Tag Archives: comfort food

Comfort Food

5 Dec

Angel Kitten has taken a 1 month vow of vegetarianism. I am so proud of her, I just cant even begin to tell you. She was so moved by information she found on the PETA website, that she took a pledge to be a vegetarian for a month. I think thats amazing, and I truly believe she will feel wonderful after that month is over – so much so, that may be it will inspire her to eat vegetarian once a week or so. We have had several discussions about the choice to live a vegetarian life. I dont really try and “convert” people, but I do strongly believe that living a life of love and gentleness often includes making a choice not to eat animals.

However, I also believe strongly that if one chooses a carnivorous life, then thats OK too — especially if the choices about what meats one eats are made with care and forethought. For example, choosing to eat at the Golden Arches or the like, where the meat and chicken have lived largely painful lives, and been processed in a way that is wholesale, rather than respectful, is very different from choosing to occasionally eat meat that is free range and fed organic, non steriod, non hormone food. I would posit that the latter is much more delicious, even if much more expensive. I think if one wants to or has to eat a carnivorous diet, the logical, kind and respectful choice is to eat meat that has been treated with kindness and respect. May be not as often as highly processed meats and chickens, unless one is rich beyond the need to consider such things, but with much more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Anyway, thats me off my hobbyhorse ๐Ÿ˜‰ As part of my support of AngelKitten’s choice, I really wanted to make her food that will encourage her to see how satisfying eating a vegetarian diet is. This meal is one of her all time favourites, and we often order it in restaurants together, as a conglomeration of side dishes which we share. It could be completely vegan if you mashed the potatoes with olive oil instead of butter and cream… but I leave that choice to you ๐Ÿ˜‰ For us, we used organic cream and butter and were very happy with that choice.

For dinner last night, we had sauteed spinach and french beans with garlic, roasted broccoli with soy and balsamic (which Ezril said tasted meaty and immensely satisfying), and mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. It was sublime. So simple, so easy, so delicious. It was ultimate comfort food for us, and got me to thinking about what comfort food really is. Its not fancy, overly thought through, complex food. Rather, its simple, well cooked, well sourced ingredients that are cooked so their essential deliciousness shines through. We used organic spinach, french beans and broccoli – and organic milk and cream in the potatoes. If you wanted more protein in this meal, you could add some toasted almonds to the vegetables, but I dont think its necessary. I think that if you eat a balance of food through a week or so, high in protein sometimes, high in greens others, youre fine. Balance is as much about listening to what your body wants and needs at a given time as following strictures and formulas.

And by the way, these are not so much recipes, as memories of what we ate that night, in celebration of AngelKitten’s pledge. We love the juxtaposition of the clean bright freshness of the spinach and beans, the roasted dark stickiness of the broccoli, and the pure decadence of the potatoes. Its all about balance isnt it? ๐Ÿ™‚ย So here are the three recipes we put together for our comfort dinner. I am glad to say that AngelKitten took the leftovers home, and hopefully, they will nurture her and feed her for a few days more to come ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4 – 6 people (with leftovers of the potatoes, most definitely)

with Garlic!

Sauteed Spinach and French Beans

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (or additional olive oil for vegan)
  • 3 + 3 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 cups washed, topped and tailed and chopped French beans
  • 2 – 3 cups washed and roughly chopped spinach

In a large saucepan or frying pan, over medium low heat, combine the olive oil and butter, and gently heat until the butter melts. Add 3 minced garlic cloves, and cook, stirring gently, until the garlic releases its unique scent, and goes glossy and soft. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the garlic, and toss in your prepared French beans.

Stir the beans until completely coated with garlic and oil, and continue cooking until the beans change colour – they will go bright green. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Throw in the spinach. Its OK if a little water still clings to the leaves, but you dont want the spinach to be soaking wet. I usually squeeze it to dry it, then chop it and add it to the pan.

Stir until the spinach wilts and turns bright green, which should finish cooking the beans perfectly. Add the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic, stir and taste for salt and pepper.

Place in a large serving bowl, and set aside. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Its even delicious, in large spoonfuls, straight from the fridge.

Mmmmmmm

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs or herbes de Provence
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cloves from 3 heads of garlic (about 30 – 35 cloves)
  • 8 – 10 large potatoes (I usually use a mix)
  • 1 stick of butter (or 4 – 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Place olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper to taste and garlic cloves in a bowl. Toss to combine.

Place the garlic on the baking sheet in a single layer, and pour over any remaining liquid.

Roast the garlic in the oven until it is soft, burnt, glossy and slightly caramelised, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, and set aside.

Peel and chop the potatoes roughly. Place in a large saucepan or pot, and just cover with water. Over medium high heat, bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Depending on your potatoes, and how small the chop is, this will take between 20 – 40 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, and place back in the pot. Slice butter over the potatoes, and pour over cream. Using a hand masher, ricer, or immersion blender (as I do), mash the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust.

Add all the garlic, and mash into the potatoes. Use a spoon or spatula to combine thoroughly, and taste and adjust for seasonings.

This can be prepared a few hours ahead, and reheated over a very low flame. It can keep warm, covered for an hour or two.

Sticky Green Goodness

Roasted Broccoli

  • 3 – 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp roasted sesame oil (or olive oil if you dont have it)
  • Pepper (and salt if you wish to taste, but the soy should make it salty enough)
  • 1 head of broccoli, broken down into small florets, with the larger stalk peeled and chopped into batons – about 3 – 4 cups total

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Combine the soy, balsamic, oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss in the prepared broccoli, and using your hands, toss well to combine. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings if you wish.

Place the broccoli in an even layer on the baking sheet and reserve any additional liquid for later. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove, and flip each piece of broccoli over, dipping the broccoli in the remaining liquid. Pour over any additional liquid and continue roasting in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the broccoli is sticky, browny-green and delicious.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Cheese Scones / Biscuits

16 Nov

Yummy!Oh my goodness gracious. These are so good. So very very good. Fluffy, rich, creamy, cheesy, light and gorgeously tender. Cheddar cheese scones (or biscuits as Americans would call them) are a quick bread – about half an hour from inception to eating. They dont require any special equipment, in fact I prefer to grate the butter and cheddar directly into the flour and mix with the fingers. You need to be quick in order to keep these scones light as air – and there is a little trick. Add the baking powder after you combine the flour, salt, cheese and butter. This will make sure that the leavening agent is given the best possible chance to make the scones really fluffy.

I have always been fascinated by scones and biscuits. They taste so good, and look like they are easy to make… But they are not! It was a long time before I really began to understand the mechanics of how to make these perfectly. If you take your time, let the butter melt, or work the dough too hard, the scones can be thick and lumpy, with little rise. But if you have everything at the ready, dont forget to sift the dry ingredients, and use your fingertips (and cold butter, cheese and cream), then these scones really are quick and incredibly easy.

These are deeply cheesy – and they really reflect the cheese you choose, so choose well – organic aged cheddar is best. These will be a wonderful addition to a party or celebration dinner. They can be cut in any shape or size, though I prefer smaller 1 1/2 inch circles. They are wonderful split and ย layered with cheese and tomato jam – or just as they are, especially just baked. They taste pretty phenomenal with a smear of strawberry jam too! Breakfast, lunch or dinner, these scones are deeply satisfying and totally delectable.

Please do note that these are rich and stuffed with butter, cheese and cream. Theyre no diet food, but then I wouldnt eat them every day. They are the ultimate comfort food though. Eating one of these scones, hot from the oven is pure, perfect joy.

By the way, they keep for about 3 days, tightly covered, and reheat well either in a low oven or in the toaster. Though I truly doubt that there will be any left though once your loved ones catch a scent of baking bread and cheese… ๐Ÿ™‚

Makes about 18 1-1/2 inch scones

  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick/3 oz) butter, grated
  • 2 cups of good cheddar, grated
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • Fresh cracked black pepper (optional)
  • 300 ml (about 1 1/4 cup / 10 fl oz) cream/sour cream/milk (I put 2 tbsp sour cream in a measuring cup and then half and half cream and milk)
  • A few tablespoons of milk to glaze (optional)

Preheat your oven to 215C (425F), and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together about 3 cups of flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Keep the addition flour aside in case you need it to pull the scones together.

Using the largest holes on your grater, grate 3/4 stick of butter directly onto the flour. Using your fingertips, quickly toss the butter into the flour.

Grate 2 cups of cheddar and add it to the butter/flour mixture. Using your fingertips, mix well again. You should have a floury, pebbly, mealy mixture.

Measure out the baking powder, and sift onto the dough mixture. Toss with your fingertips again to combine well. Crack some black pepper into the mixture if you like (I do), and toss again.

Measure out your cream/milk/sour cream mixture. The more cream you add to the mix, the richer the scones will be. I use about 2 tbsp of sour cream, and then make up to about 6 fluid oz with cream, and add milk for the rest. Whisk together with a fork – the mixture will be lumpy from the sour cream, but this is fine.

Pour your cream/milk mixture directly over the flour, and using your hands, knead the milk into the flour until a dough comes together. If its really wet, add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time. You want a thick soft pliable dough that holds together, and yet feels very tender and delicate. This should take only a few kneads – treat the dough very gently and carefully because you want it to be as light as possible.

Turn the dough out onto a firm working surface and pat into a rectangle or square about 1 1/2 inches thick. Use a round or cookie cutter to cut scones directly out of the rectangle, and move directly onto the baking sheet.

Any left over scraps can be quickly patted together again and recut, but know that if you do this more than once, those scones will be flatter than the others!

Let rest for about 3 – 5 minutes, and glaze with milk if you like (or even 1 egg whisked). This just encourages the top to brown well, but you dont need to do it if you dont want to!

Bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until light, fluffy and well browned at the top. Dont over bake – they will continue to firm up once out of the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes or so on the baking sheet (though I usually cant resist trying at least one!) and serve immediately, or store tightly covered for 3 days.

 

Rice Pudding

23 Jul

with a raspberry curd rippleRice pudding. At its best, its a quietly satisfying indulgence, clean, smooth, delicious. There are so many different ways to make rice pudding, and I probably have tried them all. Its one of the things I make when friends are feeling poorly, or when I am cooking for someone who is very ill and needs to get their weight and stamina up. Rice is food of the Goddesses. If, like me, you have that Asian gene in you, life is incomplete without rice almost every day. I crave rice when I havent had it in a while, and I eat it every which way. I love all the different kinds of rice – black, red, brown, arborio, jasmine, basmati… Pulut, nasi lemak, risotto, fried rice, buttered rice, plain rice with a touch of sambal and some soy sauce, rice with a fried egg on top, dripping golden yellow yolk into the pristine whiteness. I can eat rice in a myriad of ways, and one of the things I love about it is its just so good for you.

Rice pudding is a very friendly food. You dont have to make it fancy for it to be received with great pleasure and its incredibly easy for invalids to consume. And, if you want to dress it up and put on dancing shoes, it can take a dollop of raspberry curd, as in the photo, or some shavings of chocolate, or even be bulked up with smooth pumpkin – and suddenly, a new and delicious dish. Oh, rice pudding, how I love you, let me count the ways…

I know there are people who like to bake their rice pudding, but Im not too hot on the skin that develops. But then, in life, there are skin people and no skin people, so figure out who you are. I like a smooth, satiny white rice pudding. You can only achieve this by cooking very slowly over the stovetop, at an incredibly low heat. It takes 45 minutes – 1 hour, but most of that time, you just leave it alone. If you are cooking for someone who is ill, or who is struggling to get enough nutrients, you can beat in a few eggs right at the end to enrich the pudding. You could also add more cream, some yogurt, use all full-fat milk. You get the idea – bulk it up with fats and nutrients which will go relatively unnoticed in the consumption of the dish. A little sprinkle of nutmeg, or cinnamon, or both, also add depth of flavour.

I have to admit though, I am a purist. Rice, milk and a bit of cream, vanilla, sugar, and sometimes a touch of butter at the end. Eaten warm or cold, this is one of my favourite comfort dishes. Its like a pillow of softness, the rice melding in and flavouring the milk, and vice versa. Happy happy belly.

For about ย 3 cups of rice pudding (enough to serve 6 people or 4 very greedy ones), you will need:

  • 1 cup rice (any one you want, though note that brown, black, red rices do tend to take longer to cook because they are more natural. I borrowed a cup of rice from MamaLila, my upstairs neighbour, not sure but I think it was basmati she gave me, and it was goooood)
  • 5 cups of milk, divided into 4 cups + 1 cup – you can use any kind of milk you like. Try coconut, almond or soy milk. I try and use a mix of 2% and lowfat, and a dollop of cream. I have also been successful in adding buttermilk and sour cream, in small amounts to the mix. Try and get some whole or half and half in if you are cooking for someone who needs the extra fats and nutrients. All skim milk is not really that successful to be honest.
  • 1 vanilla pod, split, with the seeds scraped out, or 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 tbsp (or to taste) light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp (or more) butter

In a medium saucepan, over extremely low heat, combine rice, 4 cups of milk, vanilla pod and beans (or vanilla essence), and 3 tbsp light brown sugar. Give it all a stir and leave it there for 45 minutes or so, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure that the rice doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan. You want this to cook at a very very low simmer – no boiling, but more like tiny little bubbles plopping to the surface. The rice will plump up and absorb the milk, but this process will seem as if it is never going to truly happen – it will, and it is, just trust the rice.

After about 45 minutes, you should have rice thats almost al dente. Use your instincts. I usually put in all of the final cup of milk, because I dont mind rice pudding that is quite soft, but if you think it doesnt need it all, use half or less. Taste for sweetness, and add more sugar if you think it needs it. Continue cooking at a very slow simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes until almost all the milk is absorbed. Dont take it off when its too dry – as it cools, the milk, which is now full of the starch of the rice, will become much thicker and richer.

Stir in a teaspoon or so of butter, if you like (if you are vegan, obviously, leave this out!), and let cool. You can serve it warm or cold from the fridge (which is the way I like it), snowy and soft and comforting. Add a dollop of curd or jam for colour and flavour if you like, or go purist and enjoy it in all its pristine beauty.

And enjoy how much those you love, love this!

Rice pudding!