I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, no one cooks better than your mother. Your mum could set down the driest, greyest, most overcooked rib of beef you’ve ever seen on the dinner table and you will stay have to eat it all and say, “thank you, mum, that was delicious”. Why? Because that’s the woman who made you. Show some damn respect.
A lot of my mother’s best recipes are those that I remember the most fondly from my childhood. Julie’s spaghetti bolognese or fish pie or tagliatelle and meatballs were always the perfect things to cap off a day of school and homework. I love my mother and I’m thankful for every meal she’s ever cooked for me. And I’m far from alone in my appreciation of my mother’s cooking. Even professional chefs who work at high-end restaurants and cook dishes so delicious they’re capable of making you weep still cite their mothers as some of the best cooks they know.
To put that to the test, I asked a few very talented chefs what their mother’s best recipes are. Here’s what they had to say.
Yuma Hashemi, Chef Patron of The Drunken Butler
As a kid, I would spend most summers in Iran. I can remember sitting next to my mum in the kitchen, podding broad beans and cleaning herbs for the next day’s dinner. My favourite of her dishes Kashk e bademjoon – a sun-dried yoghurt with smoked aubergine, walnuts and flatbread.
Zaw Mahesh, Chef and Co-Founder of Lahpet
"A real comfort dish that my mum made often when I was growing up was egg and tomato scramble. I've loved it since I was a child and even learnt to make it over the phone when I was away from home in England. It's quick and easy, and comprises the Burmese-style tomato sauce usually used in Shan noodles – a popular tomato-based dish with shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric and rice noodles – mixed with beaten eggs and coriander.
My mum always warned that the longer it's cooked, the drier it becomes – I enjoy it most when it’s cooked for a short amount of time and incredibly creamy, this is when it’s most delicious. It's best enjoyed with rice or crackers (such as tofu crackers), or even on a crunchy romaine lettuce."
Patricia Trijbits, Founder of Where the Pancakes Are
"My mum, and her mum before her, were all about bone broth. They firmly believed it was the foundation of our health. Every evening meal started with a vegetable, oxtail or fresh tomato soup made from scratch. Nowadays, she distributes the soup to all the family members who live nearby her and she always prepares a fresh soup for me & my children when we travel back home. I’ve kept up the tradition – except chicken soup is the most popular in our home here in London."
Dom Fernando, Owner of Paradise
"Basing it on my grandmother Beatrice – it was her malu-paan rolls (spiced fish buns). Always warm and fluffy when I got back from school, it was almost like a bakery milk bun and was a treat! They were filled with either tuna or mackerel and potato and were so moreish that I pretty much ate every single one she made in a sitting!"
Ivan Tisdall-Downes, Head Chef and Co-Owner of Native
"My mum is not a big fan of cooking and avoids it at all costs but strangely she has a magic touch for anything involving pastry, in particular her sausage rolls. We use her rough puff pastry recipe at the restaurant now. I’ve never written it down, so still have to call her up every time I want it. Also, one of my childhood best friends was convinced for years that she invented tuna, pasta, sweetcorn."
“When I think back to my childhood, the dish I remember most fondly is my Mum’s tuna pasta bake. I now make it all the time but have adapted the British classic slightly. I like to swap out the canned stuff for fresh yellowfin tuna brought together with tomatoes, garlic and a splash of white wine."
"I owe a lot of my success and achievement to my mum so because she might read this let me just say that not many things she cooked were particularly memorable... However, for a treat she used to do us bananas and custard. She'd get a tin of Ambrosia Custard, microwave it to death then pour it over sliced bananas. Was so simple but incredibly delicious and something that always reminds me of her. A few years ago to pay homage her I did a custard tart with banana ice cream for a New Year's Eve menu."
Shuko Oda, Head Chef and Co-Owner of Koya
"One of my mother’s dishes that I remember fondly is a Gomoku-namasu salad of pickled vegetables, with daikon, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, lotus root and strips of squid that is dressed in a sesame based sauce and finished with lemon zest. The recipe involves a few steps so would only come onto the dinner table occasionally, which made it all the more special. I love the mix of the sesame nuttiness with the kick of pickled vegetables and crunchy texture. I still ask for this dish the day we arrive back at their home in Tokyo. I’ve often made versions of this at home and at the restaurants as well, for example with pickled carrots in sesame, served with grilled beetroot."
"Sunday lunches were a big event for my family; my mum would always cook us an amazing dinner! My favourite has to be her roast pork with white onion sauce – I used to love helping her out at the stove, stirring the sauce. She really installed in me the importance of home-cooking, and would never buy anything in for our dinner; that’s definitely what first sparked my interest in food and my love for cooking."
Selin Kiazim, Head Chef and Co-Owner of Oklava
"When I think about my Mum’s cooking, the first dish I think of are dolma. She makes the best ones, full of flavour and very lemony. Just how I like them. Mum makes these year-round, depending on what season we are in. So for colder months, it’s cabbage leaves and into the warmer months, she collects vine leaves and courgette flowers (the best ones!) from her veg garden. They are a real labour of love, but Mum never minds spending hours perfectly wrapping or stuffing these little morsels of joy."
Santiago Lastra, Chef Patron of Kol
"My mum doesn’t cook much, but when she does the food is great and very comforting. There is this universal feeling that no one can cook better than your own mum, because when she cooks it’s with love. My mum has a few signature dishes, potato mash, roast chicken, and one dish that she still cooks whenever I go back home to Mexico, which is Chayote soup, it's somewhere in-between a pumpkin and a cactus."
Ben Murphy, Launceston Place
“From Sunday roasts to ready-made lasagne or even a cheeky plate of smiley faces and turkey dinosaurs; when I was younger, it was always comfort food on our table. I’m grateful my mum has always supported me. She’s hard working, kind, loving and because of that I feel she’s instilled this into me. The relationship I have with my mum is very special - she's my rock!”
Romain Bourrillon, Chef and Founder of Cocotte
"My mom’s speciality growing up was an 8-hour stewed lamb, which she cooked every Sunday. It’s a French stew-like dish that consists of lamb shoulder, bacon, hearty vegetables, dry white wine, veal stock and a bouquet of thyme - once stewed, the lamb melts beautifully in your mouth, becoming so tender you can eat it with a spoon. The smell of it literally pulled me out of bed when I was younger, and I still cook it today for my son."
Masha Rener, Founder of Lina Stores
"I grew up on my parents’ organic farm in Umbria right on the border of Tuscany. My dad ran the agriturismo and my mother was the chef. I spent most of my childhood in the kitchen with her; bonding over food and learning everything from her. Helping my mother cook and learning traditional recipes both from her and the older ladies in the village was my favourite pastime as a kid! This is where I learnt how to make fresh pasta from the age of 10 onwards as my mother always involved me in the cooking process by giving me a small piece of pasta dough to test my skills. It really created such beautiful childhood memories for me and is a tradition I have passed on to my children, especially to my son, who loves cooking with me in the kitchen. Making bread is another one of those rituals I look back on fondly. My mother taught me how to light the fire in the wood oven, prepare the yeast at the right time and let me tear off a piece of the freshly baked bread, even if it was still way too hot to touch!"
Jun Tanaka, Chef-Founder of The Ninth
"My mother makes the best gyoza – Japanese dumplings filled with minced pork, garlic and spring onions. To make perfect sized dumplings and crimped edges takes a lot of practice but she’s super quick. Also, they're not that easy to cook. You have to start with a hot pan with a touch of oil and place the Gyoza in the pan. Leave them until they are golden underneath then add a drop of water and immediately cover them with a lid to steam. My mother’s are always perfectly golden and crispy on the base and soft on the top with a juicy filling. Mine are never quite as good. "
Roberta Hall McCarron, Chef & Owner of The Little Chartroom
"When I was young and feeling under the weather my Mum would always make chicken and rice soup. It was so warming and comforting. I still make it now whenever I am under the weather and it still has the same comforting effect."
Ruth Hansom, Head Chef at The Princess of Shoreditch
"My mum didn’t really do much of the cooking at home, but the one thing that she did make amazingly was lasagne and, to this day, it’s my favourite comfort food. She made every element from scratch and I think it’s that that made me want to do this in my own cooking from a very young age."
Rafael Cagali, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Da Terra
"I have a memory of my mom cooking me a chicken stroganoff, so simple but it’s a must every time I see her (not very often). Normally she serves with plain rice and potato crisps (Batata Palha). She uses only the chicken breast fillets so they’re super tender. It's quick and easy to cook. It’s my ultimate comfort food when I’m with her.
Rohit Ghai, Chef Patron of Manthan and Kutir
"I have such fond memories of childhood spent in a busy kitchen and learning from my mother - her cooking and the atmosphere it created in the kitchen is what made me want to be a chef. She used to make Sarson Ka Saag, a Punjabi dish made with greens and spices and it was our absolute favourite, so when I made it for the first time and she approved, I was very happy."
Jacob Kenedy, Founder of Bocca Di Lupo
"My mother has a tendency to cook brilliantly, and be self-deprecating about it. I inherited a little of the latter quality from her, and still aspire to the former. She also has a tendency to pretend not to know what she’s doing when she’s cooking in my presence, I think to tempt me to take over. Dishes she does particularly well – change all the time, as she has her own seasons, and tends to change her repertoire every few months. But she makes a mean melanzane parmigiana. She has taken to baking the aubergine slices instead of egg-flouring and frying them, to make them healthier, but she douses them in so much oil it has the opposite effect – very indulgent, and crazy good. Piccatina al limone – chicken escalopes with lemon and butter – which have become as much a favourite to cook as to eat. Minestrone verde, green vegetable minestrone with pesto Genovese – the taste of spring, summer, autumn and winter, indulgently verdant. Salads – she makes the best salads in the world, dressed always with lemon and oil, and sometimes a touch of garlic. Pasta – often with something earthy, like lentils or chickpeas, and lots and lots of oil. Artichokes – for the most part, glove artichoke, boiled whole until tender, and served room temperature with melted butter and lemon The list goes on, but I won’t. I am getting too hungry."