Although I know my mum reads this, I don't think she'll be too offended if I describe her cooking style as pedestrian. She argues that the flair and creativity she demonstrated in the kitchen as a young, newly married woman was eroded by my father whose idea of an evening meal did not extend beyond the traditional dish of meat and two veg.
One of those veg explicitly had to be mashed potato. He'd argue that as a type 1 diabetic it was important he had the right 'portions' to manage his condition. Today, if I had a chance, I'd tell him that the act of processing or mashing all those thousands of potatoes that ended up on his plate would have increased their glycemic load making them less appropriate for him to eat. But perhaps dietary advice for diabetics was different way back in the 60s when he was diagnosed and he was simply following doctor's orders.
For my mum, the roster of evening meals she'd prepare included chops (lamb or pork), sausage pie, meat pie, liver and bacon, stew with dumplings, shepherd's pie, poached fish, and toad in the hole. It wasn't until I was in my teens and dining at friend's houses that I realised people also cooked curries and chillies. Having made this discovery I would try to introduce these 'modern' dishes by offering to cook. My mum would relinquish her kitchen willingly, while my father would insist his curry or chilli came with a side of mashed potatoes (he'd leave the rice). I was outraged as only a teenager could be, but now realise he would have had no idea how to quantify the starchy alternatives I proffered as portions in the same way he could potatoes.
Despite Mum's uninspiring dinners, I do curiously recall her occasionally making a beef stroganoff. It was one of those 'modern' dishes that she too had tried to introduce to her own parents while still living at home. Explaining that she'd need to buy some long grain rice for the meal my grandmother insisted they had just the thing in the cupboard. There was some debate over the cooking time, but eventually my mum deferred to her own mother's guidance and boiled the rice for two hours. This was, of course, perfect timing if you were baking the rice she'd been given for its intended purpose - rice pudding. Her first beef stroganoff sadly sabotaged, this didn't stop Mum perfecting it for her own family years later.
So when researching dishes to add to our menu, a wave of nostalgia crept over me when I thought of stroganoff. Inspired, I chose to cook a vegetarian version substituting the meat for chestnut mushrooms.