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Donal Skehan
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Bowls of Comfort

January 08
Bowls of Comfort | DonalSkehan.com

Right before my son Noah was born I briefly dabbled in making my own plates and bowls at a pottery studio close to where we lived in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful antidote to all the nervous energy attached to becoming a new parent. The process of forming clay into vessels for the kitchen is grounding and evokes a sense of flow, where you are completely immersed in the action at hand with little space for outside distraction. Needless to say it didn’t last long, with the arrival of a baby, focus was automatically drawn elsewhere and quickly my visits to the studio became less frequent. This brief foray into ceramics was not, however, without success. Back in Dublin now, most of our meals are still served in the thick clay bowls I made from that time and are a fond reminder of the connection between one chapter of life and another. They make the bowls of winter stews, soups and pastas all the more comforting.

The recipes this week are all best enjoyed in deep bowls in the depth of winters darkness, they are rib sticking and provide all the sustenance required to tackle even the most blustery of days. There is nothing sophisticated about this  Mac & Cheese  and nor should there be. An American classic said to be made famous by Thomas Jefferson, who served it at a state dinner in 1802, it has endured through the years making it a staple for American home cooking alongside sloppy joes and meatloaf. I make a version that relies on a really good cheese sauce, preferably made with Irish cheddar and use it to coat freshly cooked store bought filled pasta like tortellini before baking it all in the oven. It’s a simple method that leaves you with what feels like elevated end results.

On the theme of American home cooking, I have always been drawn to the mysterious healing effects of chicken noodle soup, also known as Jewish penicillin, as it’s the medicine of choice for Jewish mothers and said to heal a whole manner of woes. My  Chicken Dumpling Stew  is somewhat similar, perhaps not quite as medicinal but certainly comforting enough to leave you with your fill of warmth and stodge. Tender chicken in what can only be described as a gravy-like liquid that tastes just like your Sunday roast and topped with buttermilk, chive and cheddar dumplings, this is the winter food you know you need.

Through the darker days of winter, beyond the stodge, I often find myself turning to asian flavours to break the monotony of brown food.  Hot & Sour Prawn Noodle Soup  delivers the difference with fresh vibrant flavour while still maintaining richness via an aromatic coconut broth.

3 bowls of comfort that are instant hits- give them a go this weekend!

Follow these links for the recipes in the photos:

Mac & Cheese 

Chicken Dumpling Stew

Hot & Sour Prawn Noodle Soup

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