The Domestic Gourmet – Allison
“Nathan, eat your lunch.”
“Nathan, do you want to go home?”
“Then eat your lunch.”
“We’ll go home if you don’t eat your lunch.”
“Nathan, eat your lunch!”
Pause. “Do you want some sauce on your lunch?”
Sigh. “All right – here’s some sauce – now eat your lunch.”
This is a conversation all too familiar for parents of fussy eaters, and for my sister Ally. Her little two year old will sometimes refuse to eat something which he happily indulged in the day before. What he does love though, is tomato sauce and soy sauce (can’t you just tell that he’s half-Chinese and half-Pakeha?!), and this often coaxes him into eating. What makes it even more difficult is that Nathan is allergic to dairy, egg, nuts and wheat.
So why has she contributed a recipe full of everything Nathan can’t eat? Because she loves to bake for everyone. Ally often bakes allergy friendly treats for him, but she also loves to bake for her husband, his workmates, her other family members and her own colleagues. She has a generous and kind nature, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that she’s probably one of the nicest people you will meet. It’s no surprise then, that she’s a great doctor, dedicated to helping and caring for others.
Although baking is one of her favourite hobbies, she’s had the opportunity to travel quite a lot and has always made sure to enjoy the cuisine in each country. She does love Japanese food as she enjoys the “clean and simple flavours and the respect that they show towards their food”. When asked about one of her favourite food experiences, Ally tells me about a time when she was in Paris. The owners of the apartment they had rented recommended a local bistro close by, “When we got there however, the owners couldn’t speak any English and the menu was all in French, so after much hand gesturing we just randomly picked things off the menu.” She says when the food came, it wasn’t what they would normally have ordered, such as her starter of pumpkin soup with strawberries, but it turned out to be the “best meal we have ever had!”
Some ingredients you will always find in her kitchen are soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, minced garlic and rice – “all the usual Chinese staples”. Ally says that family has been a main inspiration in her cooking; she gives credit to how our mother and father made sure to expose us to a wide variety of food which helped to teach us how to appreciate good food. Not that everything we ate growing up was that well-received – the Chinese delicacy of sea cucumber is definitely not one of Ally’s favourite things to eat, “I don’t get it – slimy, tasteless and squishy. Why would you eat it?!”
Other inspirations for her cooking come from watching Food Television – she particularly enjoys the shows of Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein. Ally also (embarrassingly) names me as another influence – “how much you enjoy cooking inspires me to try new things”. I told you she was nice – I can feel my head getting bigger already.
One of her favourite childhood memories is helping Mum get the snacks and sweets ready for Chinese New Year. For the pineapple tarts, Mum used to make us sit on a stool in front of the stove, continuously stirring the pineapple jam to make sure it didn’t burn. We would each take a turn sitting there for what seemed like hours (it was probably only about fifteen minutes really) until we could gleefully run away and leave the next victim sitting there with the wooden spoon. Ally also fondly remembers making love letters (also known as kuih sepit or belanda) which needed to be shaped quickly after being cooked as they set very quickly. It must have made a ridiculous sight – all five of us “sitting in a line wearing [clean] gardening gloves so we wouldn’t burn our fingers”, ready to fold or roll the love letters as quickly as possible.
As you can tell, each one of my family really enjoys cooking and eating, and it’s all thanks to the legacy that my parents have left us with. We love good food because they do. And I think that will be part of Ally’s legacy to Nathan, and her little baby Joshua (as well as any other children in the future…) – someone who is so generous and kind in spirit that she will spend hours in the kitchen, baking treats for everyone so that they can have a little something to brighten their day.
Allison’s dark chocolate mini cupcakes with peanut butter frosting
(This recipe takes its frosting component from the Brown Eyed Baker blog, which you can find by clicking here, and is paired with Ally’s chocolate cake recipe.)
Peanut butter frostingIngredients
1 C icing sugar
1 C creamy peanut butter
5 Tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
⅓ C heavy cream
Place the icing sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Ally’s notes:if making as a cake, use a 23 cm cake tin and bake for about 40-45 mins (sometimes longer as it’s quite a wet recipe). If I use the recipe as a cake, I cover with chocolate ganache (300mL cream heated over medium heat until boiled then pour onto 300g dark chocolate and stir until smooth, leave at room temperature to cool and stir occasionally until ganache thickens to the right consistency).
Rice & Kai notes: I didn’t make this recipe as Ally was kind enough to photograph them herself and then bring them over for me to try. These are delicious – the cake is lovely and moist and the frosting is a great finishing touch. Mmm… might have to go and eat another one now…