A Cracker of a Family Dinner
Home-cooked meals. Don’t you love them? It’s something most of us think about, dream about, reminisce about. If you were lucky, a mother, grandmother, or an auntie, or someone who emanated cheerfulness, warmth, caring and love (they were all women when I grew up, but don’t take offence, slip in whoever it was, or whoever you wanted it to be), stood by the stove, stirring pots of gorgeousness (yep, that’s a word), food that smelled so good you couldn’t wait to eat it, food that tasted so good you licked the plate clean (well, as a kid …), and food that spread such a wonderful feeling of happiness deep in the pit of your stomach.
I had many such dishes cooked by my mother as I grew up, but one that is a sharp and an evocative memory is her fried onions, mashed potato and lamb chops. I swear I could smell sweet sizzling onions as I walked down the hill from the bus stop after finishing work in my first job in town, or maybe I just wanted them so much I summoned up the smell. By the time I got through the door my legs were weak with anticipation and I just wanted to sit down and bury my face in the deliciousness of that meal. Sausages & Mash with Cavolo Nero & Onion Gravy is a tribute to my lovely mother. Onion gravy. It makes everything taste so much better. It’s not something you whip up in 2 minutes, mind – like many things, slow and gentle produces the best result. That’s how the onions will caramelise and give forth their delicious sweetness, and how the colour will produce a gravy of astonishing gloss and deep colour. The antithesis is a pale insipid gravy, or one that tastes harsh from burnt onions. Take your time. Think good thoughts and make onion gravy.
And read the notes on making a good gravy – a skill that is fast disappearing with ordered-in food boxes. How to make lump-free gravy
And mash. Oh, how I love thee … yes, a bowl of piping hot, soft and fluffy potato mash is another glory of the kitchen, and something that many find hard to achieve. It’s easy! Learn the tricks and off you go … a lovely pillow of CARBS (yep, putting that in caps so you can’t miss it; so silly not to eat carbs sometimes, especially in the darkest depths of winter!) makes the perfect nestling place for heaps of vegetables or saucy meat dishes. Potato Purée
And keeping it simple, a really tasty way with cavolo nero, a vegetable that wasn’t grown commercially in New Zealand when I was a child, but a leafy green I fell in love with in Italy. It tastes of goodness! Cavolo Nero
Keeping an Italian theme, I’ve given a recipe for coloured chard with parmesan and pine nuts. Colour, crunch, taste, and goodness with every mouthful. Swiss Chard with Parmesan & Pine Nuts
And I’ve covered off chives – you can grow a gazillion plants from a pack of seeds and a few little chives that you have raised from seed in a terracotta pot makes a cute housewarming pressie or gift to take when you are off to have dinner with friends. Chives
Start thinking about things … like how much cheaper it is to cook at home from scratch rather than ordering prepared stuff, getting a good repertoire of family favourites together to keep your family humming along together, and, for goodness’ sake, eat everything in moderation – no excluding food groups because it’s the latest diet trend – and live with joy in your heart.