Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When Home is... a Family Recipe

Patricia Fisken hasn’t lived in Scotland for a number of years but she still takes comfort in cooking the dishes handed down through the generations of her family. ‘My family love food and any get together always and still involves food. My Grannies and Great Aunts all had their signature dishes, which were brought out on every family occasion. My mum has continued this tradition and I hope to do the same.’

Food is so closely tied with Patricia’s sense of family that she compiled a ‘family recipe book’ a few Christmases ago. Recipes from her immediate and extended family were included and Patricia was amazed at how many people sent her the same recipe, which reminded them of that relative. ‘The other interesting thing was the realisation that some recipes had travelled the length and breadth of the world.’

One such recipe is her Granny Thornton's shortbread. ‘There was a moment of panic when neither my mum nor I could find the shortbread recipe and we contacted everyone we knew who may have it. Finally, a relative in Australia sent it over to us saying Granny made it on one of her visits to Britain and she loved it so much that she got the recipe.’

For Patricia, this recipe in particular evokes strong childhood memories. ‘We always visited Granny for the summer school holidays and I distinctly remember the smell of her shortbread (always freshly baked just before our arrival) wafting down the stairway as we approached her house. Granny's shortbread was very distinctive. It had a marzipan-like taste, due to the almond essence she put in it.’

‘It was such a comforting smell and full of promise: of hours sitting with her while she reminisced over photos of her exotic life.’

Exotic stories included how she ran away from her strict convent school to join the South African Women's Army. ‘It was on an army ship out to Egypt that she met my grandfather, a Major in the British Army. He was 20 years her senior and engaged to someone else, but my granny was a very alluring young woman and she ended up capturing his heart and becoming his wife. After the war they settled in Kenya, where they ran a coffee plantation and raised three young children (including my dad), before being forced to move back to Britain because the Mau Mau made it too dangerous for them to stay there.’

‘It is funny how, when I baked the shortbread last Sunday, the memories all flooded back and I was in granny's house, sitting next to her on her sofa, drinking tea, eating shortbread and being enthralled by her tales of life in Africa.’

For Patricia this is the beauty of a well-loved family recipe, ‘It can transport you back to another place, one that was home for a time.’

Here is the unadulterated recipe for Granny Thornton's Shortbread:

3oz castor sugar
6oz butter (soft)
9oz plain flour
1tbsp ground rice or semolina
1tsp almond essence
Pinch salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit
Mix dry ingredients together. Add butter with almond essence (chop up into small pieces with a knife first)
Work mixture with hands until resembles scone mixture
Put into a baking tin and knead into shape (in the tin)
Fork all over
Put in heated oven for half an hour
Then move to next shelf down and turn oven off. Leave for another quarter hour
Take out of oven and sprinkle with castor sugar
Cut into 8 pieces

Photo by Patricia Fisken


Claire said...

Lovely! Family recipes really are fantastic aren't they. It's the way that the smell (which is supposed to be the most evocative sense isn't it) takes you straight back to where you used to eat/taste/smell it. You can make wherever you are literally smell like home!

Vomail said...

For my family gathering events. I always go with Nom food videos. They are really good and provides yummy food recipes. Have recently used it in small gathering at home. Prepared few dishes from this app. Taste was amazing and everyone loved having it!


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