Cooking with Mark


How to cook up a memorable sweet treat that is sure to spark some nostalgia

Nothing sparks memories more than a childhood dessert. I remember myself and my sister spending hours in the kitchen baking cupcakes, biscuits and scones, not all our efforts were successful, but we were eight and nine respectively so our efforts were appreciated, so we thought?
Thinking we were the masters of the family kitchen, that wasn’t the case. Mum, however, ran the kitchen with military precision. Everything was cooked from scratch, we never ate frozen ready meals, and no deliveries ever entered our house.
Secretly I longed for the kind of food I ate when visiting my friend after school on a Friday. His mum used to serve us a steaming bright orange liquid, ‘Heinz tomato soup’, served with stacks of heavily buttered sliced white bread. This was a particular favourite of mine. I knew my mum would never serve this, she, of course, made her own version of tomato soup, and without sounding ungrateful it never looked or tasted like its heavily preserved tinned counterpart.
Leaving home at the age I nineteen, having my own money and the freedom to eat whatever I wanted, I did just that. Online ordering wasn’t a thing back, the internet had yet. It was Friday night and I just got paid! I chose to celebrate the weekend with my first ‘Chinese take way’, I knew nothing of Chinese food, with confidence I headed into the restaurant and looked for a menu, staring around the server pointed down to the counter, is this how it is? There must have been over 150 different dishes, rice this noodle that, sweet and sour everything, I have no idea what to order?


I know I like chicken, so I read out some random numbers that contained chicken hoped for best. Heading back to my college digs, I was excited about my first take out experience, removing the lids from the mysterious foil containers I was hit by the sweet smell of yet another orange molten liquid. It’s safe to say number 065 on the menu maybe wasn’t the best choice. Not able to use chopsticks, (a technique I mastered many years later) I plunged a chicken ball into the orange lava, it tasted, hot, spicy incredible sweet and orange, I was thinking how do you make food that bright? Not finding my first experience enjoyable or tasty it was many years later I ordered my next take away!
So back to the kitchen, the ‘junior chefs’ decided in advance for our afternoon ‘cooking session’. Unlike the Chinese take away we had a limited repertoire of dishes. A firm favourite was upside down pineapple cake, with sticky glace cherries and thick syrup. Surprisingly after many attempts, we were pretty good at it.
Now all grown-up and thousands of kilometres away from my ‘mum’s’ kitchen, I now have my own well-equipped kitchen. Using the same basic recipe as back then, I’ve updated the recipe. Substituting tinned fruit to fresh pineapple, added a little twist spicy with stemmed ginger, I now manage to make a lot less mess and have defiantly lost my desire for bright orange food. Apron on, let’s spark up some nostalgia?

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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