When I think about my mother, I often wonder how she managed to do all the things she did in a day. Thrifty and resourceful, she sewed all our clothes, the house was always spick and span with fresh flowers and welcoming smells and, for every meal she set the table with candles, flowers and ironed napkins. Every week she cashed her weekly housekeeping at her favourite butcher in Cuba St, Wellington, with whom she cultivated a friendship that ensured we always got the best meat.
My mother had a university education but made the decision (as did many mothers of her era) to put her energy into being a stay-at-home mum. I railed against this as a teenager - as far as I was concerned she was a doormat. I couldn't understand why she didn't she want to earn her own money and feel the independence and freedom I considered our birthright as women.
Now I think how lucky we were. We were spoilt - not with stuff but with care and love. My mother was happy to have me in her tiny kitchen, and I now realise it was this time at her side that inspired the direction that my own life has taken.
So when it came to my own kids, I may have failed on the housekeeping front but I was always happy to hang out with them in the kitchen, where we'd make a big mess and have some fun, and they could experience that thrill of success when something good came out of the oven and everyone told them how clever they were.
Cooking delivers such simple rewards. You feel good because you've successfully created something, the people you feed feel good because they're being looked after, and you all get to eat something yummy.
If you learn to cook as a kid you can use those skills to build a good life - even if it's potatoes and eggs or beans and rice, there's fun to be had around the table.
Mother's Day is the perfect opportunity for the kids to commandeer the kitchen and show Mum how clever and competent they are (maybe with a little help from Dad or a grandparent if they're small) and at the same time make her feel spoilt and special.
So here's a dinner menu so simple even a child could cook it!
Roast Chicken and Potatoes
Ready in about 1 hour + resting
1 whole chicken
1 lemon, halved
1 tsp salt
10-12 floury potatoes, such as agria, peeled and cut into 3-4cm chunks
3-4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature, extra-virgin olive oil or duck fat
Preheat oven to 180C fanbake. Rinse chicken, pat dry inside and out with paper towels and place in a large, shallow roasting dish. Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken and place the skins in the cavity. Season chicken inside and out with salt. Roast chicken until it is golden, the juices run clear when it is skewered in the deepest part of the thigh, and the liquids inside are brown not red (50-65 minutes depending on size). While chicken is roasting, place potatoes in a large pot, cover with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Drain thoroughly, then add the butter, oil or duck fat, cover and shake vigorously to roughen the edges of the potatoes. Transfer to the roasting dish and spread out in a single layer around the chicken (don't overcrowd the dish - if necessary divide between two roasting dishes). Roast until golden brown, crispy and cooked through (about 35-40 minutes). Remove cooked chicken from oven, cover with baking paper and a tea towel and rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving with roast potatoes.
Annabel says: Roasting a chicken is one of the simplest meals you can make - throw some potatoes around the sides (and other vegetables if you fancy - try onion wedges or pumpkin chunks) give it a good seasoning, salt and pepper and you're in business. Be sure to check the chicken is fully cooked inside. Prick the flesh at the densest part by the thigh - the juices that flow out should be clear, not pink, and the juices inside the cavity should be brown not red. Always wash your hands well after touching raw chicken.
Two-Minute Green Salad
Prep time 2 mins
6-8 handfuls rocket or baby spinach leaves
60g parmesan, grated or shaved
¼ cup boutique extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp soft brown sugar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Toss rocket or spinach and parmesan in a large salad bowl. To make dressing, place all ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Toss through salad just before serving.
Annabel says: Buy a bag of greens, make this easy dressing and toss it all together just before you are ready to serve. Add cucumber, cherry tomatoes or chunks of avocado as you fancy. I'll often make a double quantity of the dressing and keep the rest in the fridge for up to a week so I can toss together a salad in seconds.
Raspberry Coulis with Peaches
Ready in 5 mins
2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed
1/3 cup icing sugar
Poached or canned peaches, to serve
Pass berries through a sieve or mouli to remove pips. Stir in icing sugar. For a simple dessert, serve it with poached or canned peaches. Raspberry coulis will keep for several days in the fridge and can be frozen.
Annabel says: This easy sauce is also good drizzled over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you want to make it more fancy crumble some crispy biscuits over the top.