As soon as I saw the call for entries for this event, I knew it was time for me to sit down and write this post. It’s now been almost exactly 6 months to the day that my mother passed away after a 2 year battle with cancer. I can’t say I’m over it yet – we lost her rather suddenly when she deteriorated at an extraordinary rate over her last two weeks. I still miss her and it’s been hard without her.

Foodwise, my mother was the greatest influence to me. Everything she cooked was delicious (I felt very sorry for the guy in my dorm my first year of university who said that the food there was better than anything he had at home). Everything. She was culinarily adventurous and never limited herself to just cooking Chinese and Peranakan food, the cuisine that she learned to cook from her mother. When we moved to Vancouver, she replicated many of the dishes we missed, from char kway teow to chai tow kueh, popiah to rojak, mee siam to mee rebus. Her fried rice was also spectacular – always better than the stuff in restaurants. She also embraced the foods from other cultures – pasta dishes were never a problem and I recall a seafood risotto she made at home after she had only tasted it once at a cafe. When I left for the UK, I found that cooking started to come quite naturally to me – all that time spent watching her cook had somehow caused my brain to absorb a number of lessons that came in quite handy.

My mother was also a terrific baker. While breads weren’t her thing, savoury pizzas weren’t too much trouble. Lots of sweet treats were also produced, a necessity when ravenous teenagers were about! Her repertoire was quite impressive, from chocolate chip cookies to all sorts of Malaysian kuehs. She also allowed me to bake quite a bit while I was still living at home, demonstrating the various steps to get through a recipe and showing me the shortcuts she learned. One particular recipe that we both baked quite often was lemon squares, something that I made recently during a bit of a nostalgic kick. They’ve got a crumbly base and an extremely lemony and not too sweet curd topping – delicious. It’s definitely a recipe that I always associate with my mother. Thank you, Mom.

Lemon Squares

Lemon Squares
adapted from The Joy of Cooking
makes 16 2″ squares

113g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
25g (1/4 cup) powdered sugar
140g (1 cup) plain flour
1/8 tsp salt

Curd Topping
200g (1 cup) sugar
2 large eggs
80mL (1/3 cup) lemon juice, from about 2 lemons
1 tbsp lemon zest, from about 1.5 lemons
2 tbsps flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat the over to 180 degrees Celsius. Cream the butter and powdered sugar together and then stir in the flour and salt just until it all comes together. Grease an 8″ square baking pan and then press in the dough to cover the entire base of the pan in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

While the crust is baking, whisk together the sugar and eggs until well combined and then add the rest of the ingredients and then whisk again. After the crust has baked, give the mixture a final whisking and then pour the mixture on top of the crust. Return to the oven and bake until the top is set, about 20 minutes.

Let the pan cool (if you can!) and dust the top generously with powdered sugar. Cut into 16 squares. Serve. Eat.

This post has been submitted to Apples & Thyme.