On the Plate: Occasion food – the new normal

May 7, 2020 BY

The routines we’ve all had to adopt over these past several weeks are often described as the “new normal”.

Always a glass half full kinda gal, I’m trying to make the most of the regimes we’ve had to adopt. I’m sure you are doing the same, although for many of us the household routines can perhaps have us feeling somewhat tetchy at times, and that’s to be expected. There are many, many issues swirling around us, not least of which the uncertainty of what our daily routines will morph into in the future.
I’m buoyed by the upbeat tone of many journalists, food writers, and radio presenters who all contribute to enriching my day with the humorous, tongue-in-cheek articles and life stories; the fabulous, simple recipes being featured in the daily newspapers for inspiration, and the smorgasbord of marvelous music that is a constant background in our household. When all else is looking and feeling a bit overwhelming, the choice of music can certainly help lift or change your mood.
Similarly the daily ‘grind’ of preparing meals for the household can be daunting I know, and that’s why a return to the simple, old fashioned recipes of our mums and grandmothers are just the ticket. Wholesome, hearty, comfort food is what we need – and indeed with Mother’s Day just round the corner, let’s make something special to honour the mums!
Reset seems to be the buzzword at the moment, and for sure, by the time this new experience of COVID-time is in our past, we will surely have learnt new habits and skills; we’ll likely re-evaluate what’s really important, and many other former priorities might be listed in an entirely new and reviewed order of importance.
One habit I’ve adopted is the big cookup and by that I mean I cook double the quantity of various recipes, freezing one lot, so that on those days when you just can’t muster the energy to cook from scratch, after a hectic day of working from home, juggling the home schooling, and a gazillion other duties. And often I just stop and ponder and admire what I think would have been the ‘norm’ for many of our mums and grandmas in generations past?
There are times when we seek to serve particular food or favourite dishes to mark an occasion. In COVID times, Zoom dinner parties and birthday celebrations have been marked using the internet’s digital magic. Thank goodness for it being a useful way of staying in touch! Perhaps Mother’s Day will present an opportunity to Zoom with your family, spoiling yourselves and honoring your mum by cooking her favourite meal, or cake is a lovely way to say “thanks Mum!”
Therefore this year I plan to make these very old fashioned cheesecakes to mark the occasion of Mother’s Day. I’m still at a loss to know why they’re called cheesecakes – as there’s no cheese in them!
I’m recalling the thoughtful planning that went into deciding on the food to be served on the occasion of a funeral for a very special mother (-in-law to me) some years ago now. The family, principally the womenfolk, came up with several suggestions of “family favourites” – food that we all associated with a lady who had reared six children, and was the very model of a capable, independent mother, wife and grandmother. These dainty cakes were among her repertoire and so we HAD to serve them as part of the afternoon tea!
No doubt every family has their own half dozen or so favourites – so I hope you’ll choose one to bake and enjoy as you make a special day of spoiling your mum! It may well be food shared from a distance, but nonetheless will certainly zoom straight to the heart of your Mum. Even if you’re ‘celebrating’ from afar, she’ll acknowledge that you’ve thought about all the meals she cooked for you from birth to when you left home on your own adventures. This year in lockdown we’ll all need to be a little bit clever about how we can truly make an occasion of Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Cheesecakes

60g softened butter
60g caster sugar
1 tbsp EVOO
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 cup SR flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 sheets frozen puff pastry
½ cup raspberry jam
*optional 1-2 tablspn rosewater

Grease a patty tin tray and preheat the oven to 170C. Using a fluted cutter, cut circles of pastry and place into each tartlet indentation. Set aside in the fridge. Cream together butter, caster sugar. Add EVOO, egg, milk, vanilla extract and mix. Sift SR flour, with a pinch of salt and stir to combine with a light hand – meaning don’t overmix the cake batter. Drop ½ teaspoonful raspberry jam into each pastry case, top with the cake batter. Using the scraps of pastry cut and shape a small C-shape and arrange this on top of the batter. Bake 12-15 mins.