[Next up on the East Coast By Taste series is fellow Haligonia blogger, With Bite, whose gastronomical adventures always make for a fun and mouth-watering read.]
By Kristen Pickett
There’s just something about comfort food. Well, it comforts you. Everyone has his or her own criteria required for a dish to provide that feeling of calm contentment. Therein lies the appeal of the aptly named ‘comfort food’; it’s personal, internal and has the ability to comfort everyone in his or her own way.
I’m constantly intrigued by the way that food has the ability to sate an individual’s palate as well as calm their nerves. But what is it about these dishes that work their magic on our stressed-out frazzled state, our deep sadness, or even our elated happiness? What is the miracle flavor, texture or memory within a certain food that helps to establish a sense of equilibrium in our psyche?
For some, comfort food may be something so simple and easy as a bowl of cold cereal. Others might crumble for mom’s warm homemade bread, hot from the oven and slathered with butter. Countless people find comfort in a bowl of cookie dough ice cream, their bodies unwinding slowly from a stressful day as the rich cream melts on their tongue. On the opposite end of the taste spectrum, there are those for whom a good dose of crunchy, salty chips or a plate of hot, greasy bacon delivers the desired effect.
The fact of the matter is that it’s all about chemistry. We’ll never really know what draws some people to salt, while others favor sweet. Nor will we be able to determine what attracts those to creamy as opposed to crisp and clean flavors. Nevertheless, I like to think that it goes deeper than that; that food, being such an inextricable factor in our lives gives nourishment not only to the body, but to the mind and soul as well.
And here I come to my comfort food- the dish that started my absolute love affair with food. You may think I’m about to divulge a secret recipe for the world’s best chocolate chip cookie, a foolproof way to BBQ an amazing steak or the secret to the perfect risotto. These are all great foods of course, but for me, the foods that bring about a comforting quality are those with a story, dishes that create certain memories, that symbolize something important. And it all started with a bowl of curried cauliflower soup.
That’s right- just a nice, hot bowl of soup and my spirit is uplifted, my nerves are quieted and all is right with the world. For me, comfort is also about heat, about all-encompassing warmth. This soup has the ability to give me that feeling, to wrap me up in a thick blanket of creamy richness, saturating my mouth and filling every crack with its velvet texture.
But beyond the taste and texture of this soup, it’s the method itself that sooths me, the process behind it, the steps that must be carried out, one by one. This is a part of my day when I take the time to make something that matters. I’m not defrosting anything, or tossing prepared ingredients together, but creating a dish from scratch, paying particular attention to each end every step; doting on the ingredients to coax them into a balance with one another.
It’s also my ultimate comfort food because it put me on the road to where I am now. As you’ll see, the recipe is simple, but it’s the first recipe that I ever wrote. I wasn’t following a cookbook or some chef on TV; I was creating this all on my own. This recipe and the thought behind it, got me to thinking about other recipes that I’d like to conjure up, which subsequently got me thinking about the lucky people who write about food for a living. Someday, I hope to be one of them.
So you see, curried cauliflower soup isn’t just a hot bowl of soup. It isn’t just chopping and roasting and pureeing. Curried cauliflower soup was the first of many steps on the road to my future in food writing. It might sound a bit naive, but I find a good deal of comfort in that.
Photo credit: Kristen Pickett
Curried Cauliflower Soup
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 large onion, or 1 small, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock (low sodium is best)
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. curry powder
S&P to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cauliflower, onions and garlic in oil, S&P. Roast for approx 15-20 minutes, or until they get a crispy golden.
In a large pot, combine the roasted vegetables, chicken stock, water and curry powder and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for around 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft.
Transfer to blender or food processor in batches and puree until smooth. Feel free to add some more water or stock if the soup is too thick. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Garnish with chopped apple, my favorite is Cortland, and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper.
Yields 4 servings
Kristen Pickett is an Event Coordinator in Halifax with a passion for all things culinary. As a freelance food and beverage writer, Kristen’s blog, With Bite serves to profile Halifax’s culinary community. She is a regular food and beverage contributor to Haligonia.ca, as well as various publications in Atlantic Canada.