With the weather in Sydney being the way that it is, for me, simple classic comfort food seems to fare far better than fancy-schmancy cuisine that require several-hour preparations in the kitchen. Nothing here requires anything to be blanched, braised, deglazed and then reduced. Not that there is anything wrong with food like that, but there certainly is a place for them. For these unforgiving wintry nights, I find myself cooking simplistic meals that not only provide nourishment but also evoke that sense of homely security.
For me the act of cooking and eating is for more than physical sustenance, it is more a soulful undertaking. Sharing and cooking meals like this, especially when it’s for another person, for me truly epitomises what home cooking is really about; it’s about bonding and fostering relationships. I think home food does this as it’s inclusive; it's the kind of food that gives you a big hug while you’re eating it.
Here, taste and comfort isn’t lost with a Three-minute Steak with Pepper Sauce with creamy mashed potatoes and wilted spinach. The steak was perfectly seared; juicy inside and just a touch of pink in the middle. The mashed potatoes were a dreamy fluffy texture; like what eating clouds might feel like. Donna Hay suggests putting the potatoes through a sieve and pushing it out with a rubber spatula. It takes some time and a bit of elbow grease, but this is how you can achieve an extremely silky smooth texture.
To finish off, I made a Brown Bread and Butter Pudding. I adapted a recipe from a 2002 Donna Hay magazine (Issue 3) and instead of using sultanas I used dates, as I had them on hand. This rustic dessert transported us to another place. Every mouthful felt more and more like we were sitting in a warm country cottage in the hillsides of Cornwall, open fire crakling before us and a thatched roof above rustling in the wind. This dish is best eaten in your pajamas, sitting on the couch, no formalities, but just extreme comfort. This is the kind of food you can cuddle up to.
Brown Bread and Butter Pudding
12 slices of brown wholemeal bread, crusts removed and buttered one side
½ cup roughly chopped dates
2 cups whole cream milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup soft brown sugar
¼ demerara sugar or raw sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Make the bread into sandwiches and cut into quarters.
Place in a greased overproof dish, overlapping the quarters. Sprinkle the dates over.
Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Pour over the bread and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and then place the dish in a water bath with the hot water filing halfway up the dish.
Bake for 55 minutes or until the pudding is set. Allow to stand for 5 minutes and serve warm.
NOTE: Do not use wholegrain (seeded) bread.
Also if dates aren’t your thing, you can also use sultanas or currants.