Comfort foods from around the world

We might enjoy tucking into a shepherd’s pie or a chunky slice of Victoria sponge when we need cheering up, but have you ever stopped to think of the comfort foods enjoyed around the rest of the world? Check these out...

Russia: Borsch
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This soup is popular in Russia, and is made primarily from beetroot although meat can be added too. We asked Anton Efimov, general manager of Russian restaurant Mari Vanna, to tell us more about the dish.

“Borsch is a unique dish that has as many recipes as there are housewives, having one thing in common: soul of tradition and everybody’s appreciation,” Anton said.

Ingredients can include beet leaves, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, cabbage and root vegetables. Sometimes, pork, poultry or smoked fish are added too.

The Caribbean: Macaroni pie
For Caribbean comfort food you might think of curry goat or fried chicken – but have you ever heard of macaroni pie? Lee, from Caribbean food company Tan Rosie, who were picked to represent the Caribbean at the Olympic Global Feast, told us about the dish.

[Related article: Comfort foods without the calories]

“This is a popular dish all over the Caribbean and America,” she said, adding that it has been eaten in her family since she was very young. “It’s quick to make and reminds us of simpler times growing up in the Caribbean… All Caribbean people love and eat macaroni pie!”

Australia: Lamingtons
These dessicated-coconut sprinkled cakes are one of the traditional sweet treats of Australia. Australian chef Jason King from The Wellington Arms in Hampshire told us that although everyone has had a go at making them, “they’re not as easy as you first think,” adding that “Nana’s were the best.”  

South Africa: Cape Malva pudding
Copyright Jo Romero
Grant Hawthorne is aSouth African chef now based in the UK, and according to him, one of the great comfort food dishes from home is Cape Malva pudding.

“It is the lighter version of the British staple, the sticky toffee pudding,” he said. “The mouth feel of the caramelised sugar contrasts beautifully with the soft centre. Served with ice cream, it becomes the yin and yang of puddings: hot with cold, soft with crunchy. Add chocolate and it simply ticks every box.”

Malaysia: Lak sa soup
What could be more comforting than tucking into a soothing bowl of hot, fragrant noodle soup? David Fox, co-owner of restaurant chain Tampopo, recommends Malaysia’s lak sa soup.

[Related article: Best Comfort Food Recipes]

“The colour of the dish is enough to get my tummy rumbling,” he said. “The combination of hearty egg noodles, warm and spicy coconut milk broth delicately blended with candlenut and a contrast of lime juice, red onion and fresh cucumber. Enough to warm any cold hand, tummy and heart!”

India: Kheema karai
Copyright Jo Romero
Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a curry. Served piping hot, and made from aromatic spices, they’re perfect for settling down to while the rain’s hammering down outside. And so we asked Ketan Varu, founder of the spice company Spicentice to recommend a hearty Indian comfort food. He told us all about kheema karai.

“It’s India’s answer to a British cottage pie or an Italian Bolognese – right up there in the comfort food stakes,” he said. “Made with minced meat, onions, garlic and tomatoes just like they are, but then you’re hit with cumin seeds, chilli, coriander, garam masala, cassia bark, paprika and cardamom to perk it all up.”

Ketan recommends serving it hot in a bowl, with rice or pitta breads. 

Italy: Lasagne
Pasta is probably one of the world’s best known comfort foods. And one of the most popular has to be lasagne. Buyer for Carluccio’s restaurants, Paola Pignataro, tells us more.

“In Italy, lasagne is a winter comfort food typically made with ragu and béchamel, and an abundant dusting of grated cheese before being baked in the oven. Naturally every Italian family will have their own take on this classic – we like to use both ground lamb and beef for the meat ragu.”

[Related article: Chicken and leek pie: My favourite British comfort food]

And just like any good comfort food, it’s associated with family memories. “It’s fair to say that most Italian families will have plenty of fond memories of family meals with lasagne serving as the centre piece,” Paola adds.

Do you enjoy any of these comfort foods from around the world? Which are your favourites?

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