Saturday, February 25, 2006


I’ve had gastro twice in the past week. The first left me aching and weak, the second a mere reminder of my intestinal fragility. Today all I could face was a piece of toast before heading off to a matinee of “An Inspector Calls”. The tickets had been booked weeks ago. Pale and tired I trudged out into the world. Melbourne was hot and sticky, an unbearable night which had broken into a day hitting 30c. Getting off the tram I was hit by a blast of dust and debris roaring up Bourke St. The storm had broken. By the time we were seated in the faded glory of the deco theatre, hail hammered overhead.

After 2 hours of theatrical amusement, I turned down the offer of some civilized drinking in city bars, followed by the Balinese meal I had been looking forward to all week. The rain still poured and the temperature had dropped. Sitting on the damp tram, I knew finally what I could face eating. Mash.

Comfort food is an odd beast. Most of my nostalgic foods from childhood are lost on me now I don’t eat meat or cheese. I have fond memories of my mother’s meatballs studded with bacon and garlic, roast chicken and grilled creamed corn and cheese on toast. My tastebuds can still vividly conjure them, though that is as far as I now take the desire.

These days new foods comfort me – miso soup with shitake mushrooms, tortilla espanol and mash. Mashed potatoes were never a childhood favourite. I’ve always been very fond of spuds but preferred them crispy and roasted. Mash wise my neighbour did a great one with parsnip and carrot, which made parsnip – a vegetable never eaten in my family home, seem exotic and exciting. In recent years I have revisited the whole genre of mash, rarely just potato, but usually a concoction of root vegetables.

Tonight I wanted the soft, bland comfort of the spud, but with more flavour and colour. The combo my veggie basket came up with was – potato, carrot, kumara (I admit I usually prefer the orange version, but the redskins are a worthy alternative) and a couple of cloves of garlic. Making mash is simple, so I won’t insult your intelligence. I chopped, boiled, poured off the cooking water and returned the pot to a low heat to evaporated off any excess moisture. I cheat when it comes to mushing it up – no masher, no potato ricer – but a quick whiz with the hand blender (not so much it turns to glue) and finish it off with a fork. I like the smoothness off the blender, but make sure there are still some textural chunks. The secret of a good mash is like most things - lashings of butter and salt. Admittedly not all comfort foods are ‘health foods’. Due to the delicate gut, I was as restrained as I could be with the butter and added some coarsely ground black pepper with the sea salt.

I sat down with a large bowl of orangey goodness. My stomach had stopped protesting and I enjoyed every mouthful.

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Blogger Just Like A Woman said...

I'm off to the kitchen to forage around behind the potatoes and onions, where I'm desperately hoping to find a kumara. I too have been suffering the past few days with quite a delicate tum - must be a lot of it about as my dear old Mum would say - and I do believe your mash will be just the thing to soothe the grumbling. I think I'll be adding a sprinkling of chopped parsley too.

4:41 pm  
Blogger Brownie said...

a mash of potato, carrot, and parsnip is delicious.
the old gastro is not to be treated casually - take care.
George Osahwa the Miso Master would recommend only Yang food - some arrowroot jelly perhaps?

re tram dust in face: an evil thing and I think protective goggles should be worn.

So, you are ill, it is stinkin hot, and wet, and you are on public transport ... geez I hope the Inspector brought flowers when he called and it was all worthwhile.

Confession: my comfort food is custard, always has been. Recently Pauls have fed (no pun) this vice with their 'Premium' custard in the tub.
hope you're feeling better now.

7:58 pm  
Blogger elaine said...

mashed potato (royal blues), with butter, soy milk, grated parmedsan and tasty and a spoonful of grainy mustard is my absolute comfort food.

feel better x

12:29 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I recommend mash for dinner and a 9 hour sleep for all that ails you. It was a 99% cure.

1:05 pm  
Blogger Brownie said...

inspired (or dogged) by your Mashup Post, I purchased yesterday, a beautiful parsnip to mash with a desiree and a carrot and of course, the grated cheese garnish.
Massively satisfying.

glad you have improved.

3:33 pm  

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