Comfort food: Vegemite on thick wedges of toasted white bread, with lashings of butter; aromatic chicken broth with risoni; or perhaps homemade pasties packed with starchy vegetables. A plate of one of the above please, consumed whilst sitting up in bed with a cup of tea and a great book beside me. This maketh for one happy woman.
Can a bite or three of our favourite 'feel good' food get our endorphins racing? Author and foodie Charlotte Wood in her new book Love & Hunger notes that the scientific community is out on whether certain foods have mood-enhancing properties. She goes on to say that what constitutes ‘comfort food’ is completely subjective at any rate: Culture, age and even gender play a role in what foods we find comforting. There is however a common denominator: high-fat, high-carb, hot dishes that we remember from our childhoods top the list of consolation foods. Wood conducts an unofficial ‘survey’ with 60 people in her circle about their favourite such foods – the verdict? Vegemite toast was mentioned at least a dozen times, with the white-toast-and-plenty-of-butter-variety the overall winner. I now feel like it’s okay to come out with my dark little secret.
I don’t know about you, but my comfort food cravings hit the roof as soon as the weather gets cold. Suddenly, I need more high-energy food, and more sleep. Come spring I will be parting with a lot of money at my local gym, but right now all I want to do is eat and hibernate.
One of my favourite comfort foods are home-made pasties. My mother and I used to make them together when I was a teenager. She would roll out the pastry, and I would chop and cook the vegetables. I now make them as a snack for my kids, because the vegetables and meat are well-hidden within the crisp pastry. They are superb topped with a dollop of passata.
Adults love them too. I have made them as an appetiser for dinner guests, as a contribution to parties and even for the recent funeral of my dear friend Katerina. If I’m particularly lazy or strapped for time, I use store-bought shortcrust pastry but of course you can make your own. These decadent little parcles freeze beautifully. It's well worth making them in bulk and pulling them out on those days when you have unexpected guests or can't be bothered to cook.
And are they comforting? Like a hot water bottle for the inside of your belly.
Download The comfort pastie recipe