Deep in winter, there’s nothing quite like comfort foods, like Mom used to make—or Granny, or your favourite aunt!
I think they’re comfort foods because they take you back to your childhood, but perhaps it’s just that they’re warm, which is nice and comforting when it’s cold outside—or maybe it’s something to do with their flavours. Or, maybe it’s because they’re simple, basic, traditional foods with familiar flavours.
Whatever it is, these recipes create what I would call comforting dishes that the family is sure to like. They’re also nourishing and nutritious dinners that are pretty much a complete meal in the one dish. I mean you may wish to add a little garlic toast with the chicken or serve a salad with both of them, but both contain meat and vegetables in a single dish.
Both are also dinners which will heat up very well for a second dinner a couple of days later, or for lunches so you get an extra bang for your buck, or your effort in this case.
As the days begin to get noticeably longer, you may wish to think about starting your first herb seeds on the windowsill to transplant into the garden once it warms up a bit.
There’s nothing like the uplifting flavour fresh herbs can provide to a dish. Even the simplest cooking benefits from their addition. For instance a plain omelette is elevated to another level just by snipping a few fresh chives into it, as are scrambled eggs. A few tarragon leaves are also most excellent in simple egg dishes.
Both are very easy herbs to grow and they come back year after year, even in our climate.
Parsley and oregano are also indispensable herbs and I couldn’t manage without fresh basil, although it does not like the cold and is an annual, while parsley will live for two years, and go to seed the second, so if you leave the seedhead, you’ll have ample seed themselves and oregano is pretty tough as long as it’s in the sun.
Thyme is a beauty as well as tough, so I grow mine (several varieties) in the flower bed, with a couple of sage plants in the background.
Many of the recipes in my new book, Jude’s Kitchen, call for fresh herbs, so if you grow them, you’ll never be at a loss for how to use them. The recipes are arranged in the book by the season the main ingredients are at their best, beginning in spring with the first shoots of asparagus, chives and tarragon.
It’s available wherever books are sold.
If you had an Italian momma, this will feel like home to you; the kind of comfort food you loved in your childhood. It makes a huge difference to the flavour if you use fresh basil which is available in the produce section if you don’t have any fresh growing nearby. This is scrumptious. I used double the amount of oregano, fresh.
8 chicken thighs
drizzle of olive oil
1 large onion
1 green peppercorn
1/2 red pepper
2 stalks celery
2 large garlic cloves
14 oz. (398 l) diced tomatoes
2 tsp. (10 ml) dried oregano
1/2 c. (125 ml) chicken stock
1/4 c. (60 ml) dry, red wine
salt & pepper, to taste
sliced black olives
3 tbsp. (45 ml) fresh basil leaves
Skin chicken thighs and brown in a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large pot.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop onion, sweet peppers, celery and mushrooms and mince garlic.
Remove chicken from the pot and add onion, stirring until turning translucent, a few minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir for a few minutes. Then add remaining ingredients except the fresh basil leaves and return the chicken to the mix.
Bring to bubbling, then turn down to simmer on low, covered, for about a half hour.
Add a spoonful of sliced black olives and stir in just to heat through. Shred the fresh basil leaves and sprinkle on top.
Cook a pot of whole wheat spaghetti and serve the chicken and vegetables on top.
Garlic & Cheese Mashed Potato Meatloaf
This is not Shepherd’s Pie, although there are some similarities. It’s certainly a nice, easy meal in one dish and can be doubled for more people, or so that you will have leftovers for lunches.
1/2 lb. (227 g) extra lean ground beef
2 tbsp. (30 ml) oat bran
1 slice whole wheat bread
2 green onions
1 c. (250 ml) spinach
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) hot sauce
2 russet potatoes
1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper, to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Put ground beef in a medium bowl and add oat bran and beaten egg.
Cube bread and add; chop green onions, spinach, mushrooms, minced garlic and hot sauce and add.
Mix well and press into a loaf pan.
Bake for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil and mash two russet potatoes. Grate cheddar into them and add a minced garlic clove and season to taste. Mix well and spread over the top of the meatloaf, then grate a sprinkle more cheddar over the top.
Reduce oven temperature to 300 F and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes more.