Comfort food without the kilos


You spent Easter and Anzac Day at home, and there’s only so many more park walks and Zoom chats you can take. It’s enough to make anyone reach for their stockpile of rice and pasta or start compulsively baking bread.

While a lot of us turn to food and drink to relieve boredom and stress, it’s possible to find comfort in healthy options.

Rice, pasta and flour aren’t great for older bodies, but there are alternatives that are.

Of course, we all have different ideas about foods that offer comfort, but often it’s something warming, flavoursome, sweet or creamy.

Roasts are surely high on the warming and flavoursome list. The usual meat or poultry and root vegetables are great, but other vegies take on a whole new identity roasted. Eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, capsicum and garlic are just a few that transform in the oven.

We could also opt for a cottage pie or shepherd’s pie topped with pumpkin or sweet potato mash, or curries served over cauliflower instead of rice.

Cauliflower rice’s sibling is zucchini noodles that you make by thinly slicing or spiralising zucchini. Try them with good tomato sauce and good cheese and you might be surprised.

When I’m after flavour it’s hard to go past Middle Eastern inspired dishes from the Ottolenghi cookbooks.  It mightn’t be everyone’s favourite but I love a salty-sour taste: a sprinkle of za’atar  (thyme, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac) over a dish or a bit of preserved lemon.

In that vein, sometimes a different sauce or topping is enough to give same-old-same-old meals a kick.

Lately I’ve been making Alison Roman’s salsa verde recipe and slapping it on just about anything. It’s the usual combination of vinegar, something oniony, olive oil and something herby, but as she says, it makes boring fish exciting, dry meat edible and leftovers delicious again.

Now is also a great time to eat seafood. We’re getting a broad selection because a lot of the best is staying here rather than heading overseas.

And desserts? If old-fashioned fruit-based desserts tick the comfort box for you, do a baked apple with cinnamon, or a pear or berry crumble and top it with creamy Greek yoghurt. We’re obsessed with the one from Mungali Creek (from North Queensland) at our place. These desserts also work just as well for breakfast.

Apparently, a lot of us have been taking refuge in alcohol, so do your best to manage the number of times you front up for virtual drinks and the like.  Try to stick with a glass, two at the most, and have a couple of alcohol-free days each week.

Mind you, some of the new gins claim to be health-giving. One I read about is “made with vitamin C and collagen-rich botanicals”.

And if we believe that we really have had too much time inside.


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