While she was growing up, Sandra Bullock‘s house was a party spot – thanks to the actress’s late mother, Helga, who loved to play hostess.
“People came to my parents’ parties because they were going to have fun and, if lucky, our mother would belly dance,” Bullock tells PEOPLE. “What they didn’t know was that the hostess made sure every morsel placed in front of them was pure and without anything artificial no matter what the cost.”
Now Bullock, 45, and her sister, Gesine Bullock-Prado, 39, carry on their mother’s tradition for healthful cooking and entertaining – well, minus the belly dancing. In fact, despite her busy film schedule, Bullock just opened a new venture, Walton’s Fancy & Staple, a bakery, deli and florist shop in Austin, Texas. And her sister helped develop some of the eatery’s tasty recipes.
Gesine, who is in the process of renovating a former tavern in Vermont with a kitchen for her mail-order baking business, also recently published a cookbook and memoir, Confections of a Closet Master Baker, which features many of her favorite family treats. The book was written as a love letter to mother Helga. “She put on great parties,” Gesine says. “She was a master of the menu.”
To celebrate its release, Bullock threw her sister a soiree at Walton’s. “Everything we seem to do at Walton’s and Bess Bistro [Bullock’s other Austin eatery] stems from family recipes,” the actress says.
One recipe the sisters served at the party was Helga’s Cake, one of their mom’s signature desserts. “Whenever that would come out at a party, everyone would just go crazy,” Gesine says. “My mom loved making it, but the reaction was the best part.”
Another dish the sisters served at the Sept. 14 book bash was Walton’s Maine Root Beer Braised Short Ribs with Really Bleu Potatoes and Crispy Shallots.
Maine Root Beer Braised Short Ribs with Really Bleu Potatoes and Crispy Shallots
• Full 3 Bone Rack about 5 pounds
• 2¾ quarts Canola Oil
• 5½ tablespoons Salt
• 3½ tablespoons Pepper
• 2 Carrots, peeled and sliced
• 2 stalks Celery, sliced
• 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
• 6 cloves Garlic, minced
• ¾ cup Crushed Tomatoes
• 3 small Bay Leaves
• 6 cups Root Beer
• 3½ quarts water
• 1 sprig Rosemary
• 1 cup canned consommé
• 1 teaspoon Chipotle Powder
• 2 pounds Purple Peruvian or Russet Potatoes
• 1½ cups Heavy Cream
• ½ pound Butter
• 3.5 ounces Maytag Bleu Cheese, Crumbled
• 1 teaspoon White Pepper
• 4 Shallots
• 1 Egg
• ½ cup Buttermilk
• 1 cup Flour
• ½ cup Corn Starch
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the meat with 4 tablespoons salt and 3 tablespoons pepper.
2. Heat a large braising pot over medium heat. Add ½ cup canola oil and lay the meat in flesh or fat side down and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Leave the pan on and add the carrots, celery, and onion. Sauté until the onions are tender. Stir in garlic, tomato and bay leaf. Add the short ribs, root beer, water, rosemary, consommé and chipotle powder. Bring the pot up to a simmer and cover with foil. Place the pot in the oven for 3-4 hours. The ribs are done once they can be easily pulled from the bone. Slice ½ inch below the bone to remove the meat. Let cool, then refrigerate.
3. Strain the liquid into a separate pot. Put vegetables in a bowl. Refrigerate liquid and vegetables overnight.
4. The next day, remove congealed fat from liquid. Puree half of the braised vegetables. Combine with the cooking liquid and reduce over medium high heat by ¾. Add the remaining vegetables and short ribs. Cook until meat is hot.
1. Wash and peel potatoes. Place in a pot and add 1 tablespoon salt and cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender.
2. When potatoes are done, strain the liquid and pass potatoes through a ricer or food mill. Melt the butter in a separate pan with the heavy cream. Add blue cheese to potatoes. Slowly add hot cream and butter mixture, stirring until potatoes are very creamy. (You may not use the whole amount. It depends on how much the potatoes absorb.) Season with white pepper and more salt if needed.
1. Peel and slice the shallots into rings.
2. Mix the flour and cornstarch with salt and pepper. Then mix the buttermilk with the egg. 3. Dredge the rings in flour. Then dip in egg and redredge in flour.
4. Heat the remaining canola oil in a heavy bottom pot to 350 degrees using a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature.
5. Place the rings in the oil then fry till crisp. Remove the rings from the oil and drain on paper towels. Toss in a bowl with some bleu cheese crumbles for a garnish.
For more from Sandra and Gesine, check out Great Ideas in the 10/12 issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now