Posts Tagged ‘family food’

It’s no secret that I don’t have a sweet tooth (in fact, I’ve been known to order an extra starter instead of dessert on more than one occasion) and it follows that baking isn’t something I turn my hand to regularly. But, when it comes to LC’s birthday, I feel compelled to keep a family tradition alive; making a birthday cake.

As LC’s first birthday approached, I discovered that both Jed and I shared this same family tradition when we were children. From dolls to cameras, ladybirds to racing cars, each year our mums made us special birthday cakes themed around our current interests.



When I embarked on making LC’s first birthday cake, little did I know how stressful it would be; the pressure to deliver something which looked as it was intended and to bring the utter joy I remember feeling as a child when the surprise cake was revealed.

LC is now three and each birthday so far I have spent hours researching, planning and designing before starting on the baking, cutting and decorating. Each year I’ve reached a point (usually at the decorating stage) where I’ve questioned why I’ve put myself through the agony and not just bought a cake, but it has all been worth it to see LC’s reaction and then to hear him talk about his cakes.

A diplodocus obsession


This one made using a sugar-free carrot cake recipe from things for boys.

Steaming into age two


I still feel guilty about using shop bought Swiss rolls for this cake but I’m not super mum so baking the biscuits and assembling the cake had to be where I drew line!

Dig, dig, digging and some muffins


He’s hit the age of taking birthday cake into preschool to share with his class at lunchtime, so with 16 to cater for and a little kitchen helper by my side I turned to the trusty sugar free carrot cake recipe again, this time made into muffins.


And for the main event, a chocolate orange sponge cake, using the 4,4,2,4 method I learned from my mum as a child, became a digger.


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As we prepare to head off to stay with my parents and meet a new generation of the Lisle family, I can’t help but ponder over the food which shaped me and my life as I was growing up. My food habits have changed substantially over the years; my knowledge and tastes  have expanded (who could imagine a time when I’d turn my nose up at garlic?!), the number of ingredients available have increased and the sources of inspiration have unfolded, but there are times when I still look back to my ‘food heritage’ and hanker after the simple food from my childhood.

The trip home is at short notice and, unusually, I haven’t put in any special requests for mum’s this or mum’s that, so I sit now and wonder about what she will have prepared for when we arrive late this evening.

My bets are on chilli con carne with jacket potatoes! Mum’s chilli was a regular when we were growing up and is one of the first things I learned to cook. When we were old enough to be alone in the kitchen, my brother and I cooked alternate Saturdays – Jeremy took on the Bolognese and I took on the chilli.

Both are, as they are in many British households, still staple meals for us. Whilst my recipes have been tweaked, honed and influenced by many a chef’s cook book over the year’s and now bear little resemblance to mum’s, on occasion there’s just no beating the originals for the memories they conjure.

Another meal I can almost guarantee to be served is a roast dinner. Mum’s sure to do some pork for me, with crackling of course, and for my brother there’ll be Yorkshire puddings and/or an apple pie (I know it’ll be pie not crumble because we had crumble at Christmas!). Sunday dinner was religiously served by two o’clock and the leftover cold meat with chips followed for Monday night’s tea.

My brother and I still fight over the crinkle cut chips mum fries in the chip pan which must be older than me. I’d attempt to eat as fast I could to get in for seconds before my brother could dive in to take, what I believed to be, the lion’s share but rarely made it. There’s something about those golden fries which brings out the worst in us!

I pray that, in whatever food is lovingly provided, there’s no celery soup – I can see the frightful soup in re-used Stork pots sitting in the chest freezer even now. And thank goodness we’re far short of February half term, when after playing in the garden in the snow or on our bikes in the street, we’d come in for Heinz oxtail or cream of tomato soup for lunch. The thought of tinned oxtail soup turns my stomach now but I’d happily tuck into some Ottolenghi oxtail stew instead!

I hope that my new nephew, Archie, will receive platefuls of love and that between us we can give him as rich a culinary heritage as my brother and I received as we were growing up. Welcome to an amazing world of food, Archie!

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