comfort food

7 fave comfort foods to beat this big chill

ONE

THIS quick version of a beef rendang curry.

Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

It's the spice, it's the steak, it's the comforting warmth of coconut milk ... all on simple, easy-to-digest rice.


TWO

Sticking with that soothing coconut milk and light spices, it's THESE beautiful eggs in coconut masala.

Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

Honestly, food that gives you a hug from the inside out. (Er, I don't actually know what that means or how it would work, but hey).

Read more HERE.


image24.jpgRachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

Best made with day-old rice so it's really cold and dry, but you can always cook it fresh and run cold water over it, but this week it's going to be worth making extra rice for dinner so you can have this for breakfast (it was one of my go-to breakfasts when I lived in Thailand), brunch, lunch, well, any time really.


FOUR

Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

OK, let's not sink into the comfort food with this one, but feel we're winning at winter, with a spicy, sour, YES LET'S GO GET 'EM Tom Yum soup with prawns.

THIS one's brings a fighting energy to things!


FIVE

Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

Well, durrr .....  roast chicken ... there couldn't be a comfort food list without it, surely?

Make it Thai-style, gai yang, and have with a spicy sour salad.

Or try my immune-boosting version with everything you need to keep colds at bay (if not the cold itself). HERE's the recipe.

Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods
Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

SIX

Rice soup ...

Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

Amazing for a warming, easy breakfast - just make the rice the night before and you'll have a warming brekkie and alternative to porridge on the table in minutes.

Protein and rice and broth ... a little spice - this will keep you nicely full and nourished until lunch, no problem.

Read more HERE.


Rachel Redlaw beat the cold comfort foods

My fave flavours of chilli, peppery Thai holy basil (hard to find so just leave it out if you can't get it or use Thai sweet basil instead, but never Mediterranean basil), soft rice noodles, utter easy-midweek-dinner deliciousness. 

Reminds me of sunny days and the sound of the waves on the shore.

Get the recipe HERE.



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Gai pad pong karee / chicken curry stir fry

 

It's a curry, kind of, a stir-fry, kind of ... and just a good, easy comfort-food dish really.

It uses curry powder rather than paste plus some nam prik pao - chilli paste in oil - for the heat, and it's all finished into a scrambled egg mixture.

OK, I can't say it's the prettiest dish ever, but when you need something warming, comforting and easy ... this would be a good choice, whether for brunch or a simple supper.

Serve with lovely hot fluffy rice and do cook the rice first - so it's ready to go.

For two, you'll need:
 

one egg

1 teaspoon mild curry powder

2 teaspoons chilli paste in oil (buy in Asian supermarkets or it's easy to make your own)

a good splash of fish sauce

a good big blob of oyster sauce

a good splash of almond milk (or use cow's milk if you prefer) - maybe 50-100 ml

cooking oil spray plus 1 teaspoon of the oil from the top of the chilli paste in oil

1/2 an onion, sliced

a few slices of red chilli, if liked

1 garlic clove, minced

1 chicken breast, cut into very small pieces

some vegetables, whatever you have and like really - I made it once with red and yellow peppers and spinach and then again with orange pepper, asparagus and broccoli - all cut up small


Mix the egg, curry powder, chilli paste, fish sauce, oyster sauce and milk in a bowl and set aside.

Rachel Redlaw Gai Pad Pong Karee chicken curry stir fry
Rachel Redlaw Gai Pad Pong Karee chicken curry stir fry

Add some sprays of cooking oil and the oil from the top of the chilli paste to a non-stick frying pan and then add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic and cook, stirring often, over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add a little splash of water if needed.

Rachel Redlaw Gai Pad Pong Karee chicken curry stir fry
Rachel Redlaw Gai Pad Pong Karee chicken curry stir fry
Rachel Redlaw Gai Pad Pong Karee chicken curry stir fry

Then add the chicken and cook for another three minutes or so, again add a little splash of water if it's too dry.

Next add the vegetables and cook again, stirring all the time, for another two minutes or so.

Then tip in the egg mixture and stir to cook and scramble - it'll take another couple of minutes or so until scrambled.

I forgot to take a photo of when the eggy mixture first went in! I'll add one next time I make this.

Rachel Redlaw gai pad pong karee - chicken stir fry curry
Rachel Redlaw gai pad pong karee - chicken stir fry curry

And that's it!

Rachel Redlaw gai pad pong karee - chicken stir fry curry

Something a little different and really easy - I hope you try it.



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Quick beef rendang-style curry

OK, when I cook something three times in one week, I know I'm onto a winner!

A traditional - utterly gorgeous - Malaysian beef rendang takes HOURS to cook, like a great stew, it can't be hurried.

But ... I really wanted those flavours ... but much more quickly.

And this is super-simple and really fast - it takes about 20 minutes to cook and only perhaps 10 minutes to prepare and - as I said - so good I've made it three times this week (already).

I pretended to myself I needed to perfect the recipe before sharing it but actually, the recipe is so simple I didn't really need to, I just wanted to.

Cook some rice while you prepare the ingredients, and it can then sit and steam while you cook the curry.

For two people, you'll need

a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

a thumb-sized piece of root turmeric, peeled and grated - or 1 teaspoon turmeric powder

one stalk of lemongrass - cut a cm or so from the base then a couple of inches from the top, remove the outer woody layers (you'll need to just see what works for your lemongrass, but you want to be able to chop it easily) - minced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 red birds eye chillies, diced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 whole cloves, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 onion, peeled and sliced

sirloin or rump steak - how much is kind of up to you but I think around 300g for two people

2 teaspoons cooking oil

1 tin coconut milk

1 stick of cinnamon, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 - 1 juicy lime

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt

 

Put the ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, chillies, coriander, cumin and cloves into a mortar, add a splash of water and use a pestle or rolling pin to pound into a beautiful paste.

Slice the onion and the steak so they're ready to go.

Rachel Redlaw quick beef rendang
Rachel Redlaw quick beef rendang
Rachel Redlaw quick beef rendang

Add the oil to a non-stick pan and when hot tip in the spice mixture so it sizzles.

Stir for maybe 30 seconds to a minute - until it releases that gorgeous flavour - and add a tiny splash of water if you think it might be sticking.

Then add the onions and beef - and another splash of water - and cook, stirring often, until the beef is browned all over - about three minutes.

Tip in the coconut milk then add the cinnamon, lime juice, sugar and salt.

Stir to mix and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly.

Rachel Redlaw quick beef rendang
Rachel Redlaw quick beef rendang

Serve with rice and a couple of slices of a milder red chilli - mainly just because it's looks nice and also because I'm a chilli fiend!

Rachel Redlaw quick beef rendang

I LOVE this dish and I love that it's so quick and simple that you can make something that tastes really special for a midweek dinner.

Well, actually - it IS a bit special.

It has creamy coconut milk and good steak.

A great winter supper to feel warmed and comforted - this is a really good one.



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Easiest + perfect comfort-food ... beef stew

It was cold last weekend, icy outside ... and I was wondering what would be perfect for dinner.

Not just what would be GOOD, but what would be the absolute best thing we could eat for right then.

And I suddenly just knew what it was .. .and what I wanted was something that was MORE than food and even more than 'just' nourishing, wholesome, good food.

I wanted food that also gives you a hug as you eat it, food with heritage, something a bit nostalgic, proper comfort food, food with history, food to anchor you in the season, in life, in time, in a line of all these made before, and those yet to come.

Food with soul.

And food that takes TIME.  

Time and love. 

Mostly I cook food very quickly, most of my recipes take a little preparation time sometimes, but are usually very quick to cook.

Last weekend, I WANTED it to take time, but still be simple.

Simple ingredients, tried-and-tested flavours, hours of cooking time to fill the house with incredibly evocative, gorgeous, nourishing smells too.


It had to be a stew, a classic stew. OK, not completely classic as I was just using what I had so I did some slightly unusual substitutions eg oyster mushrooms instead of using button mushrooms but hey, still a mushroom, right?

What I really wanted was to make boeuf bourguignon - but I also didn't want to go out in the cold and I didn't have a few of the ingredients.

I'll be making it soon though and will post a recipe then.

So, beef stew it was ... with a nod to the boeuf bourguignon with the late addition of sauteed mushrooms and bacon.

Oh and I'm not even entering the debate about the 'perfect' cut of beef ... use whatever you like!

Today I just ran to the shop and got this pack of braising beef I think it was and that's fine by me. I'm sure there are nuances of flavour but personally, when I want a home-cooked beef stew and it's going to be cooking for some time, it all tastes good to me at the end.

If I'd gone with making the boeuf bourguignon,  I wouldn't have put potatoes in it - I ADORE the bourguignon with mashed potato.

I especially like roasting potatoes in their skins then scooping out the flesh and mashing with butter, salt and pepper, for the mash.

I think it's also a classic accompaniment to serve bourguignon with egg noodles, or a flat ribbon pasta, but ... I like mine best with mash.

But anyway, that's for another day - and another day soon, I think.


For now, back to simplest beef stew - made even more simple by just cooking the potato in the stew. 

I was very vague with quantities - it's really just what looks enough to feed however many you're feeding ... 

I cooked for two (a greedy and stew-loving two) and used: 

400g braising beef, or stewing steak, or other cut of beef, cut into chunks and sprinkled with salt and pepper

cooking oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1 tablespoon plain flour

1/2 bottle red wine

2 tablespoons tomato puree

1-2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano

a chicken or beef stock cube plus hot water to fill the casserole

2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces

a few carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces

a handful of mushrooms, preferably button mushrooms but any will do (I have oyster mushrooms as that was what was in the fridge and needed using up)

a couple of rashers of streaky bacon, chopped

salt and pepper to season

fresh parsley to serve


Rachel Redlaw beef stew
Rachel Redlaw beef stew

Get all the ingredients prepared before you start, just so it's then super easy - and all you need is time, love and patience (especially once those smells start coming out of the oven).

If you're using a lovely proper casserole dish (I really must get one) that you can first use on the hob and then transfer to the oven, then of course, do use that.

If like me, you don't (yet) have one, we'll use a saucepan to start and then transfer to an ovenproof dish with a lid (or you could use foil).


Put the pan on the hob with a good glug of cooking oil and add the beef pieces, turning often until browned all over.

You may need to do this in a couple of batches as they need space - otherwise they'll steam and stick to each other.

And yes, it will get a bit sticky and gnarly there in the bottom of the pan - keep stirring and don't worry about it.  Also don't worry if they're not totally browned - mostly is plenty good enough.

Remove the beef and put into a bowl.

Put the balsamic vinegar (this helps loosen those stuck bits) in next, together with the onion and garlic and cook over a low heat until the onion softens.

It'll take five minutes or so and add more oil and/or a splash of water as needed to keep the garlic from burning.

It's not pretty, it does stick, the pan will need soaking afterwards - don't worry!

When the onions are softened but not browned, tip the beef back into the pan and add the flour, stirring all the time.

Once all combined, add the wine, the tomato puree, the herbs and the stock cube, stirring all the time, and then top up with some water.

Bring to a simmer and add the potatoes and carrots - this will probably decrease the heat, so bring back to a simmer and then - if using a different pan for the oven, transfer into the ovenproof pan.

Rachel Redlaw beef stew
Rachel Redlaw beef stew
Rachel Redlaw beef stew

Put a lid on the ovenproof pan or your casserole dish and put into the oven.

Cook for 1.5 hours, remove from oven, stir and season to taste, and return for another 30 minutes.

While this is cooking, saute the bacon pieces in a pan, and then the mushrooms in the same pan in the lovely bacon juices.

Remove the casserole from the oven and stir in the bacon and mushrooms, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Utterly delicious and somehow I always feel anchored, grounded somehow (maybe it's those root vegetables) - part of all life, of families, of history ... when I eat a good stew. 

Rachel Redlaw beef stew
Rachel Redlaw beef stew


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