To celebrate Mother’s day here are 11 time-tested recipes – from the book  – that have been passed down for generations.

Whether you love your mother’s famous roast, your grandmother’s apple pie, or are partial to your aunt’s renowned dip, food is part of the fabric that entwines families together.

“Food and, more specifically, recipes transcend time,” Alexandra O’Brien, the author of the book explains.

“Technique are passed down for generations, weaving the past with the present, enabling memories, skills, tradition and, perhaps most importantly, love to be carried through time.”

Alongside the recipes in the book, the contributors have shared the stories behind how they were passed down from generation to generation.

“From recipes born out of living off rations during the war, to Country Women’s Association baking competitions, for The Way Mum Made It we wanted to create a handbook with a combination of old and new recipes, tradition alongside family secrets and meals for all occasions,” Alexandra says.

1. Baked rice custard

‘I used to make this for my three daughters and then I started making it for my five granddaughters and five grandsons — they all love it and request it whenever they come over to my place.’ – Patricia Smith

Serves: 4–6


  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 300 ml cream
  • 1 1⁄2 cups cooked rice, rinsed, drained
  • 1⁄2 cup caster sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of nutmeg, plus extra to sprinkle


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine the milk, egg yolks, cream, rice, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg in a bowl.
  3. Pour the mixture into a ceramic ovenproof dish. Stand the dish in a baking dish with enough water to come halfway up the sides. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the custard is set.
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

2. Fudge

‘This was my nana’s recipe. Every time we went to Nana’s house there was always a tray of fudge in the fridge for us — it was our favourite.’ – Ruby Carter

Makes: A baking tray of fudge


  • 125g unsalted butter, plus extra if needed
  • 1⁄2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 cup sultanas
  • 250g packet plain sweet biscuits, crushed ready-made chocolate icing, to decorate


  1. Add the butter, sugar and cocoa to a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Stir through the eggs, vanilla and sultanas. Mix in the crushed biscuits.
  3. Lightly grease a baking tray. Spoon the mixture onto the tray and smooth the surface using a spatula.
  4. Spread the chocolate icing over the top. Refrigerate overnight. Cut into squares to serve.

3. Melted butter biscuits

‘In the 1950s, the local Baptist church had each member submit a recipe for their 21st anniversary. This recipe was given by an 80-year-old member, who had it passed to her by her mother. As a mere male, these biscuits are so easy to make. I don’t know how long I’ve been making them … years.’ – George Hyman

Makes: 36


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1⁄2 cups self-raising flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg and sugar in a large bowl until combined.
  3. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Slowly add the flour and mix until just combined.
  4. Using 2 teaspoons of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls. Place on the prepared baking trays, leaving room for spreading.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Variation: You can also add mixed dried fruit, shredded coconut, chopped nuts or cocoa powder.

4. Steamed date pudding

‘I still have the handwritten recipe from my late mum, which was given to her by my dad’s sister, my auntie Jean. This recipe means a lot to me; looking at my mum’s handwriting brings tears to my eyes.’ – Jennifer Ellen Fildes

Serves: 4–6


  • 1 1⁄2 cups finely chopped dates
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1⁄4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 cup self-raising flour


  1. Combine the dates, milk, sugar and butter in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Add the bicarbonate of soda and while still frothing, add the self-raising flour. Stir until combined.
  2. Grease an 8-cup capacity metal pudding steamer. Add the mixture to the dish. Cover with baking paper, then foil. Cover with the lid and secure with rubber bands.
  3. Place in a large saucepan. Carefully pour boiling water into the saucepan until halfway up the side of the steamer. Cover with a lid. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour, topping up with boiling water when necessary.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Carefully lift the steamer from the water. Stand for 10 minutes, then remove the lid. Turn the pudding out onto a plate. Serve with cream and or custard.

5. Carmel’s carrot cake

‘The recipe has featured at our family gatherings for some 40 years now, and is shamelessly calorific. Known in the family as Carmel’s carrot cake, it came to us via an old family friend who told us that it had come into her family via an outback station cook which goes some way, I guess, to explaining its very generous size and the fact that the original recipe suggests that it be cooked in a baking dish. I love a recipe with provenance! Now embraced by a new generation of cooks led by my daughter-in-law, Katie, the cake has featured in her sister’s London cafe and more recently at another sister’s wedding. For a recent occasion, to put two carrot-averse kids “off the scent” so to speak, I renamed the cake “Gaby’s Golden Cake”!’ – Gabrielle Foster

Serves: 8–10


  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1⁄2 cups light olive oil
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  • 375g icing sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 24 cm x 40 cm loose-based cake tin.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs until creamy. Gradually add the oil while mixing. Fold in the flour sifted with the cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Mix through the carrot and walnuts.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  4. To make the icing, use an electric mixer to beat all the ingredients until well combined.
  5. Once the cake is cool, spread with the icing and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: This cake is best made a couple of days in advance to allow the flavours to develop, and will keep in the refrigerator for 7–10 days.

6. Betty’s sausage rolls

‘I used to visit Mum once every two weeks and we used to cook various meals on the weekend and the one that stood out was her sausage rolls. She has since passed away, but her yummy sausage rolls live on. You won’t be able to stop at one.’ – Lynda Marshall

Makes: 60–70


  • 1kg sausage meat
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 red onions, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 slices white bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 2 packets chicken noodle soup
  • 1kg packet puff pastry sheets
  • 2–3 tablespoons milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the sausage meat, zucchini, carrot, onion, garlic and breadcrumbs.
  3. Put the chicken noodle soup in a small bowl and add enough boiling water to cover the soup so the noodles go soft.
  4. Add the soup to the sausage mixture and mix well.
  5. Cut the pastry sheets in half and arrange the mixture in a long sausage along the length of the pastry. Roll the pastry around the sausage mixture, making sure the edge of the pastry sheet is underneath.
  6. Cut the sausage rolls to the desired size and place on the prepared tray. Brush the sausage rolls with milk and bake for approximately 45–50 minutes.

7. Shortbread

‘I have fond memories of cooking with my mum (who is now deceased) as a child and her favourite recipe was shortbread. I remember her letting me mix the ingredients with my little hands. It was so lovely to come home from school and smell the homemade goodies. This shortbread is so delicious and my mum had a special order once she had grandchildren because they wanted it for their school lunchboxes. I am now a nana and make it for my grandchildren. I am thankful to my mum for teaching me to cook.’ – Heather Self

Serves: 10


  • 115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 55 g caster sugar
  • 2 drops vanilla extract
  • 175 g plain flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Grease a 20 cm round or square tin.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat until soft.
  3. Mix in the flour and fold to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  5. Prick all over with a fork and make 10 score lines around the shortbread. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until pale golden in colour and firm to the touch.
  6. Place on a wire rack to cool.

8. Passionfruit pudding

‘This was my mother’s recipe and was a regular for dessert served with ice cream. It’s so easy and now my children and grandchildren love to make it. It’s refreshing and great if on a budget.’ – Judy Coburn

Serves: 4


  • 1 packet lemon jelly
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • pulp of 4 passionfruit


  1. In a heatproof bowl, combine the jelly, boiling water and sugar.
  2. Beat the eggs and milk together. Add the jelly to the egg mixture.
  3. When the mixture has cooled, pour the passionfruit on top and allow to set.

Note: Sugar can be left out if you want to watch your calories.

9. Kiss biscuits

‘My auntie, Edna McDermott, won first prize at the State Cooking Contest in July 1976 with this kiss biscuit recipe. She handwrote the recipe out for me about 30 years ago and it’s still very popular in our family. I am a third-generation member of the Glenorchy Branch of the CWA of Tasmania.’ – Judith Morris

Makes: Approximately 60


  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • 110g margarine (I use half unsalted butter and half margarine)
  • 115g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour, cornflour and salt into a bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream the margarine and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla to the sugar mixture and beat well.
  4. Add the flours gradually and mix until a soft dough forms. Roll out thinly and cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter.
  5. Bake until lightly golden.

10. Mock chicken dip

‘This recipe is handwritten by Mum in my own recipe book. I have been making it all my married life and find it very handy for “Happy Hours” on the road. It has been shared with many Grey Nomads over our many years of travelling this great land. My mum, who is now 92, often made this delicious dip when guests were coming over at short notice. Everyone has the ingredients in their pantry and it’s so easy to make. Tastes good on crackers or sandwiches and the ingredients can be doubled or tripled.’ – Sue Ferguson

Makes: 1 cup


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon diced onion
  • 1 tomato, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • 1 tablespoon tasty cheese,
  • grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until just melted. Add the onion, tomato and mixed herbs. Season to taste. Simmer gently until the ingredients are soft.
  2. Add the cheese and egg. As soon as the egg is cooked, remove from the heat. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until needed.

Note: This dip will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

11. Mum’s sweet brisket

‘After the war my mother was always on a tight budget and so nourishing recipes that were also cheap to make were high on her agenda. She was always worried we’d get scurvy and served boiled nettles with the silverbeet. But this brisket was the favourite of my sisters and I. My mum was a clever cook, she’d crush a couple of Weet-Bix into the rissoles to make them go further but still be nourishing. Our school sandwiches were always meat and salad (which we’d swap for jam or baked bean sandwiches). I’m 70 and still using her recipes.’ – Valerie O’Doherty

Serves: 4


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2kg piece beef brisket
  • 2 onions, halved and sliced into wedges
  • 1kg waxy potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 400 g pitted prunes
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the brisket. Add the brisket and brown the brisket on all sides.
  2. Add the onion, potato, three-quarters of the prunes and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover with boiling water and half of the golden syrup. Bring to the boil, partially cover, then simmer for at least 1 hour 30 minutes, or until quite tender.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the meat from the pan and place in an ovenproof dish. Strain and reserve the liquid and spoon the onion, potato and prunes on top of the brisket. Pour enough liquid into the dish so that it comes halfway up the meat. Top with the remaining prunes and golden syrup. Sprinkle over 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper.
  4. Roast, uncovered, basting every 15 minutes or so, for 1 hour–1 hour 30 minutes, or until the meat is fork tender. To serve, sprinkle with the lemon juice.