Nostalgic foods: A trip down memory lane

A young Grace Bean shows her love for spag bol. Photo: supplied
A young Grace Bean shows her love for spag bol. Photo: supplied
In my opinion, the smell of my mum’s famous brownies baking is one of the best smells in the world.

The rich aroma of chocolate and butter completely envelops the kitchen creating a warm and cosy atmosphere that simply cannot be beat.

Of course, I am totally biased. These brownies are the star of many of my most cherished childhood memories.

The deep and unwavering nostalgic feeling these brownies evoke is practically a real-life time machine launching me right back to precious moments spent in the kitchen with my mum, and the gatherings with friends and family that followed.

Of course, brownies are not the only foods that hold that power.

From Dad’s spaggy bol to my grandma’s jam tarts or even ice creams on the beach, food has played a starring role in key moments throughout my life.

This culinary experience is incredibly special as it is a feeling experienced by us all and yet is a completely individualised experience.

Upon asking friends and family about their most poignant food memories I was met by an overwhelming outpouring of joy.

There were many heartwarming stories of beloved family members passing on recipes, funny stories from my dad about my Granny Pat’s dreaded boiled mince hidden under tables and behind curtains, and of his Sunday trips down to the shop to buy a loaf of bread, only to eat the middle of it on the way home hoping the missing pieces weren’t noticed (they were definitely noticed).

There’s nothing like an ice cream at the beach for Grace and her sibling Elliot. Photo: supplied
There’s nothing like an ice cream at the beach for Grace and her sibling Elliot. Photo: supplied
I also heard tales of comfort foods like beans and cheese on toast and apple pie that acted as a comforting framework for a chaotic world and, in some cases, of foods I've never even heard of before like honey joys and traffic light sandwiches.

It didn’t matter who I asked, young or old, everyone had a story to tell.

These stories told tales of love, joy, and laughter and ultimately showed nostalgic foods are more than just meals; they are a testament to the love and memories shared with our friends and families.

Whether it’s savouring a beloved dish or laughing about the ones we used to dread, these foods remind us of where we come from and the loved ones who made those moments special.

So, why not whip up a cherished childhood meal for some friends and family and share some stories this weekend?

It might just be the perfect recipe for a trip down memory lane.

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied

Grandma Gina’s jam tarts

375g plain flour

250g chilled butter

125g caster sugar

1 egg

1 jar strawberry jam


For the pastry, begin by placing your flour and butter in a food processor and blend until combined. There should be no chunks of butter left and it should have a smooth consistency.

Tip the flour and butter mix into a large bowl and stir in the sugar.

Next, add the egg and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Mix until the pastry forms a soft dough. If it still seems a bit dry add an additional Tbsp of cold water.

Dust your bench top with a small amount of flour and then tip your dough on to it. Squash the dough down into a circle about 5cm thick and then wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge.

Refrigerate for 1 hour.

When your pastry is almost done chilling preheat your oven to 200°C and grease 2x 12-hole muffin tins.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and on a floured surface, roll to a thickness of 5mm.

Using a circle cookie cutter with a 10cm diameter, or the rim of a glass of a similar size, cut out circles and gently place them in the base of your lined muffin tins.

Gently press the excess dough back into a ball and re-roll. Repeat this process until you have used as much of the dough as possible.

Using a spoon, fill the pastry cases with jam. You want the cases to be filled just below the inside rim of the case.

Once all the cases are filled, place your tarts into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes.

Once the tarts have partially cooled, use a spoon to gently lift them from the tin.

The jam may still be hot and runny so be careful not to tip it out as you lift them.

Place the tarts on a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least half an hour.

Once cooled, the jam should have set flat and glossy.

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied

Dad’s spag bol

500g mince

1 Tbsp Worcester sauce

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 medium head of garlic

1 large onion

8 white button mushrooms

½ cup red wine

3 Tbsp tomato paste

1 can diced tomatoes

6 drops Tabasco sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 packet dried or fresh spaghetti

Parmesan cheese to serve


Begin by heating a dash of oil in a large pot. Add the mince, Worcester sauce, soy sauce, a pinch of salt and a generous grind of pepper and cook until fully browned off. Set aside the cooked mince in a bowl.

Add another dash of olive oil into the pan along with a knob of butter. Add the onion and shallots and cook over a low heat until translucent and soft.

Add the mushrooms and tabasco sauce to the pan and cook over a medium heat until beginning to soften then add the wine. Simmer for about 1 minute to cook off the alcohol.

Add the cooked mince to the pan and stir in the tomato paste. Allow to cook for about 1 minute until the paste is evenly distributed and looks glossy.

Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer.

Allow to simmer for as long as possible — Dad often leaves his for over an hour. If it begins to look too thick, just add a little water.

When you are about 15 minutes from dinner time, bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and add your pasta. Cook until al dente. Remove from heat and serve atop the spaghetti with plenty of parmesan.

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied

Mum’s chocolate brownies (the best in the world)

2 eggs

100g butter

½ cup cocoa

1 cup caster sugar

½ cup self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup chocolate chips (I usually use a mix of white and milk chocolate)

75g walnuts (optional)

Icing sugar to dust


To begin, preheat your oven to 180°C and line a 20cm square slice tin with baking paper.

To make the brownie batter, begin by melting the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Once the butter is melted remove from the microwave.

Add the cocoa powder and mix until fully combined.

Next, in a larger bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with a fork until thick.

Using a spatula, scrape the butter and cocoa mix into the egg and sugar mix and gently stir until fully combined.

Add the chocolate chips, vanilla and walnuts (if using) and fold through the butter and sugar mix then add in the sifted flour and fold through until just combined.

Pour the mix into your lined slice tin. It is quite a thick mixture so using a spatula spread the mix until it is distributed evenly. Bake for 25-30 mins, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove the brownie from the tin and place on a cooling rack.

Once the brownie has completely cooled, cut into squares and dust with icing sugar.