You will always find seasonal ingredients at the heart of this column but it struck me just recently, as I was writing our Mother’s Day menu, that we’ve never given thanks to the best ingredient any dish can have – a mum’s love, says Graeme Pallister, chef patron of 63 Tay Street in Perth.
Call me corny but for me any dish that has this most magical of ingredients can both repair and mend, bring smiles and laughter and making anything seem possible.
It started when I was wee: once you’d stayed out long enough to catch the start of frostbite, you’d trudge back to be greeted by the sight of kitchen windows all steamed up. You’d pull your wellies off and pace through the house in your stocking soles – and there waiting for you was a big bowl of piping hot soup from your mum with loads of plain bread and butter that spread because it never lived in the fridge.
You see, your mum – or maybe it’s your granny, your dad, your big sister – makes food that hugs you. It gives you a full belly and a happy face; it fuels you like your own internal log fire; it makes you feel invincible.
When we think of comfort, we go back to homemade soup and our mum’s macaroni cheese; my eyes glaze over and my head fills with steak pie, mince and tatties and lentil soup.
I think it’s partly down to the great Scottish weather. Mums cook like this because we have to deal with minus temperatures and standing for 20 minutes trying to get into the car – porridge is the only thing that will fuel you for that. Bran flakes are never, ever, setting you up for de-icer spraying and rigorous windscreen scraping. When you come in from the cold, nose red and running, body tingling, the only thing that will do is a plate of stovies. Our mums evolved into masters of comfort food as a matter of necessity.
It’s good, hearty Scottish cooking and apart from the obvious nutrition that comes with every dish, you feel a real sense of satisfaction that can never been found at the end of a frozen pizza. It slows you down, it creates memories and in the simplest of ways it says: “I love you.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there. We salute you.
Make lentil soup like your mum by buying a ham shank in the local butcher and boiling it up in a pan with carrots, onions, leeks, lentil and a big bunch of chopped fresh parsley. Simple, easy home cooking that will hug you from the inside out. Don’t forget to invite your mum round for a giant bowl.