Today I’m going to sing you my favorite comfort food song again. The Cambridge dictionary describes comfort food as ‘food from childhood that people eat when they are sad or anxious’. We’re talking about food whose nostalgic value is far greater than its nutritional value: mum’s cheesecake and grandma’s soup, dad’s hot dog with mustard, just a cinnamon snail bun from the bakery on the corner.
I live in a big Brazilian city which is famous for its diverse crowd from all corners of the globe. My friends include Americans, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Colombians, Italians, Chinese, Japanese and the odd Hungarian. And we all have ideas about comfort food that differ like the moon from the sun. Some like spicy wings, some like stew, some like chicken in oranges, and some like seaweed, which no one else has ever tasted. Comfort food has one important quality – it has been prepared with love. And that component is more important than any spices. Just as healthy vegetables restore the balance of vitamins in the body, so comfort food compensates for an acute lack of mental warmth.
In contemporary European writers, it is often meatballs or cinnamon buns which the protagonists choose as their comfort food. Hygge is spreading, Sweden has become the cosmopolitan capital of comfort food, and Scandinavian cooking has evolved from a trend to an encyclopedia of nostalgic symbols. Just a collective frenzy, you might say? Yes, but how much goodness is in it! No one has ever felt homesick in the company of potato balls and elderflower champagne. And then Sweden is a much better symbol than the Mediterranean or Southern countries – if people are looking for reasons to be happy, let them believe that it doesn’t dry up when it’s windy. So if you’re feeling wistful, before antidepressants, try eating something comforting. And what your love tastes like is up to you.
And my recipe comes from Denmark. I’ll never forget that magical trip and how I persuaded a restaurant chef in Copenhagen to share the recipe so I could make this sunny soup at home.
Carrot soup with ginger and lemon
60 g butter
300g finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger root
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
600 g diced carrots
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1.5 tablespoons lemon zest
700 ml chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 small grated carrot
Fresh herbs seeds for decoration
How to make:
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
- Add onion and stew for 4 minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the diced carrots, tomatoes and lemon zest, stew for 1 minute.
- Add the stock and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the carrots are very soft.
- Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
- Puree the soup in a blender.
- Return the soup back into the pot.
- Stir in the lemon juice.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- If the soup tastes too thick, add more chicken stock.
- Bring soup to a boil and turn off.
- Serve in deep bowls, garnished with greens, sour cream, grated carrots, seeds and herbs.