Wednesday, January 19
12:51 PM

Food that speaks

9 Mar 2021

Comfort food comprises any food that has a sentimental value or which brings back nostalgic memories, and with it, a sense of wellbeing. Apart from providing nourishment for the body, such food also provides mental satisfaction, a feeling of contentment or solace, as well as works towards quietening dissent and turbulence within the mind.

Each one might have his/her own comfort food – for some it could be ice-cream, for some fries or pizza, for yet others, it could comprise their grandmother’s recipes or certain foods typically prepared by their loved ones. They bring back old memories, they help to connect with the past, to build up  old bonds or refresh memories about those forgotten. Comfort food, in short, brings comfort by speaking to the heart and mind in a unique way that is understood only by the individual.

In the time of the pandemic, when families are separated from loved ones, typical family recipes comprise comfort food as it helps individuals connect with their loved ones without getting a chance to meet them. While comfort food may not always contribute to one’s good health, it definitely induces mental wellbeing.


Most popular comfort foods


Mac and Cheese




7tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the dish 

Kosher salt – to taste

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 cups) 

400g elbow macaroni 

2 stalks celery, finely chopped 

1 small onion, finely chopped 

2 cloves garlic – minced 

3/4 cup hot sauce, plus more for serving

2tbsp all-purpose flour 

2tsp dry mustard 

2½ cups whole milk 

400g yellow Cheddar, cut into cubes

250g pepper jack cheese, shredded 

2/3 cup sour cream 

1 cup bread crumbs

½ cup crumbled blue cheese 

2tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Preheat the oven to 180º C and butter a large baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower and immediately submerge it in the ice water to cool completely, then drain. Bring the salted water back to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 3tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the blanched cauliflower and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add ½ cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute more. 

Melt 2tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the milk, then add the remaining ¼ cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the Cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.

Spread half of the macaroni in the prepared baking dish and pour over about half of the cheese sauce. Top with the cauliflower mixture and the remaining macaroni. Pour the remaining cheese sauce evenly on top. Put the remaining 2tbsp butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, about 30 seconds. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then serve with additional hot sauce on the side.


Dal Khichdi


½ cup moong dal – soaked for 20 minutes

½ cup rice  – soaked for 20 minutes

1tbsp ghee or butter

1tsp cumin

A pinch of asafoetida

1tsp ginger garlic paste

1green chilli – slit

1 bay leaf

2tbsp coriander leaves finely chopped

1 onion – sliced

½tsp turmeric

1 tomato – minced

3½ cup water

Salt – to taste


Heat 1tbsp ghee in a pressure cooker and add cumin, bay leaf and asafoetida and sauté well. Add onion and saute till golden brown. Add ginger garlic paste, green chilli and tomato and sauté for 2 minutes. Add turmeric and salt to taste, followed by rice and dal. Keep the flame on low, and sauté for a minute till a subtle flavour of dal comes. Pour 3½ cups of water and stir well. If you need a thinner consistency, add an additional cup of water. Cover the lid and pressure cook on medium flame for 6-8 minutes – lower the flame after first whistle. Remove and release steam. Serve hot in a bowl, garnished with chopped coriander and any favourite pickle.

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