Comfort Food for Cooler Days
WORDS:: CHYKA KEEBAUGH
PHOTOS:: LISA ATKINSON
I love the fact that we have a definite fours seasons in Melbourne…somedays even daily!
These autumn days that lead into winter are a mix of cold, blustery, crisp and dry. So, when the temperature drops warm, hearty soups are my go-to comfort food. Piping hot served with warmed crusty bread with lashings of butter ready for dipping. How could you say no? Here is an absolute family favourite that is easy and so satisfying.
4 rashers of streaky bacon
2 red onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery
1 bulb of fennel
½ a bunch of fresh basil
125 ml red wine
300 g savoy cabbage or chard
2 x 400g tins of quality tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans
800 ml organic chicken or vegetable stock
75 g dried pasta (shells or odd ends)
Extra virgin olive oil
Start by making a sofrito (frying off the aromatic ingredients to make the base of the soup). Slice the bacon, peel and finely chop the onions and garlic, then chop the carrots, celery and fennel. Pick the basil leaves, finely chopping the stalks.
Heat a lug of oil in a pan over a medium-low heat, stir in the chopped ingredients and sauté gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until everything is soft but not coloured.
Halve and slice the courgettes lengthways. Core the cabbage or remove the tough stalky bits from the chard, then wash the leaves and finely slice.
Add the wine to the softened veggies and bring to the boil. Tip in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, then add the courgettes. Bring back to the boil, and simmer on a low heat for around 15 minutes.
Mix in the cabbage or chard, the beans and their juice and the stock. Bring to the boil, then add the pasta. Simmer over a medium heat until the pasta is cooked (use the packet instructions as a guide) – if the soup is too thick, add a little stock or water to loosen.
Season to taste, then rip in most of the basil leaves and dress with a few lugs of extra virgin olive oil. Stir well, and serve with the reserved basil and a fine grating of Parmesan.
HOW ABOUT A DELICIOUS MEAL YOU CAN ENJOY WITH FRIENDS?
A rich and hearty protein like duck is the perfect little luxury for cool evenings in. The cooler weather creates different cravings, and I do find myself being drawn towards meatier, heartier dishes. High in iron, introducing duck into your staple of meats is an excellent way to vary the proteins you and your family are eating. Slice off the skin and cook as normal, a half a cup of roasted duck meat has around the same calorie intake as roast chicken - so why not mix it up a little?
PASTA WITH DUCK SAUCE, PAPPARDELLE AL RAGÙ D’ANATRA
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2 duck breasts (about 350g), skin removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200ml tomato passata
250ml dry red wine
About 400ml chicken stock
A small bunch of sage leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp sugar
Grated parmesan to serve
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté, stirring from time to time for 10–15 minutes over low heat. Add the duck pieces and cook stirring and turning them over until they change colour all over.
Stir in the garlic and when the aroma rises, add the wine, the tomato passata and about 200 ml of the stock. Add the sage, rosemary and bay leaf, the salt, pepper and sugar, and simmer, covered, over low heat for about 1 hour, adding more chicken stock as the sauce reduces. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Cook the pappardelle in a pan of boiling salted water until done al dente. Drain quickly, pour into the saucepan with the sauce and mix very well over low heat. Serve with the grated parmesan.
When it comes to ultimate warming meal, a curry wins hands down!
Now, I love a good curry. I am all for trying new spices and flavour combinations as curries differ depending on where they are from. I have eaten some curries on my travels that have blown my socks off as well as more subtle, coconut based curries that send your taste buds into overdrive as I sit there trying to guess the flavours. This Sri Lankan curry that I am sharing with you is a gorgeous meal, served with fluffy rice and some bread; it’s the perfect dinner for a night you need some comfort. It’s like a warm hug, and it tastes even better!
SRI LANKAN BEEF CURRY
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 long red chilli, roughly chopped
1 red bird's-eye chilli, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons ghee (see note)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 cardamom pods, cracked
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves (see note)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1kg beef oyster blade, cut into 2.5cm pieces
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
Coriander sprigs, to serve
Steamed basmati rice, to serve
Roti, to serve
To make curry powder, heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add spices and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
Process onion, ginger, garlic and chillies in a food processor until finely chopped.
Heat ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for 12 minutes or until golden. Add curry powder, turmeric, cardamom, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, then stir in vinegar. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until well coated in spice paste. Add tomatoes, 250ml (1 cup) water and 1 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly with a lid, then cook for 2 hours or until beef is very tender.
Remove lid, increase heat to medium, then simmer for a further 20 minutes or until sauce is thickened.
Divide curry among bowls and scatter with coriander. Serve with steamed rice and roti.