The Middle of the Darling Daughters texts me to remind me that I haven't yet sent her my recipe for Hot Madras Curry. Apparently her fella, having sampled my famous curry on Young Faris's birthday, has elevated it to a
position, in his opinion, on a level with Mr B's roast beef dinner. This is the Ultimate Accolade.
I had tried to impress him with my Meat Pie which is legendary among my family but, while appreciating the
beef within it, he wasn't too keen on the pie crust - or, as he termed it, "the bread." I thought I had missed the boat but then I served up the curry and it succeeded where the meat pie had miserably failed. So much so, that now the Middle of the Darling
Daughters wants the recipe. She is going shopping, she texts, so can I possibly email her the details?
The recipe for my Hot Madras Curry comes from a Reader's Digest book titled "The Cookery Year." I would
like to say that I have cooked my merry way through all twelve months of culinary creations but mostly I have concentrated, over the years, on just three recipes - for chicken pilaf, beef curry and hot cross buns. You can tell by the state of the pages - heavily
spattered with curry paste, beef stock and chicken gravy - which dishes I have served up over the years. Over and over again.
The Cookery Year was published in 1973 which means, as I explain to my daughter
in my covering email detailing the recipe, that the meals are somewhat blander than current tastes would require. To compensate, I generally add twice as much garlic and twice as much curry powder to the ingredients. The Middle of the Darling Daughters, a
far better cook than I will ever be, says not to worry she will keep adding and tasting till she gets it right. Spoken like a Masterchef, I tell her.
I have been watching that new TV programme called "Back
in Time for Dinner" in which a modern family samples, week on week, the food of the Fifties, the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties right up to the present day. Presumably when they make it to the Seventies there will be a copy of The Cookery Year on a handy
shelf in the kitchen. I will be looking out for it. I seem to remember that every aspiring cook had a copy of The Cookery Year in their kitchen in the Seventies. Some may even have started in January, with a Terrine of Hare and something called Scottish Flummery,
and cooked their way all through to December's Rice and Cheese Croquettes and Champagne Charlie. Every month, the book explains which foods are in season and cooks up a seasonal treat, Easter delicacies in April, children's birthday parties in July (including,
I now remember, the clock face cake I baked for Faris's second birthday.)
Last week's episode of Back in Time For Dinner focused on the Fifties which was extremely entertaining, especially as the TV producers
moved into the family home and redecorated all the downstairs rooms to reflect the age. The poor mother of the family was hopelessly out of her depth trying to cope with the restrictions of Fifties Fare - which, while making for highly enjoyable television,
failed to recognise the resolve and imagination of the real Fifties housewives. In my admittedly rosy-spectacled memory, my dear Mum cooked up delicious meals for our family of six all through the decade in question, including two puddings each and every day.
One of these puddings was always Rice Pudding, known to all the family, for obvious reasons, as "365".
I am beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I am turning into a Domestic Goddess. "Chance would be
a fine thing!" Mr B mutters. But think about it, I have now cooked two rather splendid Cakes For Special Occasions, courtesy of Delia, and put my new sewing machine to good use making sweet, if simple, outfits forThe Twinkles. Is this enough, I ask you, to
set me on the path to being recognised as a Domestic Goddess? Or, if not, perhaps a kind of Domestic Cherub?
All this talk about food is making me feel hungry, especially as it is approaching Dinner Time. What will
I be cooking up for Mr B tonight, I can hear you enquiring. Will it be Hock with Cider and Raisins (October) or Poached Partridge in Vine Leaves (January)? Or even Savarin of Lamb (March)?
No, none of these
I am ashamed to say. Mr B had come home from a shopping trip to Waitrose with several Ready Meals. These required no more culinary skill than setting the microwave for four minutes, with one minute's rest halfway through. One was a cheesy fish dish, the other
equally fishy but without the cheese.
Needless to say, you won't find either of them in The Cookery Year.