So much of the time spent with my family, since I was a child, has always centred around the sharing of a meal. The tangy savouriness of my Aunt's orange and onion salad, the starter at our big family Christmas gatherings, is etched in my mind. The sweet buttery flavour of my mum's delicate butterfly cakes, a favourite at birthday parties. My dad remembers his mother's bright yellow pickles, enjoyed with ham and cheese at picnics (with a gaggle of cousins) on the road to visit his Aunty Kit in Canberra or his Aunty Molly in Oberon. My mum remembers the huge family parties her mother used to cater for - fresh sausage rolls coming out of the oven - and the disastrous time when the sweet short crust pastry was mistaken for savoury puff. One of my Aunt's remembers waking up in the very early morning to one the rare moments when my Grandfather made it into the kitchen. He would whip up a batch of bubble and squeak from cold roast potatoes, cabbage and any other left over he could find before heading out, with my uncle, for a long day of hard physical work as a builder - in the days before power tools.
Family memories are so interwoven with the flavours and smells of many kitchens from many points in time. My grandmothers, grandfathers, my aunts and uncles and my own parents have all created in me a strong sense of appreciation for those precious, delicous moments spent at a shared family table. Recently, I have set about recording, from those that have fostered this spirit in me, the memories of family and food that are etched in their minds, hearts and tastebuds.
Talking over a long Sunday lunch recently, my parents both remembered how strongly the Sunday roast - with all the family gathered at the table - was a significant feature of their own childhood. As luck would have it, tucked away in a slightly moulding "house wife's bible" - the Common Sense Cookery Book, owned by one of my grandmothers, there were handwritten notes for creating the perfect Sunday roast. The recipe was printed in the book - but there was much crossings and scratching outs, with adjusted quantities, re-numbered steps and even the odd question mark. The annotations were dated 1944. Rationing was the order of the day in Australia during war time, so I wonder if the notes and markings were my Grandmother's arduous study to create the perfect roast once rationing had come to an end. In any event, from the 1940s onwards it became a very special dish - often served at Christmas or on particularly significant Sunday lunches - when there was perhaps a birthday, visiting family or friends and other events.
I followed this recipe to the letter - and Mr K was sure that perhaps both of my grandmothers were watching over my shoulder while I had made it. It was he said, possibly one of the best dishes to come out of our kitchen. While traditional Sunday roasts were not a feature on Mr K's family table - it was certainly a feature of his travels. At first bite, Mr K thought he was in a cosy Irish farmhouse kitchen.
I hope this recipe finds a place on your Sunday table and that the aromas and flavours weave in amongst your family and friends, to create lasting memories that can be shared.