HER KITCHEN RULES Some of our best cooks won’t hes­i­tate to tell you that, when it comes to good food, mother knows best

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - TESSA AK­ER­MAN

Mea­sur­ing, mix­ing and lick­ing the bowl — ev­ery cook has to start some­where. We learn so much from watch­ing our moth­ers in the kitchen; not just about how to cre­ate cer­tain dishes but also the wider is­sues of time man­age­ment, hy­giene, safety and min­imis­ing waste. And how to get so pro­fi­cient at cook­ing that the recipe barely rates a sec­ond glance.

For­mer MasterChef con­tes­tant Jessie Spiby re­mem­bers learn­ing to cook from her mother and grand­mother, who ap­peared able to whip up a three­course meal out of noth­ing.

Ade­laide-based Spiby didn’t start out with three­course meals, though, but scones and cakes, in par­tic­u­lar choco­late cakes.

At the time — aged about eight — she thought she was mak­ing the desserts all by her­self. In hind­sight, of course, she re­alises her mum Sally was watch­ing over her ev­ery move.

Spiby re­mem­bers mak­ing a cake for her dad and get­ting con­fused with the ra­tios. The cake looked right but tasted like bi­car­bon­ate of soda.

“You can’t get it right all the time — if you make a mis­take, it’s not the end of the world,” she says. “You just start again or eat it any­way.”

As well as learn­ing her fam­ily’s choco­late cake recipe, she was also taught about food waste: “Both my mum and grandma en­joyed cook­ing from scratch and I grew up not re­al­is­ing that was not what other peo­ple did.”

With a fam­ily back­ground in farm­ing, to Spiby it made sense to put care into how pro­duce was han- dled. “It teaches you to re­ally savour your food; it re­ally in­flu­enced how I en­joy food still.”

These days her new in­ter­est in na­tive Aus­tralian ingredients has led her to raid­ing her mother’s prop­erty at Wil­lunga, South Aus­tralia, for pro­duce.

“She doesn’t re­alise how much she can eat from there which looks like weeds. It’s cool for me to learn and then go there and steal it.”

Emily Rose Brott, who has pub­lished a new cook­book, My Se­cret In­gre­di­ent, says her mother Vivi­enne was her in­spi­ra­tion for cook­ing healthy food.

“I grew up watch­ing her in the kitchen,” she says. “She prob­a­bly liked hav­ing me there clean­ing up.”

Mel­bourne-based Brott says her mother al­ways cooked healthy, whole­some food for the fam­ily. “She had a few favourite recipes, choco­late cake and spaghetti bolog­naise. I did make a healthy ver­sion of the choco­late cake, which is as vir­tu­ous as choco­late cake can get and it still gets passed around.”

Her big­gest com­pli­ment about her own cook­ing skills, she says, comes from her mother — who now rings her up ask­ing for cook­ing tips. Turn­ing the tables, in­deed.

Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club mem­ber and author Mere­lyn Chalmers re­mem­bers that when she was as a child liv­ing in Perth, her mother was very par­tic­u­lar about her ingredients.

“She wanted her wal­nuts and poppy seed to be the fresh­est pos­si­ble,” Chalmers says. That meant young Mere­lyn would sit in the back yard shelling the wal­nuts and crush­ing them with a ham­mer so they could be hand-ground.

Later, her mum, Yolan, vis­ited her na­tive Hun-

‘Things your mother cooks go into the deep re­cesses of your mem­ory and they some­times stay there when you’re a busy work­ing wo­man’ ANNE A’HERRAN

Kathy Ts­aples

Mere­lyn Chalmers

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