Irish Pub Cooking: Comfort Food as Medicine
What does “comfort food” mean to you, and what is its role in healing? Sometimes when we’re sick or broken (per below, we literally mean “broken”!) food can act as medicine, providing vitamins and nutrients to help our bodies get well. Sometimes, it’s about mental health: food makes us feel better! Our intrepid roving reporter Sarah Purvis recently learned that sometimes, when you fail to respond to a medical emergency the first time around, you get a second chance through food…Read on for her story and a wonderful recipe!
I have, what a nurse called, a ‘tender disposition’ and this was on display just recently when, on the last of his hang gliding lessons, my husband unfortunately landed badly and broke his arm. There was no blood gushing from a deep wound, there were no bones protruding from his right limb, but for some reason my mind went into overdrive mode recreating a scene from a zombie movie, and within seconds of reaching my husband’s side I passed out. This is embarrassing for me to admit. My poor husband really could have done with some support – and I failed to deliver. I regained my composure quickly and was able to hand over my broken husband to the amazing staff in the ER to literally mend.
Fast forward a week and the patient is doing very well. He has most of the movement back in his arm already thanks to the numerous exercises he was given to do to prevent his arm seizing up. And of course, to encourage healthy bone growth and general well-being, we’ve boosted areas of our diet to include more foods that contain iron, calcium, and vitamins. For dinners, this often means steak with oven roasted potato wedges, tuna with roasted vegetable couscous, pork stir fry with black beans and pak choi and, probably the best, Fisherman’s Pie. Not only is it very easy to make, it’s also packed with a heap of nutrition. I added some chunks of salmon filet, a boiled egg and some frozen peas for a little variety. The husband with a broken arm is also optional – you don’t necessarily need one of these in order to make this dish!
Serves 6. Ingredients:
900g/2 lb white fish filets, skinned
150 ml/5 fl oz dry white wine
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, tarragon or dill
175g/6 oz small mushrooms, sliced
70g/ 2½ oz butter, plus extra for greasing and for the mashed potato
175g/6 oz cooked peeled prawns / shrimp
40g/1½ oz plain flour
125 ml/4 fl oz double cream
900g/2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into even-sized chunks
salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 1.7-litre/3-pint baking dish with butter.
2. Fold the fish fillets in half and place in the dish. Season well with salt and pepper, pour over the wine and scatter over the herbs.
3. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes until the fish starts to flake. Strain off the liquid and reserve for the sauce. Increase the oven temperature to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.
4. Sauté the mushrooms in a frying pan with 15g/½ oz of the butter and spoon over the fish. Scatter over the prawns.
5. Heat the remaining butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes without browning, remove from the heat, then add the reserved cooking liquid gradually, stirring well between each addition.
6. Return to the heat and gently bring to the boil, still stirring to ensure a smooth sauce. Add the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the fish in the dish and smooth over the surface.
7. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes. Drain well and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the remaining butter, stirring until melted.
9. Pile or pipe the mash onto the fish and sauce and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.