"My Mother's Birthday"
For me there is nothing as heartwarming as a mother-daughter relationship. Most bonds change over the years and for those who have a good rapport the constant will be love, dedication, support and complete devotion. This is what my mother has showered not only on me, but on our entire family. Sometimes I struggle to understand how she could give up a career and make her life about my father and her 'girls'. In the early days she was faced with endless fetching and carrying - Sheldeen and I played every sport possible. Swimming practise and modern dancing followed - and the continual waiting... then getting home and having to prepare dinner for the family - and remember a day's work was completed before we were picked up from school. Oh my! To fill my mother's shoes one day will be a momentous task. In recognition of all she does we pull out all the stops for her. Why? Because she is the best!
More than any other dish my mother enjoys seafood. Imagine her horror when she developed an allergy and was forced to abstain for a few years. Now, in moderation, I like to treat her with one of my speciality fishy dishes.
Breakfast for her has to include a piece of haddock. I was surprised when last in the English countryside, the haddock I ordered looked nothing like the haddock we get here. It had a delicate, smoked colour and a lingering smoked-fish flavour. But back to South Africa and to working with what we have... prepared the night before and popped into the oven when everyone is ready to eat is simply ideal; so the individual ramekins filled with creamy, flaked haddock, mushrooms, free-range egg and caviar, commemorates a special occasion and starts the day with a celebratory tone.
My parents recently came to me for lunch and, knowing my mother would expect something fishy, I made a fresh mussel soup; one of my newest additions to the Hartford House menu. In the restaurant we serve the soup in a bowl that looks like an ocean floor - well in my opinion it does... with its many smoky-flavour combinations we aptly name it 'smoked-mussel soup; with fond seaside memories'. In our family no holiday was a holiday without spending time at our beach cottage in Pennington where, every morning, we picked our daily mussel allocation. As I served my parents I wondered if my soup compared favourably with my mother's well-known Pennington, creamy, half-shelled, mussel gratin. What a savoury kick to get any palate excited it is truly yummy!
Another fishy suggestion... with oranges in full season there is no excuse to not be squeezing your own juice. For a unique touch that compliments any seafood dish I suggest a black-pepper and orange-butter sauce. By the way, I always associate oranges with chocolate - my mother's favourite combination.
For a light-lunch option I recommend a double-baked cheese soufflé with rocket pesto and shaved parmesan. So old school but so delicious - especially for those, like my mother, who enjoy cheese. There is a simple reason that an old classic endures; and mostly it's because the flavour combinations just work!
In our family home olives are always readily available. In my opinion beef fillet, cherry tomatoes and olives poached in olive oil with fresh rocket, pecorino shavings and a crispy caper salad is a lunch-time suggestion fit for any mother.
A birthday isn't a birthday without a cake. I remember the many cakes my mother used to bake for us girls - Barbie, heart, rainbow, floral hat and the train crafted from a Swiss roll, with loads of sweets in the coaches. Almond and white chocolate with rich coffee icing is my choice for this year's celebration cake. For years, my mother succumbed to her daughters' aversions to coffee-iced cakes but now our palates have matured and we appreciate its flavour enhancing quality.
My toast to readers is wishing you many more birthday celebrations with the special people in your lives as you 'break bread' around one table. There is no better way to celebrate life than together.
You'll find more of my recipes in my recently-launched book 'Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home'. At R250 from any well-known bookstore, or online, it's a worthwhile buy. I look forward to receiving your comments.
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