Some old fashioned, often very simple dishes have the power to make us feel happy – nostalgic tastes are true comfort food.
I have recently made pork loin schnitzels for our dinner, which took me back in time to my childhood so much! Especially that I didn’t season the pork with anything fancy but salt and pepper, just like my dear but uninventive cook of a mother used to do.
Traditional Polish kotlety schabowe (pronounced pretty much like The Weather Man’s concept of their spelling: cut lettuce harb over) used to ride out onto the table a few times a month (meat flattened so thin the breadcrumb layer was thicker, due to Iron Curtain meat shortages) as well as on special occasion (barely flattened at all because you know, full-on no-expense-spared on feast days).
I invite you to give them a try soon as it’s such a good comfort dish. If you want to go ethnic (does Polish qualify as ethnic?), serve them with green salad dressed with single cream (you’ve read that right).
Another dish that takes me all the way back is stuffed cabbage rolls. Similar to the Greek dolmades but with ingredients you can get up north-east: cabbage leaves wrapped around rice and meat filling. They are cooked in tomato sauce and absolutely delightful.
A veggie dish that I used to hate as a kid and now really enjoy is potato babka: a grated potato loaf, seasoned with garlic and herbs, is like a giant baked latke or rosti. It’s totally worth a try.
Old-fashioned chunky potato soup with dried wild mushrooms is truly epic, so is chicken soup with noodles with my Grandma’s secret ingredient. At Sunday dinners my Grandma would invariably dish it out followed by something like veal roast or beef brisket, with my favourite vegetable, roasted savoy cabbage.
The cakes and sweets have of course an even stronger time-machine-like qualities. Buchteln, also courtesy of Grandma’s, were the fluffiest, puffiest sweet buns baked as pull-apart, hiding a blob of jam in their centres. My mum’s walnut cake was fantastically sickly, so I make it just with a lick-of-jam filling instead of double-layer buttercream. And those gorgeous poppy seed cakes!
What would you go for if you could enter a food time machine taking you back to a table laid with your childhood favourites? Leave your comments below!