Since I can remember I have always loved cooking. As a child I started like everyone else by washing the veg, scrubbing potatoes the making salad dressings, helping to bake and on the side observing what my dad or my grandma was doing in the kitchen. My mom taught me how to set the table nicely and properly, how to iron the napkins and table cloths. Basic life skills we all learn from home. Then when I was older I started cooking whole meals. I loved cooking and baking and coming up with different ideas. I started putting things together myself, not always following the recipes. One year, I think I was about 14 or 15, I baked my mom a mothers day cake. She loves a simple strawberry & cream cake. But I wanted to make one with the glaze on top of the strawberries. I looked at all the option at the supermarket and found glazing sugar that jellify´s. Then I came up with my own filling, I already knew how to make a sponge cake and it turned out as nice as one from a bakery. I even surprised myself. I cooked for friends already in high school. My brother and I did not throw parties when our parents were out of town. We invited a few friends over and hosted dinner parties ( yes with wine, we were not that goodie two shoes, and the dinners ended up in hot shots that were quite the rage at 1996). We planned the menus together and cooked together.
When I moved on my own I started buying my first cook books and really started experimenting. That is when Donna Hay came along. I think my mom probably bought me the first book of hers I got. They had the nicest fresh pictures and great classic dishes with a twist. From these books I found some recipes that are still my bravado pieces like the white wine risotto with portobello mushrooms and a fresh tuna pasta dish I still crave every now and then. From these books I found the recipe for my famous white chocolate tart that is the sweetest dessert you can imagine but still all my friends who ” don´t really like dessert” always take another piece of. It´s so so good. But what I learned most from these books were just to hone my basic cooking skills. How with a few simple ingredients you can come up with the most amazing meals. These books resonate with me because they look like me and taste like me. They are the kind of books I would have made if I had made a cookbook. It´s like with every book in our lives. When we find something that feels familiar and supports what we already believe in it feels like home. We like it. Sometimes we do find brand new things we like but I believe that most times we gravitate towards something we find brings us closer to who we already are.
I have a whole bunch of these Donna Hay books and probably most Marie Claire cookbooks ( some are by Donna Hay and some by Michele Cranston). Some of them look very used, which I think is a good thing for a cookbook, a few of them are newer. Lately our girls started to cook through the fairly new Basics to Brilliance Kids book by Donna and they love it. As we, like everyone else, are home all the time and cook all the time it´s so nice to have everyone take their part. My husband does his share as well as the girls.
I hope you find joy in cooking and perhaps these books might be a good source for you too. I will share a few super simple ideas as to how elevate a very simple dinner soon. And with simple I really do mean just that, they are mix & match flavours and nothing more.