Comfort food for autumn

What is Melbourne’s weather doing! One morning it’s 6°C, and the next it’s 21°C! Either way, it’s getting gloomy* and (often) chilly and I’ve had a hankering for warm comfort food.

Thinking I’d flick through a lot of cookbooks to find the perfect wintery recipe, I hit gold with the first book I pulled from the shelf – Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s Vegan Table.

The Vegan Table

As if it was meant to be, the book fell open to page 218 – Old fashioned lentil loaf. I was convinced. And the next 3 recipes were the perfect partners for the loaf:

  • mashed potatoes with caramelised onions
  • mushroom gravy
  • broccoli with garlic butter and cashews.

My mouth was watering before I could say, “Damn! I’m out of garlic.”

I decided that FOR ONCE I would follow the recipes exactly as they were written, so I at least needed to make sure I had all the ingredients.  After a quick trip to Harvest I was set to go.

Lentil loaf

I have a favourite lentil loaf recipe from when I was vegetarian, but last time I tried to veganise it, it didn’t hold together properly. I was looking forward to giving this one a go, because it was very similar, with walnuts, onion and green lentils.

Just as the recipe stated, I cooked the dried green lentils on the stove. I haven’t done that it years – usually I cook legumes in my pressure cooker or just use tinned lentils.

Happily, I had no burnt lentil disasters, and it didn’t even boil over. Unhappily, I think I might have added a little too much water (just as the recipe cautioned me NOT to do). This meant that the loaf didn’t hold together spectacularly well once it was cut. Next time I really will do exactly as I’m told.

Mashed potatoes with caramelised onions

Since the whole wisdom teeth experience, back in January, my son has turned green at the thought of mashed potato, so I’ve been avoiding it. This time I really wanted it, so I compromised by pulling his potato out of the pot before mashing it.

Once I’d piled the onion on top, both lots of potato looked pretty delicious.

Mushroom gravy

This one was almost a no-go. Both my kids HATE mushrooms, so I usually don’t bother cooking them at home. With all the other dishes on the go that afternoon, I ALMOST decided to skip the gravy and just smother the loaf with HP sauce, but a mound of lovely organic Swiss brown mushrooms at Harvest gave me the inspiration to give it a go.

I needn’t have worried about the extra work – it was very quick and easy, and so tasty, it was definitely worth it and I’ll certainly make it again.

Broccoli with garlic butter and cashews

The broccoli was very simple too. It was just steamed as normal, and tossed in a combination of warm, oily, delicious-smelling ingredients and the nuts. I used dry-roasted almonds instead of cashews, just because I had lots of them, and I love them.

I was so organised that I had everything chopped up and ready to go in advance, so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by all that needed to be done. (I have a bad habit, when I’m cooking a lot of dishes at once, of having everything ready at different times – I hoped I could avoid that with a bit of forward planning, and I managed it!)

Lentil loaf with mashed potato, caramelised onion, broccoli with garlic sauce and cashews, smothered in mushroom gravy

And also dessert!

As it turned out, I even had time to spare. Then it struck me that I could snap a few sticks of fresh rhubarb from our monster rhubarb plant, and bake an apple and rhubarb crumble for dessert.

Rhubarb plant

Our big rhubarb plant is starting to fall over a bit, but I reckon we’ll get a few more crumbles out of it.

I chopped the 3 large rhubarb sticks into pieces about 2 cm long, piled them into a casserole dish and tossed them in sugar. I baked them, with the lid on, for about 1/2 an hour, then stirred in a large tin of pie apples, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and some mixed spice.

In a small bowl, I mixed up some rolled oats, wholemeal plain flour, broken walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and margarine. Then I scattered it over the surface of the fruit and baked it at 200 degrees for 25 minutes until it was lovely and browned.

(I can’t believe I forgot to take a photo of the crumble! I think the delicious fruity, nutty, toasty aroma was just too much for us and we had to eat it immediately!)

I served the crumble with my new favourite treat – Provamel vanilla dessert, which tastes very much like traditional vanilla custard. (If you’re in Melbourne, you can buy Provamel desserts at Mad Cowgirls, Leo’s Fine Food & Wine and the Cruelty Free Shop…and probably lots of other places!)

Threatening the family

As I was swanning around the kitchen in my favourite frilly apron, imagining the expressions of awe, surprise and delight on the faces of the family when they walked in and smelled and saw their dinner, it suddenly occurred to me that they might not actually be home in time! It’s not often there’s anything this enticing to come home to.

Just to spoil the surprise, I sent threatening text messages to all of them, suggesting that they’d better be home by 7pm. It worked. They came home in time, were appropriately impressed, and eagerly tucked into their dinner. They almost fell over in shock when, to top it all off, I lifted the crumble from the oven (I’m not usually one to bake dessert on a normal weeknight).

In less than 30 minutes they’d polished off the entire dinner! Hours of work and nothing to show for it but groaning, bursting bellies and a pile of dirty dishes.

I waddled to the lounge room, put my feet up, and let the three of them deal with the mess and bring me a drink. So, not a bad way to spend a cold and miserable evening!

Another tasty Colleen Patrick-Goudreau recipe

Tempeh bacon…great recipe, although I don’t usually bother steaming my tempeh, because I don’t mind the slightly bitter taste, and I also don’t use liquid smoke, because the family won’t eat it!

*Great! I wrote this a couple of days ago, and today is the brightest, sunniest, most beautiful autumn day you could ever ask for!

9 thoughts on “Comfort food for autumn

  1. Ha, we sound similar! I also do that thing where I’m cooking different things at once but they’re ready at different times. Now I’ve started chopping stuff the day before where possible, measuring out the spices etc. I have this cookbook but I don’t think I’ve ever used it, only because it’s one of the first I bought and then I just got sidetracked by each new purchase (of which there were many). I’ll take a look at it again as it is full of great looking recipes and I need to do it justice!

    • We’ve actually been known to eat our dinner and have the roast vegies for ‘dessert’ because I’ve got the timing all wrong and everyone was starving…but don’t tell anyone. 🙂 Chopping the day before? Wow, I’m really impressed with that! It would make things much easier on the day though.

  2. Snap, I also have rhubarb!

    Been a long time since I’ve had a lentil loaf, your making me crave for some. Thanks for the tempeh bacon link, its not one I’ve tried before.

  3. that sounds like my sort of meal – esp in some of the cold rainy weather we have had lately – we went to the farmers market on the weekend and were standing at stalls in the rain and it was all rather miserable. When I cook that way I get very disorganised so I am impressed at your forward planning. I have had that book from the library and loved it.

  4. Pingback: Sunday roast nostalgia | The Lentil Institution

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