markets and farms where you can ‘pick your own’ is the perfect alternative. Fresh produce aside, baked goods always transport me to my childhood and in particular, my mother’s kitchen.
For those of you who’ve read my blogs and information on my website, you’ll know that my mother June has played a pivotal role in shaping the cook I am today. So far the focus has been on savoury dishes but in fact my mum is also an excellent baker and as a child our home was always filled with enticing aromas wafting from the oven.
Coming from a long line of fabulous bakers her knowledge was not acquired through formal teaching, but pearls of wisdom imparted from family mainly her sisters Marie and Ruby. You may have seen last weeks ‘Recipe of the month’ which featured a cupcake my mum used to make with a couple of my own adjustments (if not go and check it out now!).
My early years were spent growing up in a little town called Port Dickson where literally everybody knew everybody! You know the kind, I mean where you’d bumped into a familiar face whether you went to the market, the church or the shops. It was a great little community without a doubt but a main feature of all ‘small towns’ was that any kind of news good or bad would spread like wildfire!
On the up side, my mum’s humble cake business run from her equally humble kitchen fast became the talk of the town. Special occasions were never complete without a cake from June and large church gatherings and parties always held an impressive display of her cupcakes, curry puffs and Eurasian meat buns (Pan Su Si).
In an era when Tupperware and Pyrex parties were all the rage, housewives who were quietly competitive would glance enviously at my mum’s talent and quietly whisper amongst themselves before mustering up the courage to ask for the recipe. Family recipes are usually a closely guarded secret but my mum was the complete opposite and generously shared recipes and tips without hesitation.
Before my dad treated her to a top of the range oven which by all accounts can be described as vintage in this day and age, she owned something that was circular in shape and as a child reminded me of a large silver beetle. Even with this little ‘beetle’ my mum managed to turf out some fabulous treats.
Cake decorating was another self taught skill with only books and tips from family and friends who had formal training. I’ve lost count of the number of wedding cakes that left our kitchen on a regular basis.
Unlike in the UK where rich fruit is usually the choice for weddings, back home Semolina or ‘suggee’ cake was the first choice. It may sound rather odd and uninspiring but the intense flavour of brandy and almonds adds a richness and depth and once encased in icing (butter or fondant) it’s definitely earned a place in the gallery of grand cakes.
Taste aside, the method itself is seriously tricky and the chances of a disaster like a sunken centre or something resembling a biscuit is not uncommon. The end result has to be golden with a good rise and the image below is one my mum made on my last trip which is exactly how it should be.
The first cake we made together was a Victoria sponge and I recall the excitement of the whole process from getting the ingredients ready right to the jam filling and of course the moment when it hit my lips! I’m so fortunate to have been tutored by an extraordinary cook and baker who has helped me tremendously in the path I’ve chosen.
Thank you mummy and I love you. x
As always, take care and keep safe.
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