Happy Mother’s Day

This is the picture that accompanied the recipe for first meal I ever made my family for dinner; it’s “Fillet Steak Chinese Style” from the Women’s Weekly Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook. I can’t remember how old I was – 13, I think, because my much older sister was living with us that year. The book doesn’t have a publication date or ISBN, but it sold for $3.98.

chinese-beef

The recipe involves pounding sliced fillet steak with a mallet, marinating it for three hours in bicarbonate of soda, sugar, salt, cornflour, soy sauce, oyster sauce and sherry and then cooking it quickly in a large pan with more sherry. As you see from the photo, it is attractively served on a bed of fried onion rings. I’d do it a little differently today, but I can still remember the enormous high I felt when everyone really enjoyed it. Now when I read the recipe I feel very grateful that my mother would let a little kid loose on half kilo piece of fillet steak with a mallet. (It cost a $7.00!)

The kitchen is a sanctuary for me in a way it never was for her – she worked full time, and did almost all of the cooking, but she always encouraged my interest and was happy to explain what she was doing. I loved to sit up on the bench and talk to mum while she was making dinner. She probably only let me sit on the bench once, but I remember it. She’s the kind of mum who gave me a Le Crueset starter set when my first husband* and I set up house, who bought me a Milton Brook mortar and pestle and lugged a Le Crueset terrine half way around Europe as a surprise gift. Lately she’s been giving me Folio Society editions of Elizabeth David’s books, and she snaffled me a 1892 edition of Australian Cookery by M. J. Pearson when cleaning out her brother’s wreck of a house (scroll down here for her recipe for Calves’ Foot Jelly.) I hope she thinks her extravagant gifts have paid off – I’ve cooked her some pretty good dinners. If I’m lucky, my turn will come.

Sage rolling pizza dough

* I believe everyone should have one.

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7 thoughts on “Happy Mother’s Day

  1. Pound that meat, Zo. I love it when you talk dirty…

    Lovely post – wish i could train mine up. I fear I’ve left it too late.

  2. I feel very grateful that my mother would let a little kid loose on half kilo piece of fillet steak

    But not a word on the bottle of cooking sherry. I see what you did there.

  3. Is it all right to refer to one’s “first husband” in that woman-of-the-world, not-quite-nostalgic way if one has long since moved on but never quite got round to properly acquiring a second? Inquiring minds want to know.

    I was given high-end French cookware not by my mamma (though she taught me much, and I too loved to trail round after her when she was cooking, asking questions) but as a parting gift from the university department I moved on from at the end of 1997. I was so thrilled by their superb taste (two pieces of deep cherry-red Chasseur: a big oval casserole and a terrine with a lid) that I almost changed my mind about leaving.

  4. “Is it all right to refer to one’s “first husband” in that woman-of-the-world, not-quite-nostalgic way if one has long since moved on but never quite got round to properly acquiring a second? ”

    Most certainly it is, if a feelthy bloke might be permitted to give a perspective. It carries the unmistakable hint that you just might be induced to take another turn, if only someone good enough would step up. Red rag to this bull.

  5. Hi,
    My dad used to make this sometimes on the weekend. I am now much older and my neighbors and I have organized a Chinese dinner on the weekend where we all do a dish each. I rang my mum to get the recipe book and she can’t find it anywhere. Can you please email me the recipe so I can enjoy it again…
    Thanks
    Mel

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