My mum used to make a thick mushroom stew, flavoured with a little miso or often Vegemite (!), which she would serve on brown rice. I’ve taken the memory of that stew and dialed up the flavour with a punchy spring onion and ginger sauce.
Three ingredients I simply adore – corned beef (hot or cold), peas (fresh, frozen, even the dehydrated ‘Surprise’ variety) and eggs any which way.
I grew up on the farm eating corned beef most weeks. We would kill a steer once a year and while the fillets and roasts were always enjoyed, to me there was always something exotic about a large ‘chunk of pink’ simmering away in a pot with its familiar perfume of malt vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaves and vegetables permeating the air. Always served with mash, cabbage, leeks and mustard sauce, it could never be described as a pretty dish but, comforting and satisfying to the soul, there was nothing better.
I have accompanied my beloved corned beef here with a pea hash, which is also a kind of throwback to ‘bubble and squeak’ that was often served the next morning for breakfast made with the previous night’s leftovers. Crowned with a couple of fried eggs with runny yolks, a lick of hot mustard and a pot of coffee, that’s nostalgia right there!
"I grew up on the farm eating corned beef most weeks. It could never be described as a pretty dish but – comforting and satisfying to the soul – there was nothing better."
Soup is one of my Mum’s favourite foods and in winter there was always a pot bubbling away on our range. Inspired by Mum’s soup, I’ve added a touch of spice to this velvety cauliflower and leek soup. If using homemade vegetable stock, use raw vegetables, not roasted, to keep the stock light.
This is such a great standby for serving before a meal – white beans such as cannellini are a staple in my pantry and there is usually a loaf of bread to hand.
In my mind, comfort food is both the method of making a dish as well as the experience of eating it. It should be fairly simple and stress free, but tasty and filling. In Turkey they add chopped raw garlic to the yoghurt but, even for me, that’s not something I always do. I consider my friends Tarik and Savas to be part of my whānau. We’re not blood relatives, but we have shared many life-changing events together. They have introduced me to the wonder and joy of Turkey in more than 50 visits to Istanbul and other cities, and we have shared hundreds of meals together. I first tried this dish with them on a gulet (a typical wooden boat) off the coast of Bodrum 18 years ago and it’s one of my all-time favourite things to eat.
This quantity makes a lot of biscotti but they are addictive dipped into a strong espresso and also make a great hostess gift.
In Chinese custom, wontons are one of the must-eat dishes during winter solstice. This dish reminds me of my grandparents and my love for them. They showed their love for their family through food and I recall some of my best times with them. Today, I’m doing the same thing with my son.
This is not the most attractive dish as the milk curdles into rich dark nuggets, but it is flavoursome and homely. It’s usually cooked with a loin, but I prefer to use a shoulder cut. If it comes with skin I usually remove it and make some crackling. Depending on the coarseness of the grain, the polenta can use more liquid than most instructions specify. I use a rough ratio of 1 part polenta to 5-6 parts water, but if you keep some boiling water on hand you can adjust the consistency if necessary. I’ve used a vegetable stock for the polenta but you can use chicken stock or milk if you prefer.
I consider the gatherings where friends or relatives sit down to share a meal as integral to the consideration of family.