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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No-fuss comfort food

Personal note: No way I'll be trying these recipes any time soon.  In the days following the quake, when we had no power and thus no stove or fridge, we kept things cool in a chilly bin (once we could source ice) and cooked on a camp stove.  From the Sunday night we had power and I have been able to cook simple meals inside; however, with no water, it still means carting the dishes somewhere to clean them, so it's been a case of very simple meals.  A piece of meat for the Kiwi, some steamed veges, possibly a nuked potato.  Tonight, I'm going all-out with a chicken and rice bake.  I can hardly wait.

No-fuss comfort food

Last updated 05:00 09/03/2011
Producing meals has not been easy in Christchurch since February 22, but nevertheless many remarkable efforts have been achieved.

From the large support of charitable organisations – both pop-ups and the established organisations – to a simple dinner delivered to a home where a hot meal was becoming a distant memory, the caring spread. Is still spreading.

Love is not too strong a word. Many emotive words have been employed as the city struggled to right itself, but over and over again it was "comfort". We missed it, found it, gave it, needed it.

Many of us found solace in chocolate. Anecdotal evidence has suggested many, many chocolate biscuits,cakes, blocks and boxes of the stuff have been scoffed by those seeking comfort.

Eggs, rice dishes, warm-from-the-oven bread, mince and sausages are still on top of the favourites list, and there have been more than a few requests for "something with vegetables".

My hope is that in the weeks to come we'll be wanting rocket and radicchio, baguettes, and broccoli again, but in the meantime it's all about no-fuss comfort food to cheer and warm and share around. With love.


An old-fashioned recipe that has stood the test of time. Easy to make and a lovely warming aroma in the house as a bonus.

The addition of chilli powder gives it a background warmth – not too much but the chocolate/chilli thing is delicious.

125g softened butter
185g soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tbsp milk
210g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Optional: scant 1/2 tsp chilli powder
200g of dark chocolate, smashed into chips or small chunks.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line the oven tray with silicon mat or baking paper.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla, the egg and the milk and use a wooden spoon to combine.

Add the (sifted preferably) flour and baking powder to the mix and fold gently to combine, then stir in the chocolate pieces.

Drop tablespoon dollops of dough, leaving plenty of room for biscuits to expand.

Bake 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for a minute or two, then use a knife to remove to a cooling rack.


This recipe is simplicity itself. Put all dry ingredients into a bowl, add buttermilk, mix briefly, dump it into your tin and put in the oven.

The important thing to remember is, as with muffins, not to over-mix or you'll end up with a tough loaf.

Wrap your hot loaf in a clean tea towel when you take it out of the oven, otherwise it gets tooth-damagingly crusty.

The recipe is also endlessly adaptable. Replace 75g of the wholemeal flour with pumpkin seeds and wholegrain oats, sprinkling sesame seeds on the top of the loaf.

Or use all white flour and add a handful of sultanas, or herbs, olives, or sun-dried tomatoes.

175g plain flour
375g wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
400-475ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200C and thoroughly grease a 19cm x 11cm loaf tin with a little piece of butter.

Sieve the plain flour, wholemeal flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl, adding any bran that remains in the sieve. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in 400ml of the buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft, but not sticky dough, adding more buttermilk if necessary.

Turn the dough into the tin, leaving the surface rough. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 150deg and cook for another 30 minutes.

Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the loaf from the tin and place back in the oven to ensure that the base is cooked through.

The bread should be well risen, brown and crusty on top, and sound hollow when tapped. Turn out on a wire rack and wrap in a clean tea towel until cold.


The complex flavours of a curry owe everything to the combination of spices. This blend is warming and brimful of good health properties. If more heat is required, add 1 long green chilli (chopped) to the vegetables.

WARMING SPICE MIX (This makes sufficient for a curry for six. It can be made ahead and kept in a covered jar but it is best made in single batches or the cayenne will overpower the mixture.)

1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 Tbsp light cooking oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
White ribs of 2 silverbeet stalks (retain the leaves)
1x 5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 batch of Warming Spice mix
1 Tbsp tomato paste
400 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1x 270ml can of light coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups each of diced cauliflower florets, carrots, and kumara
1 cup each of diced pumpkin and peeled and de-seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g can of cannellini beans drained and rinsed (chickpeas can be substituted)
Green leaves stripped off silverbeet ribs (used earlier), finely sliced
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Garnish: 2 Tbsp chopped coriander elves

Use a large cast-iron or heavy-based saucepan. Heat the oil and add onion, and cook gently until onion is translucent and soft.

Finely slice the silverbeet stems, add with grated ginger to pan and cook for a minute or two. Increase heat. Add the Warming Spice Mix and stir until spices release their fragrance.

Add the tomato paste and stir in to blend. Add stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil then simmer.

Add all the fresh diced vegetables and bring back to the boil. Taste and add salt and pepper to preference.

Cover and simmer till vegetables are tender (don't worry if some are mushy, it just adds to textural interest).

Drain and rinse the canned beans (or chickpeas) and add to the mixture, adding more stock or water if necessary.

As soon as the mixture begins to simmer again, add the silverbeet leaves, lemon zest and juice.

Cook until everything is heated through, taste and add more salt if required. Serve as is, or over rice or noodles.


Most recipes for kedgeree call for basmati rice. Agreed it is very fragrant and nice, but the day I used arborio rice instead convinced me that the Italians invented this breakfast dish. Serves 6-8.

2 cups Arborio rice
6 cups lightly salted water
6 eggs
500g hot smoked fish (smoked red cod is fantastic in a kedgeree)
1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 large shallots
1 x2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp curry powder
1/3 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Diced flesh of quarter lemon
Wedges of lemon for garnish

Boil water in a large saucepan, add the rice all at once, stir vigorously until it boils, and keep on a brisk boil for about 15 minutes until the rice grains are tender but still chalky.

Remove from heat, cover and leave for 10-15 minutes, then drain and leave to cool. Put eggs in another pan, and bring to boil.

Boil for one minute, then cover and set aside for 10 minutes, then remove shell and cut eggs into quarters. In a large frying pan or casserole dish, heat oil, add the shallots and cook gently.

Add grated ginger, butter, curry powder. Stir well. Add the drained cooled rice and mix to coat with the buttery oily fragrant curry mixture.

Add the fish and cream and cook gently until fish is heated through. Taste and add salt if needed, and pepper to taste.

Pile the rice and fish into a serving dish, add the parsley, eggs, lemon pieces and zest and serve.

- The Press

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