a bakers dozen of lessons from my grandmother’s kitchen

nan's victoria sponge cake recipenan's victoria sponge cake recipe2
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A few years ago, I had the good fortune to attend a class called ‘How to Market Your Book and Make It a Best Seller’. And while I did learn a thing or two about books and marketing, I got something way more important out of my tuition. A new friend.

I still remember our first class. The teacher was going around the room asking everyone about themselves and their book project. So I introduced myself as Jules and that I was self publishing a book of my mum’s recipes. Next was a gorgeous girl called Laura who was self publishing a collection of her Grandmother’s recipes. Great minds.

Since then, the lovely Laura and I have shared countless cups of tea seasoned with much enthusiasm and support. It’s given me great joy to follow Laura’s journey to becoming a published author.

And I’m super excited to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from Laura’s wonderful book, My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Recipes for Love, Life, Happiness and Food from Grandmothers Around the World.

Especially because I don’t really have any lessons from my own grandmothers. My maternal grandmother wasn’t really into cooking which, luckily for me, turned my mum into an amazing cook. My paternal nanna died when I was little, and although my dad great at eating, he isn’t much good at remembering recipes.

So it’s a real treat to read the stories of Laura’s grandmother and the other grandmothers from around the world. Inspirational doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

The thing I love most is that even though the book celebrates grandmothers from around the world with many different backgrounds, there is a common theme to their wisdom. Love, apparently is the answer regardless of where you live.

13 lessons from my grandmothers kitchen.

1. on cooking & love
both should be undertaken with wild abandon.

2. the secret to stir fried water spinach
I’ve been trying to replicate the water spinach dish from my favourite dumpling house for years and haven’t ever been able to get it quite right. I just thought the white stuff was garlic, but now I know it’s chilli bean curd. Can’t wait to try it out.

3. home is where the heart is
I’ve head this before of course, but it’s really been something I’ve learned since my Dad sold our family farm last year. It’s true you can create a home anywhere, it’s all about the people.

4. devonshire cream tea controversy
I love scones (biscuits) with jam and cream but I hadn’t ever thought about the importance of which comes first. Apparently the Cornish put the cream on the scones before the jam, but in Devon it’s the other way around.

5. tea tastes better from fine china
I couldn’t live without my tea but generally just drink it from a mug. Love the idea of using proper bone china.

6. on career – follow your heart
Your true strength comes from following your passion.

7. from mother teresa
“We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love”.

8. toad in the hole
Apparently no one knows where the name for this English classic came from but one grandmother suggests it’s because the sausage sticking out of the crispy batter looks a little like a toad sticking its head out of a hole. To cute.

9. the best potatoes for gnocchi
are desiree, apparently because they absorb less water than other potatoes.

10. the secret to parenthood
To be a good parent it’s important to teach children that it’s OK to make mistakes.

11. you can bake porridge
Love the idea of getting the oven to do the work.

12. there’s such a thing as mermaid pie
One of my favourite recipes in the book is a fish pie that is topped with potato crisps known as Mermaid Pie. A good reminder that creativity in the kitchen goes beyond just the act of cooking.

13. nothing shows love like a grandmother’s cooking

And if you’d like to learn more, or pick up a copy of this treasure of a book, head over to mygrandmotherskitchen.net.

nan's victoria sponge cake recipe9
nan's victoria sponge cake recipe

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video version of the recipe


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Don’t forget if you sign up for a class at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School before Thursday 17th March you’ll also get a FREE copy of my eCookbook 5 ingredients 10 minutes – Video Edition valued at $77.

CLICK HERE to make the most of this great offer.


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lauras nan’s not-so-enormous victorian sponge recipe
serves 6

300g (10.5oz) butter, softened
300g (10.5oz) caster sugar
300g (10.5oz) self raising flour
5 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line the bases of 2 x 18cm (7in) cake tins.

2. Cream butter & sugar with a stand mixer until pale and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. Then add the flour and gently fold in with a spoon.

4. When the mixture passes the ‘spoon test’ (see head note), divide the mixture between the 2 tins.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

6. Cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Sandwich with jam & cream and serve with tea in your best china.

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