Whether I'm celebrating or commiserating, happy or sad, cooking is what I turn to.
I am a complete foodie and love to create something from scratch.
My Mother on the other hand would strongly disagree. Although a beautiful cook, she absolutely hates it and can't wait for the day when they invent a pill! She has already been waiting a long time! Since I can remember she has been saying, "Just imagine, not having to think what to cook, not having to go and buy it, cook it, chew it or clean up afterwards! A green pill for breakfast, blue for lunch, red for dinner...heaven!"
Now you would think with this attitude she would be big on going out to eat.
Far too time consuming and expensive!
Wherever we go and whatever we order Mum exclaims that she could have cooked 10 of them in a tenth of the time and for about a tenth of the price. I must say, I tend to agree with her! It's at the point now where it's fairly comical: "Call that a salad? Some wilted rocket, half a cherry tomato and some unidentifiable shreds of what could have once started life as a carrot which should have gone in the compost bin last week not on someones plate! I could have whipped up coleslaw, a FRESH green salad, boiled eggs, beetroot, and jacket potatoes in less time than it took the waitress to lollop from the kitchen to the table and I would not have served it to my guests with my thump resting atop half of it!"
Now the suggestion that Mum buys ready meals for ease, brings a look of horror and disgust, as if I had suggested she eat her own pooh.
"Preferable!" she quipped!
My Mum is very much of the opinion that in simple terms, you are what you eat. Growing up we were always the kids with a lunch box full of salad and grains. Oh why couldn't we just have a Penguin Biscuit and a bag of Walkers like everyone else? We had soya meat for tea and bran sprinkled on anything and everything. What was wrong with a burger....a real burger that was made from real meat?!
I had no idea back then that what she was doing was giving us a rounded diet full of good wholesome stuff to keep us energised and glowing and full of zest. Of course now I have total respect for my Mum's choices and these days if I have a spot or a headache or feel sluggish I can generally put it down to something I have eaten. We need fuel to live and like a car, if you put in diesel when we run best on petrol, there are bound to be negative side effects!
Well, Sunday was My Mum's Birthday and we are big on family get togethers for any occasion and it appeared to be my turn to provide for the 5000! Well, eleven actually but I catered as though it was 5000!
Wholesome, nutritious and spectacularly yummy was my MO.
Oh, and also easy!
I decided upon an Italian feast. I know I am probably very un pc what with the whole thought nowadays that "carbs are the devil's spawn", but you can't beat a giant bowl of pasta when the whole family are sat around the table.
So if you are catering for a do and you want something wonderfully simple and a real crowd pleaser, you have to make my 6 hour sauce! I am salivating just thinking about it.
Chop up three medium onions and several cloves of garlic and fry them in a big pot until soft. Then chuck in 10 cans of tomatoes. Now I blitzed 7 of them in the blender before adding them but that's your choice. Throw in masses of fresh basil, fresh oregano and fresh flat leaf parsley all chopped, then take a bunch of pork ribs, brown them in the frying pan and toss them into the sauce. Let the sauce come to the boil, turn it to a simmer and leave it for six hours with the lid off to get all jammy and gorgeous.
Now every time you pass to top up your glass of wine, give it a good stir and remember that as it gets thicker, if the heat is too high, the liquid will jump out of the pan like molten lava so keep an eye on the temperature. I have tiny dotty burns on my arms and chest!
After your six hours the sauce will be thick and smell divine. The meat will have melted off the bones so fish them out and chuck them into the bin.
When my sauce was made, I threw some meatballs into the aga and put a kilo of spaghetti into salted boiling water.
Take the meatballs out and put them in a dish smothering them with some of the sauce. Then toss the spaghetti in some sauce and put that in another big bowl topped with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh basil and parsley. To accompany the meal we had a huge green salad dressed with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and balsamic and just to top off the feast, and to ensure nobody was coming near us for the rest of the week, a cheesy garlic loaf! Add a bottle or two of Shiraz and you are well away!
I know I made it and I am British so I am supposed to be all self deprecating but it really was "The Dogs" as my Brother would say.
Even Mum was impressed! Well, I am a chip off the old block. Home made, nutritious, cheap and easy!
There should be enough sauce left over to freeze and use again....that's if you're not the Free family who wolfed it all down, mopping up the last drops of sauce in the pot with crusty bread.
Happy Birthday Mum - what are you making for tea tonight?!!!