When times are stressful, that’s exactly when we need to be eating well. Everyone will have different ideas of what comfort food means.
Whatever this is, I hope you’re able to eat some of the food that brings you home to yourself and helps you feel grounded.
Here are my five of my top comfort foods.
I haven’t included anything sweet. Health coach Bev Roberts says sugar and highly processed grains are stressful for our digestive system and therefore our immune system.
When our gut is happy and healthy it’s much easier to maintain a good vibe.
The process of preparing nourishing food can also be comforting and grounding.
Chicken bone broth
A big pot of homemade chicken broth is full of excellent nutrients. It’s very comforting when you feel out of sorts.
The fresh herbs are essential to the flavour, aroma and nutrition of the broth.
You can’t buy soups that taste as good as this.
Traditional Chinese herbalists regard chicken broth as medicine. A Chinese herbalist’s soup recipe would include many specific herbs and other ingredients, including black fungus, lotus seed, astragalus and codonopsis, and also dried fruits such as lyceum and longan.
A chicken carcass, fresh or frozen, raw or left over from a roast.
Note: Organic and free-range is preferable, for flavour, nutrition and chicken welfare. The best quality chicken that’s widely available on the New Zealand market is Bostocks organic chicken, from Hawke’s Bay. Many supermarkets sell whole fresh Bostocks chickens. They’re not cheap but they’re worth it. I trim some meat off the carcass before putting it in the stock pot, so we get two or three meals from one chicken. Some specialist shops (see the Local Retailers page) have frozen Bostocks chicken carcasses.
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled if they’re not organic, and cut into two or three pieces. From the Earth Stewards stall at Hamilton Farmers’ Market.
1 clove garlic from Catos Potatoes stall at Hamilton Farmers’ Market.
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped Ideally organic, spray free or home-grown. Celery always features in the “dirty dozen” veges most likely to be drenched in pesticide residues. Mine was sprayfree, from the Suncakes Gardens at Hamilton Farmer’s Market.
1 large handful of parsley from my garden.
1 handful of fresh thyme (don’t worry about pulling the leaves off the stalks). Thyme is easy to grow in a pot or in the ground. Get a root cutting from a friend.
1 leek, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns – Black pepper doesn’t grow in the Waikato, it’s a tropical plant native to south India. I buy fair trade peppercorns from Trade Aid, 19 Worley Place, downtown Hamilton..
1 Tbsp salt. My packet of Mrs Rogers salt says it’s sea salt from the top of the South Island.
2 bay leaves – foraged from a neighbour’s hedge.
Place everything in a large cooking pot and add water to cover. Since I live in Hamilton, my water comes out of the Waikato River.
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for at least two or three hours, the longer the better. If you have a large slow cooker, use that.
To serve, you can dress it up a bit with a dash of brandy, or a sprinkle of chopped parsley, or toasted cheese. But I like it just the way it is.
Pumpkin soup with chestnuts
The chestnuts add savoury substance to the sweet pumpkin.
1 smallish pumpkin, or a large chunk from a big pumpkin
1 large leek, sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
2 litres water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 tsp salt if using water rather than stock
1 cup of peeled chestnut chunks – see this post for how to peel chestnuts.
Optional extras: parsley, garlic, onion, fresh thyme
Peel and de-seed pumpkin and chop into pieces.
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes or longer – until everything is soft.
Run through a mouli or use a stick blender to blend until smooth.
Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with a dash of cream, kefir or coconut cream, to balance the sweetness of the pumpkin, and a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley.
Classy cheese toasties!
For maximum comfort food level (and to maximise the local food ingredients) I make this with Volare sourdough bread, and Meyer tasty gouda from the Gouda Cheese Shop. And Good George ale.
A knob of butter
1/3 cup dark ale
250g tasty cheese, grated
2 tsp English mustard or grainy mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
As many pieces of warm buttered toast as you like
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the cheese, beer and mustard, and stir until melted. Season to taste.
Spread mixture onto hot buttered toast and grill until bubbling.
A cup of freshly brewed chai is a feast for the senses.
Whole spices have much better flavour. But use powdered spices if that’s all you have
I buy my spices from Trade Aid. The quality is excellent and they’re fair trade. The cinnamon in particular is superb.
1 tsp cardamom pods – crushed with a rolling pin if you have time, but not essential
1 stick cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp black peppercorns
2 tablespoons root ginger, peeled and chopped
Fill a saucepan with 1 litre cold water.
Bring to the boil and simmer approx ½ hour. Longer is okay.
Add 1tsp black tea leaves (or 2 bags if that’s what you have)
Leave on the heat for another 5-10 minutes or so.
Strain into cups.
Add milk and honey to taste. I use Jersey Girls organics or raw milk by preference. Non-dairy milks are also fine.
Not the kind of baked beans that comes in cans. This is the real thing. It’s also sometimes called Boston Baked Beans.
It’s a slow food recipe. You’ll need to allow at least three hours, but ideally longer than that. The Joy of Cooking says it should be cooked for six to nine hours! That’s after the beans are soaked and boiled.
2 cups dry beans – haricot, pinto, navy beans, soaked overnight and cooked until soft.
Or use 3 cans of cooked beans.
Bacon – ideally a bacon bone or 150g – 400 g of free-range bacon pieces. If you only have a couple of rashers, that’s okay. And if you’re a vegetarian, leave the bacon out.
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp English mustard, or 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
60g dark brown sugar (4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
a dash of cider vinegar (approx 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons ketchup, or chutney
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Place all ingredients in a cast-iron casserole pan with a lid. You could also use a slow cooker.
Add water or beer or bean cooking liquid to cover – approximately 1 cup.
Bring to simmering point.
Cook in a slow oven or slow cooker for at least three hours – ideally much longer than that.
Check regularly and add more water as it dries out.
Serve over rice with some GoodBugs sauerkraut, from the local farmers’ markets.
Or with some sourdough rye bread from the German Bakery, also at the farmers’ market.