Trish Deseine on Preserving Old Recipes

2019 is the year for preserving the things we hold dear, Trish Deseine shares THREE FAMILY RECIPES

When it comes to mindless replacement of belongings, the traditional New Year cry of  “out with the old and in with the new!” has rarely felt more toxic for our beleaguered planet. Sure, I would love a shiny new Kitchen Aid, but my trusty machine, noisy, scuffed and stained, with lots of bits missing – although not going strong – is still going. We’ve been through so much together, I couldn’t possibly let her (yes, she’s a “she”) down just because the new models are so much more attractive. One thing I could definitely use, post party season breakage, is a snazzy new set of wine glasses. But mismatched glasses from our local charity shops always makes my table look way more interesting. (And Schull folk have excellent taste when it comes to their homes. There are many quirky gems to be found.)

Multiple house moves have made me edit my kitchen equipment down to its bare bones. It has taken years, but now I can even navigate the central aisle at Aldi (that’s when I’m trying to stay away from the cheese and wine, far left) without the slightest sideways glance, and manage to enter Ikea and come out with only the candles I went in for. Yep, dear reader, not one cushion. Not even so much as an extra chopping board from the kitchen department. As empowerment exercises go, it’s pretty strong.

Much more difficult, when it comes to resisting temptation, are the warm and shiny kitchenware stores, the ones with wall-to-wall Staub, and a gadget for every step of a recipe. But before I push open the door, I visualise all the indispensable items I have used once, then given away over the years, switch on the stern, “Do you really need that Trish?” voice in my head and keep it on loud repeat until I’m out again with just the size-specific baking tin or nozzle a new cake demanded. (Cake and chocolate making are truly the bottomless pits of vital new kit.)

In my kitchen drawer, my favourite knife, wooden spoon, whisk and grater have all earned their places. We’re so used to each other now, a brand new interloper would simply spoil the hard-won harmony. It’s the same thing with my pots and pans, they are such a big part of the muscle memory attached to family recipes you know by heart. And those recipes too, are important to preserve. My children are lucky, as most of our favourite dishes are online or in my books. But a family cookbook, no matter how simply produced, is a worthwhile writing project to consider over the next dark months.

I do have one new habit I’m counting on forming in 2019, and that is to start using my family treasures. They have been safely preserved for decades, wrapped carefully in tissue paper, or stored in snug canteens. But this year, I am determined my great-grandmother’s china and linen, my crystal whiskey tumblers and silverware – always kept “for good” and never used – are all coming out of storage and onto my table. For when the world seems so unstable, and life so fragile, not only does it feel good to connect to our roots and traditions, but also to seize the day. Carpe Diem! And a very Happy New Year.

… Auntie Olga’s Shortbread

Not our real Aunt, just a neighbour who picked up an honorary title when we were very small. This and my brown butter shortbread are such handy recipes to keep in your repertoire.

Serves 6 – 8

Preparation 15 minutes, 50 minutes cooking

250g very cold butter, cut into small cubes

85g golden caster or caster sugar

330g plain flour

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.

2. Put all the ingredients into a large baking bowl and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (You can also do this in your food processor or mixer.)

3. Knead on a cold, lightly floured surface for a minute or so. Press the mixture into a fluted flan tin (or any tin) of around 20/22cm.

4. Bake for 50 minutes, the edges will be slightly golden but the shortbread will still be soft. Remove from the oven, cut into triangles or squares depending on the shape of your tin, but leave the shortbread in it to harden and cool completely before removing. Sprinkle with caster sugar before serving.

… Lemon Curd Mess

Makes two small jars of lemon curd

Prep 15 minutes, cooking 20 minutes

150g caster sugar

Zest and juice of two large lemons

4 eggs

100g unsalted butter (or a mix of both for flavour)

1. Lightly whisk the juice, zest, eggs and sugar in a bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and add the butter. Stir frequently for 20 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and leave to cool before pouring into the jars.

2. For a super easy Winter Mess for two, crumble 2 or 3 meringues, mix with 200g whipped cream or Velvet Cloud sheep’s yoghurt, 2 golden kiwis and a banana, all sliced. Drizzle with lemon curd and serve immediately.

My Grandmother’s Tomato Chutney

The spices are perhaps a little scant by today’s foddie globetrotting standards, so do feel free to play around with them a little for extra depth.

Makes 6 jars. Prep time 30 minutes. Cooking 1 hour

1kg tomatoes

450g apples, peeled and finely chopped

250g sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

2 whole cloves

200g onion, peeled, finely chopped

200ml red wine vinegar

100g raisins

1. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 2 minutes, then remove their skins.

2. Put all the ingredients except the raisins in a large pan and cook over a low to medium heat for 30 minutes. Add the raisins and cook for a further 30 minutes.

3. Pour into the clean, dry jars when still hot. Close with lids or cellophane. The chutney will keep for several months in a cool, dark place.

@TrishDeseine

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