‘Comfort food: Why I’m looking to the nostalgic and sentimental for solace’

Apr 30, 2020
There's something to be said about a bowl of mashed potato, writes Vivienne. Source: Getty Images

The crisp mornings of mid-autumn and the evening chill, have me thinking of hot soup, roasts and casseroles. Throw in social isolation and I’m reaching for my old recipe books.

My very favourite comfort food is mashed potato. I once had mouth ulcers so badly I lived for a week on egg flips and mashed potatoes. That turned me off egg flips, but not mashed potatoes.

In hospital after a car accident, and unable to move, I was fed cottage pie by spoon. It’s a dish hospitals seem to do well, and I love cottage pie.

Pasties remind me of my Queensland childhood and my grandmother and my Aunty Lily. I have Aunty Lily’s recipes for 100 pasties. She lived on a north Queensland cattle station.

Lamb roast with mint sauce and gravy and a full range of vegetables is hard to beat. Roast potatoes have to be crisp on the outside and feathery in the inside. When I was a child, roast potatoes were basically large, but these days small roast potatoes are the fo. They are to be complimented by sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots, and onions. A full roast seems to suit family gatherings, and these days it is my son-in-law who is the master of the roast.

I always have a supply of home made chicken stock that can quickly be turned into various vegetable soups of a light or hearty variety. You can feel them doing you good from the first mouthful.

Cheaper cuts of beef can be made into mouth watering casseroles. Every cuisine seems to have a slow cooked casserole providing variety but comfort. Each winter the newspapers seem to publish a recipe for Boeuf en Daube, but the French do not have a monopoly on tasty casseroles.

I do not cook puddings, but I know the are high on the list of comfort foods. My mother was a dab hand at apple pie, fruit crumbles and steamed puddings. My father did not consider a meal complete without a cooked pudding in the cooler months.

Biscuits, cakes, slices are all a reminder of a time in my life when the older women in the family made sure the cake and biscuit time were full of home baked goodness. Making the same with my own daughters, and more recently with young grandchildren, are among my treasured memories.

I’m going to cook a favourite, which goes by the unlikely name of Chop Suey. The recipe was given to me by a family friend when I lived with them in my university years. It involves mince, cabbage, chicken noodle soup, curry powder, onions and celery. You’ve probably got your mother’s version.

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