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“The secret is to cook the heck out of it!” This was how my my mum’s advice began when I asked her to share one of my favourite childhood recipes. At the time, I was hoping to find meals that were well-suited to batch cooking and cost effective as I was hugely pregnant and freezing mark ahead meals for when I had my baby. “And don’t use a pan you like too much....the burnt bits give it flavour,” she continued. My mum doesn’t love cooking, or food particularly, and I’m still not sure how I became so fascinated with all things gustatory. However, this recipe has stood the test of time from when I was first introduced to it in the (probably) 1980s. The recipe itself may seem a wee bit rudimentary, but there is a certain type of magic that takes place when the sweetness of the ketchup mingles with the bite of the onion and the briny, saltiness of the olives. And as per my mum’s advice: cook it as long as possible to almost caramelize the sugary aspects of the sauce, and to soften the meat or veggie balls and let them soak up the flavours. A perfect combo of sweet, salt and, for me, nostalgia. Delicious over rice :)
Special note: the cooking clips book in the lower left corner and the recipe card were drawn true to form from my mum’s recipe drawer. For me, the cookbooks and recipe cards/clippings are just as memory stirring as the meal!
One of my aunts made a wintery fairyland scene out of penguins constructed from hard-boiled eggs and olives for a family gathering. She put the penguins on a mirror and sprinkled fake snow around the "ice". So pretty! But my actual memory extends later into the evening of the festive event. When the extended family would gather, the four adult sisters talked long into the night. As a youngster, I had to scrounge a place to sleep and would conveniently choose the room where the talking occurred. I then pretended to sleep while I eavesdropped on the adult conversation, which usually included a discussion on how they should combine forces and open a catering business. They would map out the entire business plan, including what contribution each person would offer and criticize the meager efforts of existing businesses. What a fun introduction to pipedreams!
I've just spent a week in Greece and was inspired to illustrate this. I love experimenting with different ingredients that can be added to give different layers of flavour. Try orange zest, chilli flakes, fresh chopped mint or coriander leaf, fennel or cumin seeds. And you could try adding cubes of feta too. The longer it's marinated the more flavoursome it will be.