and the love is free: 11 lessons learned from my mothers kitchen

german potato salad5< I've been thinking about my mum lately. Alot. Even more than usual. For the last week I've been travelling on my own from New York City to Seattle and now to San Francisco. And as always when I'm on the road there's been plenty of time to think about things. I love that about travelling. My mum loved to travel and with mothers day around the corner, it's hardly a surprise that my adventurous mum has been in my thoughts. You see it's coming up to the 4th Mothers Day since she passed away. I still really miss her. She would have loved New York.

I’ve also been thinking about all the new mums in my life. My friends that have started families but especially my gorgeous pregnant little sister. Yay for being an aunt again!

I find it really comforting to think about how life goes on. Renews.

So in remembrance of my mum and in celebration of mothers everywhere I wanted to share with you a few lessons I picked up from my mothers kitchen. Lessons I, thankfully, have recorded in my print book And The Love is Free. So if I ever get that horrible feeling I’m forgetting her, I can just have a flick through and bring her back in my thoughts.

11 lessons learned from my mothers kitchen

1. good cooks don’t lick their fingers
I still haven’t managed to master this one. I think mum and I might have to agree to disagree.

2. veggie soup should have lamb in it
When you grow up on a sheep farm, you don’t even question the fact that mum’s amazing veggie soup is made with lamb stock. Of course I’d call it lamb & veggie soup but to mum it was practically vegetarian.

3. it’s important to have a sense of humour in the kitchen
One of my favourite recipes in And the Love is Free is a beef stew. And it’s not a favourite because I loved it as a child, in fact the opposite. We kids used to say call it ‘yuck’. But rather than get offended, mum made a joke of it so I now remember it fondly.

4. brussels sprouts are delicious (along with asparagus)
Two of my mums favourite veg. I was always down with the asparagus but it took me years before I was able to share her appreciation for sprouts. Now I can’t get enough.

5. the secret to wonderful broccolini
is to boil or steam until tender the toss with lemon juice, zest and a little extra virgin olive oil

6. curry doesn’t have to include chilli
and is delicious with a little vegemite. My mum had no tolerance for chilli (she thought Dijon mustard was hot) so her ‘curry’ recipe of course was very simple, almost like the Japanese curries. Definitely not for everyone but very comforting if you’ve grown up with it.

7. it’s easier to bake meatballs than pan fry them
Mum used to bake her meatballs because she said they always fell apart in the pan if she tried to fry them.

8. the secret to great lamingtons
is freezing them for 1/2 hour before icing. This helps firm up the cut cake surfaces and makes icing much much easier.

9. passionfruit makes the best desserts
There are three passionfruit recipes in the book – a testament to my mum’s love of this beautiful fruit. I’ve previously published mum’s pavlova recipe on Stonesoup.

10. when it comes to birthday cakes, little kids are really only interested in the frosting
There are 5 kids in my family and each of us have a photo of our first birthday with a paper hat on our heads and chocolate frosting covering pretty much everything below the hat. Bit of a family tradition you could say.

11. for the best jam, use fruit that is slightly under-ripe
My mum’s jam was legendary so of course I’ve included her recipes in the book. Some of her secrets were to not use too much sugar and be picky with choosing your fruit.

german potato salad5
german potato salad6



  • What a lovely tribute to your mother, Jules.
    My now-grown kids have just started asking for the recipes they grew up with – I hope they can look on them with the same kind of love that you do with yours…
    Safe travels, dear!

  • Hi Jules,

    I was born in Germany and our potato salad has always bee a great bon with our guests. My grandmother’s secret was that she poured hot (homemade) stock over the still warm potatoes. She then proceeded the way you do, although in Southern Germany, we did not use bacon (or Speck) and brown onions instead of spring onions. I use a bit of neutral oil to finish it off.
    I also find that pink fir apple potatoes are the best as far as waxy consistency as well as flavour are concerned.

    Kind regards


  • I’m with you on finger licking (which is an odd sentence now I look at it..)! I love the things you pick up from mothers in the kitchen – certain things I do just because my mum does and I’m not even sure they make sense but I do them because it’s my part of carrying on family history.
    I’m sorry you’re missing your mum so much at the moment – I’m about to go back to England for the first time since my dad’s funeral and am half excited (it’s been almost 4 years) and half terrified cause he won’t be doing the crossword on the sofa. I hope that this bit of missing her turns round to lots of lovely memories that make you laugh and smile AND cry!

  • I’ve been thinking of your mother, too. With gratitude and admiration. Yesterday my daughter asked for a lemon meringue tart, and I decided to try her recipe. It is simple and the end result was lovely (although I followed your advice and used Jamie’s crust recipe). Here in the Balkans we aren’t in the habit of using concentrated milk, and the preparation reminded my of primary school chemistry lessons! For the first time in my life I wondered at the magic of concentrated milk turning into tender yellow cream in contact with lemon juice. I also told my daughter about her making 21 ‘lemeringues’ in 21 consecutive days for your brother’s 21st birthday and we had a good laugh while she patiently waited for the crust to cool. A lovely evening! And this morning, the remaining meringue was studded with caramel coloured pearls, gorgeous in the shy morning sunshine! Thank you, Jules!

  • Number 7 is a great tip. I’ve always found pan fried meatballs gain a triangular shape and often fall apart. For spaghetti & meatballs, I simply pop the raw meats into simmering tomato sauce for a easy, tender result.

  • vera
    thanks for sharing your lemon meringue pie story. LOVE it!

    hope you have a lovely trip – I think if you’re looking for the memories they’ll be there.

    thanks for sharing your real german potato salad recipe – I think my mum got hers from a book that came with our first microwave or something so I’ve always wondered how really ‘German’ it was – glad to hear it’s in the ball park.

    great lady is an understatement!

  • Your mother had some very wise tips. I similarly learnt much about food from my mother. Great post.

    My version of german salad has some german mustard (noting your mothers dislike of Dijon she may not have liked this addition).

  • What a beautiful post and a lovely tribute to your Mum!
    My love of cooking came from my maternal grandmother who was an amazing baker – Saturday afternoons spent with her in the kitchen making doughnuts, victoria sponges and apple pies are some of my happiest childhood memories.
    Totally agree on the baking meatballs before adding to a sauce suggestion – I never looked back once I took that piece of advice from a friend a couple of years ago.
    Scared to try the German Potato salad recipe – think I would be hard pressed not to polish off the whole lot at once!
    Loving this blog!!

  • I purchased “And the love is free” book last year … and love it. My daughter and I have together cooked many of the recipes.

  • Niall,
    Great question!
    Lamingtons are little squares of plain butter cake that have been covered on all sides with chocolate icing and then rolled in coconut… you need to try them some time!

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