……is that old pair of jeans that has molded perfectly to every curve of your body. The ones that used to be a bright azure denim but now, after a hundred washes and many more wears, is a murky blue-grey shade of its former self. Comfort is slipping these on, feeling them conform to your skin obediently and diligently ignoring that thinning area over the backside that one day is bound to give up the ghost, taking your dignity with it.
Comfort is bare feet. The liberation you feel when you open the front door, kick off the shoes, stretch the toes and feel plush carpet between them. It is going to the cinemas in your sweatpants and no make-up. Comfort watches movies on the couch on New Years’ Eve while the world packs picnics, braves the crowds and catches trains home after midnight, blinking under fluorescent lights.
Comfort is a hug with one who you have hugged for so long that both your shapes have long ago imprinted into one another.
And yet comfort may be something else, like talking on a friend’s couch for hours about nothing and everything all at once.
Comfort is edible. It is dhal, hot and salty, gingery and lemony, popping with cumin. It is a roast potato with plenty of butter, solid to slippery liquid as it hits the steaming flesh. It is hot chocolate, cold beer or a well-earned glass of wine.
Comfort is cheese and pasta. Mac ‘n’ cheese. Waistline defying mouthfuls of perfectly yielding pasta in a melty yellow matrix. Throwing nutrition and caution to the wind to embrace it, comfort on a plate.
This one is from a cookbook which is the latest offering in the delicious. series by Valli Little, titled Love to Eat (ABC Books, Harper Collins). The book navigates the home cook through a global journey, with each section holding recipes that are Valli Little’s take on flavours of that part of the world. Comfort from each of the world’s corners. For lovers of this series, this latest addition doesn’t disappoint, with practical and mouth-watering recipes that any home cook can tackle.
I have my eye on the Kashmiri Prawns from the Indian section and the Chilli Chocolate Puddings of Latin America. But for now we have this Mac ‘n’ Cheese slice. I used emmental instead of gruyere, rosemary instead of thyme based on what I could get my hands on at the time. I unceremoniously dumped in a whole 500g boxful of pasta rather than the recommended 400g and found the recipe still worked well. I also stopped short of pan frying the slices dusted with flour, mainly due to sheer laziness, but I’m sure this would add an extra layer of decadence. The pasta I used was one from the Barilla gluten-free range, a shape that is cutely named ‘elbows’. I wrapped the slices individually, refrigerating some to eat within three or four days, and freezing some. They thawed very well and made a perfectly convenient lunch to look forward to.
What is your Comfort?
Disclosures: My copy of Love to Eat was sent to me by Harper Collins Australia, and pasta was provided by Barilla, but all opinions are my own.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese Slice
From delicious. Love to Eat, Valli Little
Makes 7-9 serves
400-500 g macaroni or similar shaped pasta
Olive oil, to drizzle
2 cups milk
1 onion, halved
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme or rosemary
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
80g unsalted butter
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/4 cups strong cheddar, grated
1 1/4 cups gruyere or emmental cheese, grated
1 1/4 cups parmesan, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
Plain flour, to dust (optional)
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, toss to combine and set aside.
Combine milk, onion, bay leaves, nutmeg and herbs in a saucepan over medium heat adn bring to a simmer. Set aside for 30 min to infuse.
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease and line a large baking dish with greaseproof paper.
Melt 40g butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 mins. Strain the milk into the pan, discarding the solids. Whisk the mixture until smooth and thickened. Add the cheeses and stir to melt and combine. Add the egg and stir to combine. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt if needed.
Take the pan off the heat and add the pasta, toss to coat. Transfer the mixture to the lined oven dish and spread evenly. Bake for 30 mins or until the top is golden. Allow to cool completely then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Cut mac ‘n’ cheese into 7 to 9 slices and dust with flour. Melt the remaining 40g butter in a frypan and cook each slice as needed for 2-3 mins on each side until golden and crisp.