A woman whose love of food started when she would watch and help her mother cook in their small Shepherd’s Bush kitchen has used a remarkable family heirloom to help write a book on Indian recipes and life in the Raj.
Jenny Mallin’s book A Grandmother’s Legacy features recipes handed down from five generations on her mother’s side of the family, starting with her great great great grandmother Wilhelmina.
She married English soldier Joseph Hardy at the age of 15, in 1844, and a few years later started penning her recipes in a huge ledger book which she passed on to her eldest daughter.
Now, around 170 years later and following the death of her mother last year, it is in the possession of Mrs Mallin.
Her earliest memories are as a three-year-old helping her mother with food: “This amazing book lived in my mother’s kitchen, in her pantry, all these years.
“As children we were not allowed to touch this book. She would take it down if she couldn’t remember a recipe or she was cooking something she didn’t know.
“From that tiny kitchen my mum made the most amazing dishes. I loved being with her there and from the age of three I would help her by sorting out the rice or breaking poppadoms into quarters for her to fry.
“She made cooking fun, it was like a theatre, it was magical being with her cooking, it gave me inspiration.”
The days of the Raj
But A Grandmother’s Legacy is more than a cook book, according to Mrs Mallin, who now lives near Newbury, in Berkshire.
She said: “This unglamorous-looking book, with its ochre, faded pages bespattered with sundry sauces and flavourings, revealed handwritten copperplate recipes dating back to 1850.
“Turning the pages of the book, one can see the handwriting style change over time, showing evidence of over five generations as each of my grandmothers have passed this on to the next generation. As a result, these pages offer us a glimpse into a fascinating time in history known as “the days of the Raj”, when India was under British rule.”
Alongside the recipes of her ancestors, A Grandmother’s Legacy includes original extracts of their writing from the book, together with a photograph of the grandmother who wrote that recipe. Mrs Mallin said: “Unknowingly, each one of my grandmothers have given me so much more than recipes.
“They have allowed me an insight into their lives, where they lived, how they entertained, what kind of food they regularly ate, but more importantly, why there were changes in their recipes and how they came about.
“It’s as if the pages of their recipe book reveals chapters in their lives.
“I am now the custodian, the guardian, of this very special book.”
A Grandmother’s Legacy is out in September and can be purchased from the author’s facebook page: www.facebook.com/agrandmotherslegacy.