Some of us are lucky enough to have or at least remember our own grans, grannies, nanas, nans or nannies. I am sure every nationality will have its own collection of fond names for those ladies. I have been interviewing chefs for my forthcoming book, and a good number of them mention the influence their grandmother’s cooking had upon them; some even suggested that they were persuaded to take the path to culinary stardom by the prospect of replicating some of their grandmother’s memorable dishes.
OK, so perhaps that has not been a universal experience. Grans are almost always lovable but some have had only dubious cooking skills. Mine was a substantial and cuddly lady who loved to watch wrestling on the TV, but her bread pudding was legendary. Not a light and airy bread-and-butter pudding – we are talking bread pudding with which one could patch the corner of a tenement block. When you were full of Nan’s bread pudding you stayed full.
Natalie Oldfield has a gran with impeccable gastronomic credentials. She makes that proper food that many of us are lucky enough to remember from childhood. Pies and cakes and biscuits from scratch, as well as a collection of bottled goods. No costly ingredients but good honest wholesome fare, the sort that is enjoying something of a revival.
Any British lover of traditional cooking will recognise so much here. But leafing through Gran’s Kitchen for the first time I noticed that Dulcie May Booker used lemons from her own tree by the back door. That was my first clue that this lady didn’t live in Ealing. She is a New Zealand gran and brings a little exotica to those otherwise traditional recipes. My grandmother would have been a stranger to a passion fruit but we now have them in every supermarket, making all of these recipes accessible to the British cook.
There are lots of delicious baked goods here including Anzac Biscuits. The word ANZAC was given to Australian and New Zealand soldiers in World War 1. The term is particularly associated with the landing at Gallipoli in 1915. They are a traditional and prized Antipodean cookie.
I have several favourites from this book. Luscious Lemon Slice reflects the style of the whole volume: a simple recipe with few ingredients. Fish Pie has always been one of my ultimate comfort foods and there is a classic example here – a good recipe to stretch the fish. Kids will love the creamy texture, and fish is good for all of us.
My pick of the book is the recipe for Cottage Pie. This is rather different from the one I make, in that it is constructed in a pastry case, it has cheese in both the pastry and potato topping, and the beef is flavoured with curry powder. The pastry case allows for much neater presentation, and the curry elevates the dish from the often rather bland concoction. A substantial winner.
Gran’s Kitchen – Recipes from the notebooks of Dulcie May Booker is heart-warming and charming but it is a cookbook to be used. Nothing too taxing for the novice and no expensive ingredients. It’s an attractive volume, clearly written and with marvellous photography. Great value for money as well.
Gran’s Kitchen – Recipes from the notebooks of Dulcie May Booker
Author: Natalie Oldfield
Published by: Hardie Grant
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018