Comfort food #8: Jelly slice

The communion table brings comfort. No matter what flavour our Christian faith — Anglican, Baptist, Catholic or some other— the table at the centre of our churches is a heady reminder of the grace that colours our lives. As often as we meet there to break bread, we rediscover our connections to God and each…

Comfort food #7: Leek and asparagus tart

Let’s be honest. The pursuit of comfort is no fast track to virtue. In fact, there are moments when it’s more like a detour into decadence  — think a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, a block of Lindt chocolate, or a large bag of salt and vinegar chips munched down in front of the TV….

Comfort food #6: Ricciarelli

The taste of comfort travels. Most commonly it’s found in close proximity. Comfort is the taste of home, family and a culture that’s familiar. Sometimes, though, comfort comes from places far away — the tastes of beautiful places that have, momentarily, nurtured our souls. It’s the comfort of memory. I confess that in this season of…

Comfort food #5: Lamb, barley and vegetable soup

I call it Gospel soup. In my memory, it was one of those things served up before we headed to church on Sunday nights — a bowl full of a hearty and warming goodness served with toasted white bread slathered with melting butter. Mine was a church-going family, committed to the core. Though Sunday morning…

Comfort food #4: Tuna casserole

Comfort and sophistication are awkward friends. The truth is, the food that is more comforting to me than any other is entirely devoid of kitchen glamour. It is my mother’s tuna casserole.  It’s an embarrassing admission. As a self-respecting cook, I normally dismiss recipes that include a can of anything. I’ve sniffed at those contributions…

Comfort food #3: Apple pie

In an early issue of the journal Bread, Wine and Thou, editor Yossi Klein reflects on the role of the ‘maternal’ in our table life and its connection to our need for comfort. He describes the maternal broadly as “things that make us yearn, make us whole” but includes the more particular “dishes that feel like…

Comfort food #2: Mum’s fruit cake

Comfort has a smell. Sometimes it’s an aroma so potent it can knock you a six. When I first gathered supplies to recreate my mother’s unfortunately named ‘boiled fruit cake’, I was not ready for it.  Standing at the stove, my saucepan filled with a buttery mound of fruit and a blend of sugar, cinnamon,…

Comfort food #1: Seafood chowder

I need comfort. In times like these, we all do. In the uncertainty of lockdowns, we crave reassurance. We need somehow to hold and be held — to be reminded of life’s love and security. Food is comfort. It certainly is for me. All those sourdough starters bubbling on suburban benchtops across Melbourne suggest I’m not…

Priya Basil on recipes

“A recipe is a story that can’t be plagiarised. Compare cookbooks by cuisine and you’ll find recipes that are almost identical, distinguished by minor variations of ingredient quantity or slight deviations in procedure. Debts are gladly acknowledged, sometimes in the name — ‘Julia’s Apple Tart’ — or in a sub-line — ‘Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’. Recipes…

Lemon and poppy seed cake

You could call it my opium cake. I prefer the more genteel descriptor: lemon and poppy seed. It’s a delicious cake, made all the better when, straight from the oven, you douse it in a lemon glaze that seeps all the way through. It’s a lovely addition to afternoon tea. In fact, it reminds me…

Barnes on stove-splash

“In China it’s taken as a compliment if the table cloth immediately surrounding your place is, by the end of the meal, a site of major spillage. … The same principle applies — without any shadow of ambiguity — to cookbooks. The more decorated their pages are with stove-splash, peel-drip, edible Rorschach stains, oil starbursts, beetroot…

Conrad on recipe books

“Of all the books produced since the remote ages by human talents and industry those only that treat of cooking are, from a moral point of view, above suspicion. The intention of every other piece of prose may be discussed and even mistrusted, but the purpose of a cookery book is one and unmistakable. Its…

Mum’s sultana cake

Mum’s cake repertoire was slim. At one of end of things, there were those heavy fruit cakes stuffed full of dried fruit and spices boiled together; at the other end, her simple butter cakes in three varieties — plain, chocolate or rainbow — and covered with icing. To be honest, my natural love of cakes…

Double Chocolate and Cranberry Brownies

Brownies bake with an American accent.  Honestly, I never laid eyes on a local brownie until they were standard café fare twenty years back. As much as I hate to admit it, these glorious squares of fudgie goodness are an import. Given how good and right they are, I would like it to be otherwise….

White Chocolate and Macadamia Blondie

Purists are boring.   No doubt, my recipe for a White Chocolate Blondie will offend on two fronts. First, my cocoa obsessed friends sniff at the very mention of white chocolate. “You know, Simon,” they declare with tedious superiority, “technically, it’s not chocolate at all.”  It’s a “confection,” they go on to explain, as though…

Barnes on the virtue of recipe books

“Ah yes, your own recipe book. You will need some kind of small scrapbook or filing system for all those newspaper and magazine cuttings. Another word of advice: don’t stick them in until you’ve made the dish at least twice and know it has some chance of longevity. Such a cuttings book will, over the…

Hot tamales

So my son and I made tamales.  I met my first tamale decades ago. It was in Texas. I remember sitting with friends and unwrapping the steamy, soft, spicy pork cigar from its corn husk. It was good. Amazingly good. I credit that tamale with the gumption I found to chase a pretty Texan girl…

Chocolate chiffon tart with macerated strawberries

My brother has hit the mid 40s. It’s hard to believe. Ben and I are the youngest of six boys and a more than a decade apart. I remember the day of his birth and those that followed like yesterday. I would hover outside the newborns viewing room at the Dandenong Hospital for hours at a time, staring…

Empanadas

I’ve never been to South America, nor to Spain. My first encounter with an empanada (from the Spanish verb empanar: to wrap or coat in bread) happened when I was living in Los Angeles twenty years ago. I bought one from a street vendor at Venice Beach. While the memory of the vendor is cemented…

Pear cake

I love pears. They are an elegant fruit, and can add a sense of class to a fruit bowl, or to a meal for that matter. The right pear is a perfect accompaniment for a slow roasted pork, a fine match with ricotta, caramelised onion or balsamic. At the sweet end of things they make…