There’s nothing to compare with the food that our parents cooked for us when we were small. It has the Proustian power to comfort us, even decades on.
This Mother’s Day (March 14), we asked Scotland’s top chefs, producers and food writers to tell us about the dishes that conjure memories of their mothers.
Geoffrey Smeddle of The Peat Inn, Fife, and his mother, Gabrielle
“Nothing evokes childhood recollections like Mother’s Day. I’m blessed with abundant memories of lovely home cooking, but effortlessly beating all competition is The Cake Tin. My highlight each birthday was a deep layered gateau of unctuous coffee cream, crushed walnuts and chewy meringue. But really, we were spoiled all year round. A rich dark fruit cake, elaborate millionaire’s shortbread, syrupy flapjacks or the moistest chocolate cake of your dreams were regulars. Now it is my children’s turn to discover these treasures. Incredibly, my mother posts them lockdown packages of home-baking. Occasionally I’m even allowed some. Our clear favourite? Her parkin. Sticky, intense, gingery, magnificent”.
Sumayya Usmani, author, food educator and storyteller, and her mother, Kausar
“Something about the deep, dark spices used in mutton pullao, a classic Pakistani rice dish, reminds me solely of my mother and our Sunday lunches. The succulence of the meat, the infusion of star anise and black cardamom – so powerful yet gentle on the palate. Whenever I cook it myself, I only have to take one bite, close my eyes and be transported to my childhood home, with my mother’s sweet voice telling us it was lunchtime. Dishes like this are as close to a hug from my mother.”
Nico Simeone of Six by Nico and his mother, Carla
“I was born in Glasgow, to Italian parents and was raised in a family of Mediterranean foodies. My earliest memories are of my mother’s Italian cooking, helping her in the kitchen and large family meals around the table and on Mother's Day. Her slow-cooked beef lasagne with homemade sauce was always a winner”.
Flora Shedden of Aran, Dunkeld, and her mother, Tiffy
"I’ve always been a bit spoilt when it comes to choosing one dish that reminds me of my mum. She is such a brilliant cook. Her very delicious warm chocolate pudding (or elephant dung as we called it when we were wee) always lingers in the back of my mind. As do her legendary cheese and turmeric scones, or her sweet and moreish honey and pine nut tart. However, my personal favourite is her sweetcorn and chorizo chowder. It’s so deeply comforting and despite many efforts, mine has never tasted as good. I will always be excited when I see it blipping away on the stove."
Denise Walton of Peelham Farm, Foulden, and her late mother, Hilary
“The dish that reminds me most of my mother is slow boiled mutton and nasturtium-seed sauce with mashed potatoes. It was delicious. As a child, I lived in central Africa (Zambia, where I was born). Lamb wasn’t available and mutton from wool sheep was a rare treat. I clearly remember the dark mutton meat, which will have been boiled slowly for hours (it needed it), the sharp surprises of the pickled nasturtium seeds, which which came from our garden, and the delicious sauce made with the mutton stock, into which she would beat egg yolks. My mother was a wonderful cook and we were brought up on a fusion of Mrs Beeton and Elizabeth David – her two very different recipe mainstays”.
Scott Smith of Fhior, Edinburgh, and his mother, Helen
“One dish that reminds me of my mum and my childhood at home is her gooseberry crumble. We always knew when it was being made as the smell of toasted oats and muscovado sugar would permeate the house. The stewed gooseberries were gorgeously tart, but I remember being especially keen on the topping. Three simple ingredients: oats, brown sugar, butter. Like the lovechild of a flapjack and butterscotch sauce, it was almost irrelevant what stewed fruit happened to be inside. In fact, what I remember most about this dish was the trouble I got in for sneaking in the kitchen and eating all the topping”.
Kaori Simpson of Harajuku Kitchen, Edinburgh, and her late mother, Ritsuko
“My mother’s cooking was my staple since I was brought up in Japan, Hong Kong and Manila due to my father’s work. She always made sure we ate healthy Japanese food in our home so that we wouldn't forget our food culture and identity as Japanese expats. My favorite dish was chicken wings yakitori (grilled chicken wings on coal). It had yuzu citrus on the side with togarashi spices. She would eat them on skewers before the evening service started at the restaurant she owned, as she used to say it was good luck and would bring customers in. But I knew, deep down inside, she couldn’t get enough of the juicy but crunchy chicken skin combined with the spices and citrus”.
Matt Urry of Rogue Dining, Edinburgh, and his late mother, Christine
“I was born in Brighton and lived in the county town of Lewes, East Sussex. At times growing up, my family struggled to put food on the table and we didn't come from much, so it was always a special treat when my mum could cook us something hearty. Her legendary cottage pie was a treat I remember vividly. She would grate mature cheddar cheese on top of the mash and I'd always steal a handful when she wasn’t looking. Today, I appreciate food more than ever and it's why I am so passionate about my business and the industry”.