Sunday, July 19, 2015

Comfort Food from Home

RHYS BOWEN:  I've lived in California for a large part of my life but I suppose part of me still looks upon Britain as home. So it's not surprising that when I go back to the old country one of the things I look forward to is the comfort food of my childhood, those quintessentially British dishes that meant home for me.

During my stay in England this summer I certainly indulged in cream teas (made with real Cornish clotted cream), fish and chips (made with fish that didn't taste like cardboard),  full English breakfast (so sinful but sooooo good) and the other English breakfasts that I like: poached haddock with a poached egg on top or kippers. But I think my absolute favorite is Cornish pasties.

These are half-moon shaped pastries with meat and vegetables inside a short crust dough. They have a thick edging of rolled dough around the outside and the origin of this was that they were the meal that Cornish housewives made for their miner husbands when they were down the tin mines. These men had no chance to come to the surface or wash their hands so they would hold the pasty by its rim and then discard that part when they had finished the good stuff.  Today you can find pasties with curried chicken, cheese and onion and all kinds of fancy fillings but I still like the traditional steak ones best.

Here is the recipe I was given that works really well:
 Half a pound of good quality steak, sliced wafer thin
Carrots, turnip, potatoes all sliced very thinly
1 big onion chopped finely
small amount of beef bouillon
short crust pastry.
Pre-heat oven to 425
roll out pastry dough into circles about 8 inches diameter.
 on one half place thin layer of potato, carrot, turnip, onion and then top with thin slices of meat. Sprinkle some bouillon over it. Fold dough in half to make a pasty shape.  Crimp and seal the edges.
Bake  on baking sheet at 425 about 40 minutes or until it turns golden.
(The steam of cooking vegetables keeps the meat moist)

So what is your favorite comfort food when you go home?


  1. Oh, your recipe for Cornish pasties sounds absolutely scrumptious!
    My favorite comfort food is made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese.
    I cook the pasta al dente and, while the pasta cooks, make a simple cheese sauce. Then mix together the sauce, sharp cheddar cheese cubes, two beaten eggs, and the pasta. Turn into a casserole dish and bake at 350 for about twenty minutes. Yum!

  2. Rhys, I'd love to try the Cornish pasty. One of these days. One of my favorite comfort meals, and this pick is heavily influenced by the season, is a BLT with red ripe tomatoes and a side dish of fresh green beans fixed in the pressure cooker with a couple of good dollop of bacon grease and a teaspoon or so of sugar.

    Just wanted to add that it's good to be back in my own bed tonight/this morning. I had a wonderful trip to Hawaii, with my side trip to Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai being the highlight. Unfortunately, the trip home, which started Friday night at 9:30 Hawaii time and finally ended tonight, Saturday night after midnight, was the airplane journey from bell. Late flights, delayed flights. My last leg had six gate changes and four time changes. I'm not the only one. United's flights were bizarre world today.

  3. Rhys, I had a delicious beef pasty at the Covered Market in Oxford. I mispronounced it but was spared embarrassment until one of my friends corrected me later. For no valid reason part of me calls Oxford home. Whenever I go back there I get my favorite comfort food there, a prawn sandwich with slices of avocado on a baguette. I follow that with a dark beer.

    My favorite comfort foods from my real home town are batter fried clams and lobster with maple walnut ice cream for dessert. I miss these a lot.

  4. OH! The Cornish Pastry looks divine. I've never had one, but have wanted to try them forever. Thanks so much for the recipe.

    Comfort food for me is still tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

  5. You've made my mouth water Rhys! Is the dough the same as a pie crust? must try...

    My most basic comfort food is cheese toast:)

  6. "So what is your favorite comfort food when you go home?"

    Well, my family's heritage (Dad's side) is Norwegian so you know what that means. Childhood memories of the ANTI-comfort food: lutefisk.

    I think there were numerous attempts to make tomato soup and grilled cheese a comfort food but I rebelled there too. I don't like tomato soup or cream of mushroom soup. Oh wait! Now I've got it -- Lipton's Ring-O noodle soup. Straight-noodled chicken noodle soup makes me gag but I love and adore Ring-O soup and a few months ago when I had to be bland food THAT is what I searched out (only found one store that carried it).

    Yes, I'm weird.

  7. YUM! Sounds fabulous…

    My favorute basic comfort food? AH..cinnamon toast. Toast, butter, cinnamon and sugar. I haven't had it in years, but it is so yummy when the butter makes the cinnamon glow and the hot toast melts the sugar. YUM. And BLTs. WITH mayonnaise.

  8. Buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy would be my choice--but since I can't make them like my mom/grandma, and NOTHING in a restaurant compares, I default to chocolate for comfort when needed.

  9. Tuna noodle casserole or brownies. Although I rarely make the casserole any more because to make it right you must use the original Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and it's so high in sodium I've stopped using it.

  10. The pasty recipe sounds mighty tasty, Rhys! Thank you. There must have been a Welsh contingent in Michigan at one point, because there's a very popular pasty place in Traverse City, and other areas. So, so good, especially with the other specialty of that region, cherry pie!

    Tuna noodle casserole used to be comfort food for me, but I burned out on it after cooking it for cranky children for 35 years. Now my favorite is potato soup, homemade in the microwave via Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet recipe. So yummy.

  11. Rhys, I love Cornish pasties! Thanks for the recipe--I'll have to try them. I have lots of British comforts foods, including the full English breakfast and cream teas, but on the American side I think I'd have to go with cheese toast (made with sharp, white cheddar, with some slices of crisp apple on the side, and a cup of really good cocoa.

  12. That recipe sounds fabulous. Must try - when the weather cools down. (Right now it's 93 out, 79 in, without the benefit of AC.)

    I grew up in southern California in a totally white Scottish-Irish family, so my most comforting food is ... tamales. Yum. And my mother's cream tuna on toast, which only works if you use the oil from the tuna can for the cream sauce.

  13. Never had a pasty when I've been to England, much to my regret. Wanted one, though ever since viewing a particularly funny episode of Jam and Jerusulem (Clatterford, stateside). Next time!
    Comfort food: mashed potatoes and gravy, any day of the week!

  14. You have made me hungry! (and I had a good breakfast) I first tasted a pasty in Minneapolis in the '70s, and more recently enjoyed one in Stratford. My friend wanted to lunch a MacDonald's but "I didn't travel to England to eat fast food." I think she enjoyed the pasty; I know I did!

  15. I love Cornish Pasties too, but my very favorite is sausage rolls. I have tried to make them here but the sausage is just so different. I cannot wait till I go back to Blighty for my visit in September so that I can "pig out" on the fabulous foods you mentioned.
    A quick note to Deborah - my friend and I have planned a visit to The Hansom Cab after reading your glowing review!

  16. Yum, sounds delicious. Comfort food? My mother's mac and cheese from the 1950s. Somehow she managed to get the cheese inside the noodles and the crust all crispy crunchy. It was her go to for any pot luck, and it was wonderful.

  17. We had broiled ham and home-made scalloped potatoes (with lots of cheddar cheese) yesterday regardless of the heat. That's a comfort food for me. So is cocoa made from scratch, and home-made cinnamon rolls.