Comfort Food Recipes Perfect for the Midweek Kitchen

When you think of the meals that feel most comforting to you, chances are they are the ones from your childhood.

Whether your parents were wonderful cooks or boiled Brussels sprouts so much you’ll never be able to look at them the same way again, it’s often those nostalgic dishes we crave during the cooler months.

In a celebration of family, good food and your creative side, mother and daughter Sophie Hansen and Annie Herron have collaborated on their new book, Around the Kitchen Table.

Food writer Hansen and his art teacher mother Herron share their favorite seasonal recipes, art projects and activities in hopes it encourages others to take a break from their busy lives to create something good.

Here they share three winter dishes that can be made ahead.

Plum and almond cake

Camera iconAround the kitchen table: plum and almond cake. Credit: Sophie Hansen

This quick almond cake recipe is a great base for any type of seasonal or canned fruit, which is why I’ve slipped it in here!

For 6 to 8 people

8-10 plums 2 eggs ½ cup milk ¼ cup melted butter 1 cup almond flour ½ cup powdered sugar (surfin) ⅓ cup plain flour (all purpose) ½ tsp baking powder ½ tsp coffee ground cinnamon a pinch of salt Heavy cream (double), serve

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line a 20-24 cm (8-9½ inch) springform pan with parchment paper. Halve the plums, removing the pits, then cut into quarters or eighths, depending on size. Spread the plums on the bottom of the cake tin. Add the eggs, milk and melted butter to a bowl and whisk to combine. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour in egg mixture and mix until smooth. Pour the batter over the plums and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 30 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through. Serve hot, with a nice thick cream.

Stewed Broccoli and Chickpeas

Thanks to Ross Dobson and his excellent book (bible!), The Healthy Slow Cooker, for this brilliant idea – I had never considered cooking broccoli like this in my slow cooker, but here we are and it’s wonderful. Also thanks to Ross for his tip to turn the slow cooker to high before you start making a recipe so it’s ready to go when you are.

For 4-5 people

1 large head of broccoli 2 x 400 g cans of drained chickpeas 3 anchovy fillets, drained 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped Zest and juice of 1 lemon, grated 400 g of canned cherry tomatoes 1 tablespoon of harissa, or to taste ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 1½ cups vegetable broth Plain yogurt, for serving Chili flakes or chili oil, for serving (optional)

Put the slow cooker on high. Trim the broccoli and cut it into large florets with long stems, then place it in the slow cooker. Add the chickpeas, anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, cherry tomatoes, harissa, olive oil and broth. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper and very little salt (the anchovies will pack quite a salty punch). Cover and cook over low heat for 3-4 hours. You can turn the slow cooker on to “keep warm” for a few more hours if that’s convenient for you. Add lemon juice, to taste, and serve with a dollop of yogurt and perhaps chili flakes or chili oil.

Beans stewed with pork knuckle

Around the kitchen table: Slow-cooked beans and pork knuckle.
Camera iconAround the kitchen table: Slow-cooked beans and pork knuckle. Credit: Sophie Hansen

I try to make a batch of these regularly throughout the winter so there’s always something healthy and filling in the fridge ready to reheat. We all love this on toast and it’s a great hearty meal to start the day, especially on those long cold days when we don’t get home until late in the evening. These beans are also good for lunch and dinner, according to my serving suggestions below.

For 6 persons

2½ cups dry white beans, soaked overnight in cold water 1 smoked pork knuckle 2 brown onions, diced 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm rounds 2 sprigs of thyme 400g tinned cherry tomatoes 2 cups tomato passata (tomato puree) 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)

Drain the beans and place them in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until beans are tender and cooked through. Put the slow cooker on high. Drain the beans and pour them into the slow cooker. Put the pork knuckle in the saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ham hock and place it over the beans in the slow cooker. Add onion, carrot, thyme, tomatoes and passata. Pour in 1 cup (250 ml) of water, or enough to cover the beans and pork knuckle. Gently stir in vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and pomegranate molasses, if using. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 hours (or up to 7 hours if that suits you – maybe add a little more liquid towards the end as those beans can get thirsty!). Remove the pork knuckle and shred the meat from the bone, then put the meat back into the beans and stir gently.