Browsing Tag

Comfort Food

Right Back to Eight

June 18, 2012

Last week I was unwell, I had a bit of a virus. It was not nice. Not bad, but just not nice. I felt cloudy and drained and just plain unwell. Luckily, I was able to move my schedule around to rest for a couple of days at home.

On those luckily languid, lazy mid-week days I nourished myself with wholesome foods. Breakfast was all about big bowls of oats with banana and chia seeds. And honey and cinnamon. It was practically medicinal in it’s comforting perfection.


Almost instantly I was right back to being eight years old, Dad in the kitchen making us kids honey, banana, cinnamon toast for breakfast. The recipe was simple – grainy bread, an often generous spread of honey, thinly sliced banana and a purposeful scattering of cinnamon. This was Dad’s specialty. And, like my bowl of oats, it was all you would want from a breakfast. Nourishing, energising, homely, delicious. Comforting perfection.

I’m all better now. Let’s thank the oats, shall we?

What breakfast takes you right back to eight?


Heidi xo

A Convent, a Chicken and 40 Cloves of Garlic

July 28, 2011

The Abbotsford Convent Farmers’ Market

Last Saturday Ben and I visited the Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers’ Market with my parents. It was my first time visiting this lovely, earthy, unassuming market, with local produce that is undoubtedly fresh – as displayed by the dirt still very much covering the cauliflower at the first stall. I love that, I like my veg rustic. Straight from the ground.

Beyond the beautiful produce there were stalls selling hot porridge, soups and free-range grilled meat sandwiches. The aromas were incredibly enticing on this decidedly frosty morning, and left me almost (almost) lamenting my breakfast at Three Bags Full earlier. I jest, I could never lament Black Sticky Gingerbread – yes, I ordered it for the fourth time out of my five visits to Three bags Full these past 2 months…what of it?

Here I am at the market with my beautiful mum, buying some delightful Daffodils…a little bit of sunshine during this biting Winter – and I’m not talking about the flowers 😉

While we were at the market Ben and I picked up some heavenly Wholegrain Sourdough Rolls from The Convent Bakery. They were so delicious, the best I have had in a long time. We enjoyed them later that day for lunch, alongside homemade Broccoli Soup (Ben’s favourite) and Goats Cheese. Perfection.


Back to the market…

We also bought a bunch of gorgeous Brussels Sprouts and my absolute favourite vegetable, Cavolo Nero. Cavolo Nero, also known as Tuscan Cabbage, is a type of Kale, and is a powerful antioxidant and full of many vitamins and minerals. I sautéed these fantastically nutritious leaves with garlic and chilli flakes that evening, yet the Brussels Sprouts…well, I saved them for Sunday.

Roast Chicken for Sunday Dinner

Sunday was a bit of a stay-at-home whirlwind. Ben had been working with me all day, getting everything ready for my upcoming USA trip. He even missed his beloved basketball to stay and help keep me sane, teaching me how to use my ipad *blush*. I wanted to reward him with a beautiful dinner using a favourite recipe of ours. Truth be told, come dinnertime I was so far into my planning, Ben actually made our dinner. My man has been supremely amazing lately, with me being very busy getting all organised and with all my different jobs I’m currently doing. Here he is, making the dinner I planned for him…my bad. The sentiment was there though, right?

Self-imposed guilt trip over.

Our beloved recipe, which I planned on making, is Valli Little’s Chicken with 40 Cloves Garlic (recipe link). Yes, you read that correctly. 40 cloves. Forty.

It’s amazing. It’s the first and only Roast Chicken recipe I have used, and every time I make it I am thrilled with the end product. I’d like to try another recipe soon, to develop my roasting skills, as this one is not exactly your traditional roast chook. Yet I still feel I can tick it off my list…well, maybe a half tick (see this post for details on my list of food fears I wish to conquer and dishes I desire to make for the first time in 2011). I implore you to try this roast chicken recipe. It creates a superbly moist bird that just melts. And the sauce…I have no words. It’s a completely easy recipe to make, to boot.

For those beautiful farmers’ market Brussels Sprouts, I selected another of Valli Little’s recipes, her Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta (recipe link) – what can I say, she’s my never fail lady. We didn’t use almonds or breadcrumbs, and instead Ben added Fresh Peas along with the pancetta. He also used French Butter. On the weekends I tend to relax my views around saturated fats and butter – a generous slither or two here and there is fine with me and my lifestyle. And honestly, I think the butter really made this recipe. True story. This dish was utterly divine. Yes, I used the words Brussels Sprouts and divine in the same sentence.

We served the chicken and brussles sprouts with super crispy Roasted Kipfler Potatoes. I find the key to perfect roasted potatoes (other than using duck fat, but that’s just not going to happen on a regular basis) is to firstly use kipfler potatoes. Their waxy, buttery goodness just cannot be surpassed in my books. I will halve them (or quarter them if they’re large) and pop them on a baking paper lined tray, along with a handful of garlic cloves (skin on). I then give everything a quick spray with spray olive oil, before scattering with fresh rosemary, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. I then pop them into a hot hot oven, preheated to 200-220 degrees Celsius. In 25-30 minute they’re pure potato perfection.

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And that was the meal that I made for my amazing man…oh wait, that’s right… Either way, it was delicious. So scrumptious, so comforting, so much love.

Heidi xo

Jamie Oliver Meatballs

June 17, 2011

This is a simple post, following on from a rather hectic week. It seemed right to share this recipe with you. So I am.

You all know I’m a fan of twirling…and what better way to accompany a twirl than with beautiful juicy meatballs. One of my favourtie meatball recipes is this Jamie Oliver gem (recipe link). I have long doted on Jamie Oliver, I adore him in each and every way. And at the risk of sounding a little suspect, I adore his meatballs too.

The zesty, spiced flavour is light and lovely. Coupled with a rich tomato sauce, this is a bit of a special dish. Ben and I always try to double the recipe and freeze a whole bunch of meatballs and sauce, so that we have meatballs whenever we want. In a perfect world, everyone would have meatballs whenever they wanted, right?…

This dish makes for a fabulous mid-week Winter comfort meal. Perfect for when you’ve had one of those days, when obstacles to productivity seem to pop up at regular intervals in ascending intensity, and traffic seems to move that little bit slower than usual on the way home. All you need to do is defrost your serving, pop some pasta into boiling salted water, cuddle up on the couch with your loved one (significant other/family/friend/pup/glass of wine), and talk not about your frustrating day, rather marvel at how fabulous these meatballs are. You’ll end up feeling lighter, trust me.

Heidi xo

Carbonara Cravings

June 1, 2011

Sometimes you just want a good carbonara.

But I’ll be honest with you, I rarely choose to eat a dish where cream is a founding ingredient. It just contains so much saturated fat and kilojoules. So instead, whenever a creamy dreamy pasta craving comes along, I opt for a lighter carbonara. This is actually possible, don’t laugh. Honestly, it’s not such an oxymoron.

In fact, the traditional Italian pasta alla carbonara doesn’t contain cream. Rather, the creaminess comes from eggs. And cheese…quite a bit of cheese actually, but hey, at least it’s not cream.

It also pays to watch your portion and serve your pasta with a big plate of greens. I opted for garlic sauteed silverbeet when I most recently made this dish, and it was the perfect accompaniment. A glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc goes down a treat also.

Is this not the perfect Friday night meal? I think so. With today being the start of Winter, I felt it would be the perfect time to share this warming, comforting pasta dish with you. I really adore this recipe. It’s just so satisfying. It almost makes me want to jump on the couch and fist pump. Sorry, I had to go there…

Tom Cruise’s Spaghetti Carbonara recipe link.

*Alterations I make to this recipe: you’ll note Tom’s recipe calls for “two packets of pasta”. Right. What? So I simply use the amount I always cook for Ben and I (I was halving the recipe and cooking for just us two), which is 220-250g uncooked pasta. I use ~1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and find it to be perfectly adequate. I use lean bacon, and it still works well. Yes bacon fat would be amazing in this dish, but as a rule I just don’t eat such fatty meat. I double the quantity of garlic, because you all know I’m addicted to those beautiful bulbs. And lastly, I make sure to use a good quality parmesan cheese – it makes all the difference.

Heidi xo

Can We Please Make Our Own Char Siu?

May 4, 2011

This is what Ben asked me, all wide-eyed and in a devilishly innocent how could you possibly refuse me? tone last Monday. Char Siu is one of Ben’s most beloved dishes. It reminds him of family meals and late-night snacks with his bff, Brandon. The epitome of comfort food, you could say. How could I refuse?

“Of course we can, gorgeous”, I assured him.

Right.

How on earth do I make Char Siu?…

After some googling and tweeting for advice, I stumbled upon this recipe (link here). The sauce sounded great, and I had most of the ingredients on hand, all I needed was to duck out to the shops for some Hoisin Sauce and the pork.

Many recipes use pork belly, but we were after a lean cut of meat, and so we opted for pork eye fillet, which we marinated for 8 hours.

The cut worked perfectly, it was incredibly succulent and adopted a beautiful, plum coating. In our oven, the pork took 45 minutes to cook (turning the fillets halfway through and brushing with honey, as is instructed in the method). I reserved the marinade and whilst the meat was resting, added it to the roasting pan and reduced the sauce down on the stove.

We served our char siu with stirfried bok choy and steamed rice, over which we poured the reduced pan sauce. It was de-li-cious!

Ben and I were in a state of pure happiness over dinner. The flavour balance was perfect, it was just what he and I had wanted. We we felt all warm and fuzzy inside as we delighted in our homemade Char Siu. Craving entirely satisfied, comfort mission accomplished, and snap!… another recipe is added to our favourites list.

Heidi xo

Cinnamon Buns

May 2, 2011

For a good five months now, I have been wanting to make my own cinnamon buns. Muffins, cakes, cookies, sure – but cinnamon buns, now they’re really something special.

I remember working in a café with an American Chef a few years ago. One day business was slow, and so he whipped up a batch of cinnamon buns. Out of the oven they came, I can still remember the smell… I was in utter rapture as we delighted in warm, fresh, fluffy buns. Chef danced around the kitchen gleefully as he enjoyed one of his home country’s signature sweets. Needless to say, they have been on my mind ever since.

Late last year, I saw a beautiful recipe for cinnamon buns on Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks (see recipe link here). I have been showering Heidi with quite a lot of love lately, forgive me, I can’t help myself. She’s just far too cool. Ever since I read about these cinnamon buns I have been itching to make them.

This has been a long itch, my friends. Why did I not scratch it sooner, you may ask? Surely if I was itching I would search for a remedy, i.e. make the darn buns. Well, it’s not as simple as that. You see, these buns contained an ingredient that was on my list (see this post, here, if you do not recall the list I speak of). In a nutshell, I was scared of yeast. Note that I just prefaced my confession with was. A typo, you may question? Indeed it is not, for I am no longer afraid of yeast.

Yes, yeast may be a micro-organism, but apart from that it is not scary at all. In fact it is a father glorious micro-organism… please stop calling it a micro-organism.

In all seriousness, yeast is pretty fantastic. It helps food to rise from a blob into a beautiful bun. It’s like the Fairy Godmother for baked goods. A Fairy Yeast-Mother, if you will. Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

Originally I had planned on making these buns at Christmas, however we ended up pushing them back to Easter. Subsequently my itch was extended for a tidy 4 months. Ouch.

Come morning on Easter Sunday, I was ready to get my hands dirty, conquer my fear and experience the wonder and magic of the Fairy Yeast-Mother. My dad very kindly guided me through the entire process. He’s kind of a bread-making champion, so I latched onto his yeast experience.

Clearly this shot was taken first thing in the morning (and clearly I am enamoured with the yeast), so please excuse my nightgown. I adore it, however Ben informs me that it makes me look like an escapee from a mental institution.

Dad was also my photographer whilst I got my hands all doughy (I love that part). Thanks for all your help, dad! You’re my Fairy Yeast-Father! Sorry, that sounds terribly emasculating.

My favourite part was the kneading. What an arm workout! I’ll tell you, kneading has officially creeped into my top workout routines. Now I can say that I am not just all about cardio, I take my biceps very seriously. Plus, at the end of your hard work, you get bread or buns… or both! Is there a better workout? Surely not.

The dough was spiked with ground cardamom. Not only did this invite a beautiful, speckled appearance, but the aroma was intoxicating. Cardamom is so dreamy, it’s truly one of my top spices. I’m playing favourites a lot these days, aren’t I?

One mistake I did make was to combine the cinnamon and sugar with the butter before being spread on to the dough (rather than spreading the butter first, then scattering a cinnamon/sugar mix over the top). Although I doubt this would make much of a difference (correct me if I am wrong, please). One other thing, I *cough* used olive oil spread instead of butter *cough* as we were out (gasp, I know). Don’t worry, it was still amazing.

Rolling the dough is always a fun process. We scattered a little sugar over the buns after the egg wash, but not a lot. I feared they would be too sweet otherwise, as this recipe does contain a lot of sugar.

As these buns were cooking, the sweet, cinnamon and cardamom-infused aroma filtered through the air. I could not stop inhaling. It was heavenly. I don’t need to tell you, do I, can’t you just imagine? Cinnamon buns – those two words inherently invite you to inhale and sigh in delight.

These buns were soft on the inside, very much like a brioche, yet the dough had a welcomed structure to it in the outer layers. Be careful not to overcook these buns, otherwise they will be tough and not nearly as delightful as they should be. The cardamom offered a lovely, exciting flavour to the prominent sweetness of the dough and filling – it really stole the show for me.

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We ate our cinnamon buns for brunch on Easter Sunday alongside Greek yoghurt, which cut though the sweetness nicely. Berries would also have been a nice addition. Or perhaps slices of refreshing honeydew. Or even some fresh figs. Oh the possibilities….

Heidi xo

Coming home to Tuna Casserole

February 8, 2011

Early Monday morning, Ben and I arrived home from our month-long travels around South East Asia. We had such a fabulous time, we were very sad to be coming home. Our travels included Vietnam (from South to North), Thailand (in the Kanchanaburi province), Hong Kong (visiting family) and one night in Kuala Lumpur. We especially wished we could have stayed longer at Baan Dada in Thailand. Our visits there never seem to last long enough.

During our travels we had some incredible eats – oodles of noodles, buckets of herbs, countless coconuts, banana each and every way and pork for days. There was rice and soup and buns, not to mention an endless supply of beautiful, fresh, tropical fruit. Visiting Vietnam for the first time allowed us to really got to know the cuisine on a more authentic level. I have many posts planned detailing our delicious culinary adventures throughout Asia! Yet my first post back home is not about Asian cuisine or travel. It is about comfort food.

Coming down from the travel high, one thing that I always look forward to is tucking into the food I have missed whilst abroad. Monday for me was all about oats, muesli, yoghurt, berries and vegemite. Ben had to go to work early on Monday after very little sleep, so I wanted to make him a special, comforting dinner to welcome him home before putting him to bed at a decidedly early hour. He had requested a dish that epitomises comfort food to me. Ben has only eaten this a handful of times at my parent’s house in Red Hill, yet he instantly fell in love with it and came to think of it in the same way as my family. The dish I am speaking of is Tuna Casserole. Technically I think it is more of a Mornay, and we do interchange the name amongst our family, yet I prefer the name ‘Tuna Casserole’ (‘Mornay’ just sounds irksome to me for some reason).

I grew up eating this dish, which would appear on the table after long days or when we had little time to prepare dinner. It is by no means a gourmet feat, rather it was mum’s easy dish, and is both nutritious and comforting (you get a decent serve of calcium and protein). It fills your belly with warmth and love and instantly makes you feel nourished. A serving of this dish equates to one big long hug from a loved one. I was not at all surprised when Ben requested it.

Tuna Casserole

Ingredients

1 ½ tablespoons Butter
½ cup plain flour (I would like to try this with wholemeal flour, for extra fibre)
2 ½ cups milk
1 or 2 x 125g tinned capsicum (depending on how much vinegary capsicum flavour you like. This is a secret ingredient, and completely makes the dish. Fresh capsicum just wouldn’t have the same effect. It is the only time I ever use tinned capsicum, as frankly, it is a little weird. But it totally works in this dish)
1 x 420g tin sweet corn kernels (or less if you don’t enjoy a lot of corn) ½ cup frozen peas (or more if you wish)
1 x 425g tin Sirena tuna in oil (drain the oil)
1 cup grated tasty cheese
A handful of Parsley

Method

In a heavy-based saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Turn the heat down to low then add in the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon briskly for ~1 minute. Be sure to not catch the flour on the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat back up to medium and slowly add in the milk, ~1/4 cup at a time, briskly stirring to allow it to combine with the flour. The mixture will be a little lumpy but don’t be discouraged. Keep stirring continuously and allow the sauce to gradually thicken. This process of stirring in the milk slowly will take ~3-5 minutes. If you like a thinner sauce, add in more milk. Once at the desired level of thickness add in the capsicum, corn and peas. Stir them into the sauce then add the tuna. Once the mixture is hot again, add in the cheese and allow it to melt. Serve immediately and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

One whole month without my beloved Sirena tuna…oh how I have missed thee…

Growing up, my family and I would always eat tuna casserole with some bread and maybe a salad. Oven chips also go well. I like to make my own potato wedges by roasting potatoes in a little spray oil, and serving them alongside the tuna casserole.It is also delicious, hot or cold, on toast for breakfast the next morning (which is exactly what I did today).

I made this earlier in the day, then re-heated it when Ben came home and served it with oven potatoes and bread. He was very pleased. And comforted. And nourished.

Heidi xo

Twirl Freely (carbohydrates are not the devil)

December 20, 2010

Pasta has always been one of my most loved foods. I find it dreamy and delicious, and at the same time nourishing and comforting. My all-time favourite meal would be ultra al dente linguini or spaghetti, with fresh mussels, clams and maybe some prawns cooked in olive oil, white wine and some garlic, and finished off with fresh parsley. On my most recent trip to Italy, I delighted in this dish whenever I got the chance. So simple, so fresh – practically perfect in every way.

I know that I am not alone in my linguini love. Many of you are passionate about paparadelle and squeal for spaghetti. Please, sir, may I have some more penne? Yet while fusilli fills many a belly with joy, it seems that lots of people engage in a love-hate relationship with pasta. Twirling delectable strands with a fork evokes feelings of both happiness and guilt.

Pasta gets such a bad wrap these days, what with carbohydrates being the root of all evil… It is so silly, really. It is unseemingly common for people to banish carbohydrates from their diet, in the hope of losing weight. This is quite troubling, in more ways than one.

Firstly, cutting out any food group is not advisable. You miss out on important nutrients and this restrictive behaviour encourages cravings and binge eating.

Secondly, the key to a healthy weight is everything in moderation. No gimmicks, no magic pill, no quick fix. And certainly no extreme, ridiculous diets whereby you eliminate entire food groups, develop foul breath and horrible mood swings, and then end up putting on all the weight you lost and then some.

Instead, aim to eat a wide variety of nutritious food, with the occasional indulgence, in appropriate portions. What is an appropriate portion? Well, that depends on many factors, including your activity level. However as a general guide, stick with 1-2 cups of cooked pasta, as opposed to 3-4. Opt for nutritious carbohydrates (such as wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, legumes and dairy) as opposed to overly processed, refined carbohydrates (such as lollies, soft drink and pre-packaged biscuits). It is quite simple, really…

Carbohydrates are not the devil.

Pasta is not ‘fattening’.

And eating a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise will not make you put on 5kg.

Rather, I find a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise to be incredibly delicious and ultra satisfying. Paired with a simple tomato based sauce, pasta can be a really easy, quick and nutritious weeknight meal.

If I wish to up the nutritional content of my dinner, I opt for wholegrain pasta. Granted, some wholegrain pasta tastes like cardboard. However there are some good brands out there. I like la Molisana wholewheat linguini for everyday wholemeal pasta – this is a brand that Ben will eat too. There are also a growing number of gourmet pasta makers, who make really lovely wholegrain pasta.

Below is a recipe for my Tomato and Tuna Pasta, which I whip up very quickly when a craving strikes. It is also delicious sans tuna. If I’m really lucky I will have some fresh basil on hand, which adds a beautiful fragrance and flavour – I am a fresh basil addict, I just adore it. If my vegetable intake has been a little low that day, I may add in some spinach leaves or peas, to green the dish up a little. However most of the time I stick to the recipe below.

If I want to mix things up further, I will swap the brown onion for red onion, cut into longer, thicker slices, which I sauté in some olive oil along with a good glug of balsamic vinegar. It gives the sauce a lovely depth of flavour and tang. I leave out the tuna and instead focus on letting the sauce simmer away, developing a rich tomato flavour. Roasted eggplant and red capsicum are lovely additions to this balsamic-infused sauce, as is a little rosemary.

Tomato and Tuna Pasta (a.k.a my easy, nourishing weeknight meal)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion
3 cloves of garlic
(I love my garlic, add more or less as you wish)
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes (I use laGina tinned tomatoes – you could substitue with freshly diced tomatoes too)
1 x 700g bottle passata – TIP: I swear by Bertolli Provvista Sugo Classica. It is divine – rich and fresh. The quality of the passata you use completely makes or breaks this dish. Yes, this brand is more expensive, but I see it as a very worthy investment)
1 x 425g tin Sirena Tuna in Oil (I only use Sirena tuna, for the same reason as I mentioned with the passata)
¼ cup red wine – or perhaps a little more if I’m feeling a bit cheeky (at the moment I’m using a cask of Stanley Wines Shiraz Cabernet in my cooking)
A handful of Fresh Basil Leaves
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Good quality Parmesan
500g pasta
(I use Barilla when not using wholemeal pasta) – this allows for leftovers. Normally I prefer spaghettoni or a similar, equally fun pasta – I love to twirl my pasta. However with this dish, I enjoy tortiglioni or rigatoni – tubes are such fun.

* This sauce makes enough for at least 5-6 serves, however I always make this quantity so that Ben has leftovers for work lunches.

Method

Dice the onion. In a heavy-based saucepan heat the olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until soft and coloured slightly. Crush the garlic into the pan and cook until fragrant. Add in the tuna (drain off most of the oil however leave a little), diced tomatoes, passata, wine and fresh basil, season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, and let the sauce simmer for as long as possible (I always end up simmering for ~30mins).

Cook your pasta in boiling salted water according to packet instructions, until al dente.

Serve the pasta into bowls. Top with sauce, and freshly grated parmesan.

I always serve pasta with a big salad. It ensure you fill up on this instead of a second helping of pasta 😉 I love a simple salad, made of mesclun greens, cucumber and tomato, with a dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, seeded mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice, sea salt & pepper.

So there you have it. Carbohydrates are not the devil. Rigatoni tubes are not the spawn of Satan. If you’re struggling with your weight a little, look at your whole diet – everything that you’re eating (i.e. you total kilojoule intake), and how active you are (or may not be). Don’t blame that conservative bowl of pasta. It is simply striving to be incredibly delicious, whilst at the same time, nurturing. How could you hate on that?

Heidi xo

Round Up the Troops!

September 30, 2010

I have always, luckily, had a very good immune system. This may have something to do with the fact that I apparently liked to eat dirt when I was young. A bit of dirt eating is natural when you make mud pies, isn’t it?! Anyway, I believe that getting my hands (and mouth) dirty probably built up my immune system nicely.

Besides a nasty bout of Salmonella when I was 18months old, which presumably came about due to eating said mud pies, I was rarely unwell as a child. In fact, I actually relished sick days when I could stay home from school and cuddle up on the couch watching movies. It so rarely happened, that any sickness I may have felt was offset by my excitement at being able to stay in my pyjamas, raid my Disney collection and escape to faraway lands under the sea or on a magic carpet. Confession: I had a huge crush on Robin Hood as a child. And yes, I am talking about the Disney version, where he is a fox. And not as in “he’s a real fox”…I mean an actual fox. He was so charming! Am I alone? Ok, let’s not dwell on that any further.

Recently I have found myself getting sick easily. I fought an annoying sinus infection from July-August. I won in the end, with the help of an old friend, Doxycycline. I first met Doxy, as I have come to call him, when I was in Thailand at Baan Dada. We became friendly due to his anti-malaria powers. Although he is helpful in some situations, I don’t like to get too close to Doxy or his pals. Most of the time, I stubbornly resist popping pills for as long as I can. I try to will my body to pull through and fix itself. So, when I woke up sick nearly two weeks ago, I looked to my other, more natural friends to join me in this incessant battle.

Water is a natural ally on the battlefield. You must stay well hydrated otherwise you stand no chance. I also try to get fruit on my side, for both a dose of vitamins and a general mood boost. Being a happy warrior improves your chances of winning, and fruit always keeps me bright 🙂 These two allies give me a little support when fighting off a pesky cold. When I know that I am really sick, however, I bring out the big guns…Chicken Soup.

Captain Chicken Soup is my go-to guy when I know that I am in deep and cannot win the battle alone. He has the ability to warm your soul and fight off any ailment with his natural, earthly healing powers. For centuries, people have used chicken soup as a remedy for colds. Some studies have highlighted similarities between the properties in chicken soup and modern-day drugs. It is also suggested that chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect, and hence helps the body when in a cold and flu battle.

I read an article in Marie Claire a while ago, featuring a small collection of women and their sacred family chicken soup recipe. These women were from Greek, Italian, Chinese and Isreali backgrounds – such different cultures and food styles. Yet despite these differences, they all spoke of their love for the same dish, chicken soup. What resonated me was that for each family and culture, the soup was made when an individual needed comfort – both if they were physically sick, or if they needed to be soothed emotionally. Homemade soup means love, and it is the ultimate comfort food.

When Ben picked me up at the airport on Friday night, sniffling, coughing and without a voice, I immediately knew what I needed. “Pho?” I croaked, beseechingly. And so we drove to Springvale, which is decidedly not on the way home, for some medicine – so that I could get a little bit of help in this apparently ongoing battle. Round up the troops!

The cavalry marched on in, in the form of thinly sliced beef (I love how the beef cooks in the broth), slippery rice noodles, crunchy bean shoots, fragrant basil, a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh chilli (as well as extra chilli in oil) and last but certainly not least, a warming, full-bodied beef broth. I don’t desire to know the full ingredients list in making this broth. I have heard they take the approach of ‘the more body parts of the animal added, the better’. This may be true, but ‘ignorance is bliss’ is also very true, and probably necessary if I wish to keep Pho as my ally. I don’t need to do a full background check on my troops. If they’re on my side (and they taste good!), they’re all right by me.

I love this chilli oil

Voila! Pho with all the trimmings

I also had some coconut juice. I’m pretty sure they add a lot of sugar before they add the coconut water, but I don’t really mind as it tastes so good. Young coconut water is fairly low in energy and contains some minerals and electrolytes, and is hence a very popular new product (although it has long been consumed in South East Asian and Pacific Island regions). I won’t go into the details of coconut water in this post, all I will say is that I find it extremely refreshing and on this particular evening, I was craving one.

Richmond has many good Pho options, however Ben and I tend to gravitate towards Springvale. We frequent Dakao Hoang (Shop 6,17 Balmoral Ave) in particular, as we have a personal connection with the owners and because we love their Pho. I’m keen for more Pho recommendations, though! If you’re a Sydneysider, check out Foodwink’s piece on Sydney Pho. If you’re a Pho virgin, I think it is about time you get your Pho on.

There is nothing like a good Pho, especially when you are unwell. The broth both nourishes you and tastes incredible. Adding chilli helps to clear a stuffy nose too. We have had Pho three times since I have been unwell. Although I still have a cough and some sniffles, I am feeling a lot better. I won’t be relying on my comrades for any more help in this battle – I feel that I can now go it alone. I am confident that I will emerge the victorious winner. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to visit my friends whenever I get the chance. After all, a good friend doesn’t just show up when they are in trouble and need a helping hand. So, I guess it is my duty to have Pho as much as I can. What can I say?…I’m a good friend 🙂

Heidi xo

Tuna, Chilli and Lemon Pasta. My Comfort Food.

September 16, 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, I am working interstate this week. For the past five days, I have been hanging out in a fairly remote town, north of Canberra. While it is really pleasant, and oozes that typical country town charm, I do miss home. I long for my own bed. I do not enjoy layering heavy blankets and enclosing myself in a woollen jumper cocoon to stay warm at night. And I pine for internet access that doesn’t demand you jump from corner to corner to gain a signal.

I also miss my food…

I like to think that I am fairly flexible, and can make the most out of whatever situation I’m in – from all perspectives, not just in a culinary sense. However, it is getting a little frustrating not being able to make myself a nice bowl of hot porridge in the morning, or take my pick of toast topping from my ever expanding nut butter line-up, or mix up a smoothie in the afternoon.

On my first night here, some take-out noodle soup was fun. But it is now day five, and the novelty has officially worn off. I miss my kitchen. I miss my food. I’m itching to exercise my culinary skills. I want to slice and dice. I need to simmer and stir. I simply must season, sip and slurp.

Now I may seem a little dramatic, and it wouldn’t be the first time 😉 Yet I have only just been asked to return to this friendly little town next week, and so this yearning for home comforts is magnified – especially since it is my birthday next week. I don’t particularly fancy turning 25 whilst having a party for one, singing “happy birthday to me” and blowing out my candles all on my lonesome (aha! my dramatic streak resurfaces…)

This weekend, my aim is to soak up a bit of TLC at home before returning interstate. In all honestly, it is nice working with the people in this town and spending time with some gorgeous elderly lovelies.

The first thing I want to do upon my return tomorrow night, is enter my kitchen and cook. I want to make some hardcore comfort food. I am craving food that makes me feel warm and loved, that leaves me glowing from the inside out. Food that will soothe my soul after a hectic week. Each slice of onion will cut through my concerns. Any worries I may have will be washed away with those obligatory, cutting onion induced tears.

And I know exactly what I want to cook…

I have fond memories of this meal. I created it shortly before Ben and I moved in together. During those 18months living in our first apartment, we would make this dish at least every fortnight. It involves so many of our most beloved ingredients. These days Ben or I will get a craving around once a month, and out it comes again. The sweetness of the onions, combined with the kick of chilli and lemon, along with the meaty tuna chunks and freshness of the spinach. Yum!

Cooking and eating this dish always leaves us feeling contented and cozy. This is our comfort food. I can’t wait for it to work it’s magic on me tomorrow night…

tuna chilli lemon pasta

Tuna, Chilli and Lemon Pasta

Serves two.

220g dried Spaghetti*
185g tin Sirena** Tuna in Oil, drained of half of it’s oil
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoons dried chilli flakes***
2 big handfuls spinach, rocket or other easily wilted dark leafy green
2 juicy unwaxed Lemons
1 handful fresh flatleaf Parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper

* I feel like long, thin strands work best in this dish. it’s to do with the twirling.
** As a rule, I try to use safcol, a more sustainably favourable brand than Sirena, but gosh darnit when I make this dish I treat myself to my favourite (flavour and texture wise) Sirena tuna in oil.
*** Or as much/little as you can tolerate.
**** Meyer lemons are incomparable, grab them if you can.

Method

1. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then salt it generously. Cook your pasta according to packet instructions. Now, depending on how long your pasta takes (some brands take 8 minutes, others 10-15!), time your cooking accordingly. I like to start cooking my onions before the water reaches a boil and ideally have them cooked and resting before adding the pasta.
2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat a non-stick pan over low-medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onion and a generous sprinkle of sea salt and stir (adding the salt will help ensure the onions don’t burn). Cook slowly and gently (turn own the heat as required) until they begin to soften and caramelise (~12 minutes). It can takes a while, but the longer you cook, the better the taste. This is why I like to start this way before adding the pasta, so you don’t rush the onion cooking process. If the pan gets a bit dry, add some of the oil from the tin of tuna or a dash of water.
3. When the onions are cooked, add the pasta to the pot of salted boiling water and cook for the required time until al dente (I always cook mine for a minute or two less than instructed as I like more bite and we cook it further in the pan later on). Be sure to reserve a cup of starchy pasta cooking water before draining.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic and chilli flakes to the pan and cook for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the tuna (with half of the oil) and turn the heat up to medium, letting it to brown in the oniony, oily mixture for a minute or so. Add the greens and the juice of one lemon (add some lemon zest too, if you’re super into lemon! I am, so I do) and cover with a big lid for a minute or so until the leaves are wilted.
5. Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan, along with the parsley and a little drizzle of the starchy cooking water (work in 1/4 cups when adding the pasta cooking water to the pan so you don’t add too much and make it soupy). Turn the heat up and use tongs to incorporate everything together, the pasta and the sauce, for about 30 seconds. Taste a pasta strand to ensure it’s not undercooked (but also don’t over cook it!) and add more lemon juice if you wish and season as desired. Serve up from the pan into bowls and enjoy! Add extra chilli flakes, lemon juice and a drizzle of etxra virgin olive oil if you wish.

 

Heidi xo