Features & Stories

Memories of cooking with mom

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Despite the mayhem and challenges we are facing day by day, life, in some respects, seems to continue as usual. Birthdays come and go, as do holidays and special occasions. What has changed and evolved, is how we celebrate and observe them. We have found different, yet still authentic ways to celebrate with one another, just not with one another. With Mother's Day coming up, many of us will not be able to spend the day with our mothers or grandmothers, but we can still share a special memory with our mother’s by phone or cook together over video chat.

We connected with two ckbk authors, Valentina Harris, award winning author of over 45 books on Italian food, and Marcy Goldman, professional pastry chef and cookbook author from Montreal, Canada who reflected on their own food-centric memories of their mothers.

Mothers are undoubtedly one of the most important ingredients in everyone’s life. This Mother's Day spoil her with something she'll love: the gift of unlimited culinary exploration, a year of ckbk for 25% off.

Memories of my mamma

Discovering the pleasures of food beyond its simple necessity

by Valentina Harris

I owe my love of cooking and eating good food, Italian food in particular, to several people, one of whom is without doubt my wonderful, gourmet mother, Fiammetta. Among the many, many memories, I recall the long car journeys between Italy and England, all of us crammed into the car following my peripatetic father’s latest project, journeys that lasted several days; not least because there were no actual motorways and children require frequent comfort and exercise breaks.

The military precision packing of the car, the map reading and in-car discipline fell under my father’s authority, whereas my mother had the delicious responsibility of deciding where we would be stopping for lunch or dinner along the route, sometimes creating a detour of several hours. These meals, in off the beaten track restaurants, were a revelation to me, not least because of what my mother would order. Whatever the rest of us had chosen, the food on my mother’s plate always seemed to be so much more delectable. It made me realise, even as a little girl, that there was much more to discover about food than something to be simply taken for granted and stop me feeling hungry.

Fiammetta taught me about savoring flavors; about how the texture of food makes such a big difference to the way it tastes; how food is so different according to its history, geography and sociology, and about how much pleasure it brings. Watching her demolish a lobster, elegantly sucking every last morsel from every crevice, closing her eyes and smiling between each mouthful, was a master class in itself. Her deft consumption of a mountain of fresh, shiny sea urchins would leave us children open-mouthed and silent. How she could eat cheese that smelled so bad to my young nose was simply unfathomable. Her enjoyment made even the strangest, weirdest looking dish a thing of great wonder, and she always shared her knowledge of the dish and its ingredients with me even when I flatly refused to taste a bite. She made me anticipate when things came into season with excitement and anticipation. She was my first gourmet.

Cooking with Mamma was a wonderful lesson in Italian, French, Belgian dishes and American baking – she cooked from her heart and from all of her many life experiences. She talked about where and how she had come across these recipes as the dishes came together. I have all those hand written recipes on cards or carefully cut out of magazines and newspapers, and using them now brings us back together.

I owe her my endless curiosity about the stories behind ingredients and dishes, my courage to experiment, and the ability to tell between a dish that has been cooked well and with good ingredients, and one that has not been cooked with love. But also, to have the good manners to know when to comment, and when to say nothing.

Valentina Harris is the award winning author of Classic Italian Cooking, Recipes of an Italian Farmhouse and Italian Regional Cookery, all available on ckbk.

My mother’s fancy Apple Cake

The perfect recipe born from an imperfect relationship

by Marcy Goldman

My mother and I didn’t have the best mother-daughter relationship or the Hallmark stuff that Mother’s Day memories are made of. I say this without rancour and much softness in my heart and mostly, to comfort those who come from the same ilk. I suspect the myth of the ideal mother-daughter relationship is true for many daughters. Let’s face it: women are complicated creatures and there are both difficult daughters and difficult mothers or one or the other is difficult making it hard for both.

Suffice to say my mom and I agreed on little but we shared a food sensibility. She had some spectacular recipes she shone at and a credo that said: If you start with good ingredients, even if it’s not perfect, how bad can it be? Fortunately, this is not the case with My Mother’s Apple cake which is one of my repertoire cakes and a featured recipe in my cookbook, A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking.

To me, this cake is the perfect marriage between a cake and a pastry and it’s part of all my best childhood memories and is one of my mother's trademark recipes. Whenever we had a party, you could count my mother's three specialty cakes: a cherry cheesecake, a chocolate wafer-whipped cream "instant Black Forest" cake, and this apple cake.

Essentially, this dessert is a pastry crust which surrounds a filling that is almost solid apples. The Vanilla Sauce is really a tasty "glue" holding it all together. You can also make this with pie pastry (instead of the cookie pastry crust given here). This cake needs an overnight stay in the fridge to get firm before serving. Definitely a family heirloom. Ironically, I encountered a similar recipe under another guise "Gateau Rougement" (Rougement Apple Cake) when I was in pastry chef school. It had a more sophisticated name but I remember thinking, "Call it whatever fancy name you like, this is my Mom's Apple Cake no matter how you slice it".


Marcy Goldman’s My Mother’s Apple Cake ©

Betterbaking.com, from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, River Heart Press 2017

Betterbaking.com, from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, River Heart Press 2017



1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, melted


7-9 cups apples, sliced & pared, (or enough to fill up cake pan)
juice of half a lemon to sprinkle on apples
1/4 cup sugar


3 tablespoons, unsalted butter or margarine, melted
l cup sugar
2 large eggs
l teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Dough: Mix sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, flour and baking powder together to make a soft, for stiff dough. Add a bit more flour if needed.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill 10-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare apples and toss with lemon juice and sugar. Brush bottom and sides of 10 inch springform pan with melted butter.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Pat out dough evenly on bottom and sides of pan (dough should be between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick). Fill with apple slices, pressing gently.  Cover pan with aluminum foil. 

Bake cake one to one-and-a-half hours (remove foil after 15 minutes) or until apples are soft. (Top of apples will seem dry, interior apples should begin to feel a touch soft - you can put a cake tester into cake and this will give you an idea of how cooked the inner apples are.) 

Vanilla Sauce: Mixing all ingredients in order given. Pour over hot cake, trying to get sauce to drip into all the crevices. Bake another 20 minutes.  Refrigerate cake at least four hours or overnight.

Marcy Goldman is an IACP Award nominee, a master baker and host of www.Betterbaking.com. She authored Best Biscotti available on ckbk.

Valentina Harris and Marcy Goldman are a featured authors on ckbk, home to the world's best cookbooks and recipes for all cooks and every appetite. Start exploring now ▸

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