I have come across the most sentimentally charged inheritance over this weekend. This has been the shortest time I've ever spent whining for something. After a marathon watch of The Great British Bake Off, it occurred to me for the first time in my life, that I was actually missing out. I did not have a mixer! (and neither did I have the blinding whisking power that Mr. Hollywood has in his arms). As it turns out, my nannu Gorg's Kenwood from way back when needed a home away from the damp shed/room at the back of nanna's yard as did some flan moulds and this precious French culinary bible, quite literally my deceased nannu's reference book/spiritual guide/prized possession. Known better as 'il-bahri', he must have been one of very few ex-sailors to retire in Qormi to earn himself the nickname. Born in Valletta (and proud), he married in Qormi to my nanna Giorgina, but also to the sea, the HMS Merchant's Navy, the Australian Army, and a number of well equipped and respected hotel kitchens in Malta (as well as Comino) after that. Sleeping over as a child couldn't have been more fun .. I got my pick, and more than my fair share of freshly made croissants, potato gnocchi, fruit flans and crunchy meringues. I also must have caught the cooking bug in the process.. hopefully, to my nannu's delight.
Here's a decidedly 70s aspic-hell of a spread ... this is the cuisine that formed my nannu's repertoire. He, understandably and thankfully, took several shortcuts to spare his family the gelatine; but I am glad for his explanation and recipe of the marie-rose sauce. I bet a kid hooked on shrimp cocktails is any chef's nightmare, even a chef who flourished in the 70s!!
Nannu posing with the captain on board HMS Birmingham as they prepared the yearly Christmas pudding, looking into big vats (photo is charmingly blurred!) and a 16 year old, and slightly confused nannu before leaving for Australia.
Nannu's 'borma forn' - weirdly reminiscent of torture chambers and submarines that have seen better days but functioning nevertheless.
And my dearly beloved .. may we embark together safely on this baking voyage and never return, may we see each other through several meringue towers and ganaches .. please be my own well-behaved and sturdy Paul Hollywood and I promise to oil you regularly and display you proudly in my kitchen (which surprisingly enough, you match perfectly!)