Comfort food will never go out of fashion. Why would it? Conjuring memories of school dinners and heartening home-cooked meals, these dishes are now readily available in more sophisticated forms from our favourite restaurants.
With comfort food, it's all about the ingredients you use and the care and attention you afford them in the cooking process, but ultimately much of the comfort food we know and love is pretty simple to knock up.
I suppose comfort food comes in various forms – you could even count a baked potato topped with caviar in that category (something I often serve at parties and dinners) — but ultimately it’s all about the classics: two of which I’ve prepared here.
Mark Hix's Shepherd’s pie (above)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1kg coarsely minced lamb or beef, or a mixture
- Splash of vegetable oil for frying
- 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 sticks of celery cut into small, rough dice
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into small rough dice
- 1tsp chopped thyme leaves
- 1tbsp flour
- 1tbsp tomato purée
- 1l hot beef stock
- 1tbsp Worcester sauce
- 2 glasses of red wine
- 200g parsnips, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 2 servings of firm mashed potato
1 | Season the meat then heat some vegetable oil in a heavy-based frying pan until almost smoking and cook the meat in small quantities turning it with a wooden spoon, then drain in a colander to remove any fat.
2 | Meanwhile, in a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat a little more oil and gently cook the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and thyme for 2-3mins, stirring every so often until they soften.
3 | Add the meat, dust with the flour, add the tomato purée and continue stirring on a low heat for a few minutes.
4 | Slowly add the red wine, Worcester sauce and hot beef stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour until the liquid has thickened and the meat is tender.
5 | Remove from the heat, check the seasoning and leave to cool.
6 | Meanwhile, cook the parsnips in boiling salted water for 10–12mins until soft.
7 | Drain into a colander and return to the pan on a low heat for 1min or so to evaporate any excess water. Purée the parsnips in a food processor, or mash them smoothly with a potato masher, and mix with the mashed potato.
8 | Preheat the oven to 200ºC. To assemble the pie, put the meat into a large serving dish, or individual dishes, and top with the potato/parsnip mixture, using a piping bag or with a fork. Bake for 35–40mins until the topping is golden. Serve with sprout tops, winter greens or root vegetable
Mark Hix's macaroni cheese
- 300g mascarpone cheese
- 60g parmesan cheese, grated, plus another 20g to scatter on top
- 150ml double cream
- Salt and pepper
- 250-300g macaroni, cooked
1 | Melt the mascarpone in a thick-bottomed pan with 60g of the parmesan and bring to the boil.
2 | Add the double cream, season with salt and pepper and simmer for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Whisk the sauce well and mix with the cooked pasta.
3 | Put the macaroni mixture into an ovenproof serving dish and scatter the extra parmesan on top.
4 | Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Bake the macaroni for 30-40 minutes until nicely browned or brown under a medium grill.