I imagine that most families have dishes that are a part of their family identity, even family history and as such reside in our hearts and stomachs as comfort foods. More than just providing that inner sigh of satisfaction that occurs with the first mouthful, its food that becomes synonymous with time and place.
Whenever I eat paneer (Indian cheese) I remember Thursday night dinner in my family home. The once a week vegetarian meal that consisted of chapattis, fried aubergine, dhal and paneer. Sitting on the kitchen counter chatting to my Mum whilst she rolled out less that circular chapattis.
Roast chicken was the other regular meal I fondly remember. Loved because it was a non-Indian meal and then because who can resist bronzed crispy skin roasted meat. The English in us insisted upon the classic roast potatoes, gravy and sage and onion stuffing. So dearly loved that even my best friend (frequently at our table) credits this as one of her ultimate comfort foods
Roast chicken has remained a family favourite is my household too, garlic bread has replaced potatoes, peas and gravy as preferred by the kids, and there is an occasional nod to stuffing. Alas the paneer has not survived as a regular or universally loved dish. Time and fussy eater (in the shape of my daughter) make this a rare treat (chappatis never see the light of day, as I am far to lazy to attempt them).
Thai green curry is also favoured by all but exists in two carnations. The milder child friendly version, and the closer to authentic, yet short on Thai fire version for us grown ups. But green curry has haloed status in our house and is more than comfort food. This is my son’s birthday meal of choice, and gives me some pleasure as a foodie Mum that my 7year old knows his green curry from his elbow. The secret of the green curry is that child meets vegetable creates no mealtime drama. From the courgette, aubergine, carrot to pea all veg in tolerated (even enjoyed) when cloaked in a fragrant salt sweet coconut gravy. The curry Thai, Indian and all are masters of disguise.
And then there is the lasagne, a monument to meat, cheese lusciousness, and tongue scaldingly comforting. Like pasta in all its guises it is loved dearly. Is it any wonder that Italian and family are one and the same? Their entire culinary tradition is the embodiment of sign inducing comfort eating. A testament to food as family history and identity.
These three meals are for now my family’s greatest hits and though time and tastes will surely change, I am hoping that scent of lime leaves, a Sunday roast or the sight of a rich tomato source will occasion a warm glows and inspire my children when re-inventing their own comfort foods.
(Photos of our greastest hits can be found at)