This is not comfort food to me.
To me, comfort food is a simple feast which evokes memories of childhood or a happy time. That is what brings succour to the soul and explains why we cook these dishes again and again, and in the depths of winter when our thoughts can turn to the past.
This is Wootton Manor, the 17th century listed house in Sussex in which Elizabeth David, cookery writer, grew up. A number of extensions were added by family friend, the architect Detmar Blow, (Isabella Blow married his namesake and grandson) including a staircase hall, library, ballroom and nurseries, resulting in an interesting yet harmonious Arts and Crafts - Jacobean house.
Is it any wonder Elizabeth David became such a sparkling writer? She may not have had a completely idyllic childhood, but she was surrounded by wit and stimulating intellects: Walter De La Mare and Rudyard Kipling were local and frequent visitors.
Here is Elizabeth David (second from right) in 1923 with her father and mother Stella and Rupert Gwynne) and her sisters Felicite, Priscilla and Diana.
Like all children of that class and era, she was largely raised by her nanny, in her case, one Nanny Cheshire, who used to cook the girls little treats on the open fire in the nursery. These were oases in a desert of junket, tapioca, boiled turnip tops and spinach, mutton and dry rice pudding. Until they turned eleven, the girls were only permitted to dine with their parents once a week, at Sunday lunch.
The dish which sticks in my memory, and of which Elizabeth David wrote so evocatively, was that of mushrooms in cream.
The girls would venture out in the early morning to pick the tiny button mushrooms which grew in the field beyond the bluebell wood. They then brought the mushrooms back to Nanny, who would briefly saute the mushrooms and pour cream over them. Once the cream has bubbled and reduced a bit, they would be ready to eat.
This is a wonderful dish which I cook frequently finished with freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley.
My comfort food is equally simple. Cold tomato on hot toast. My mother used to make this for me when I was little. It is a little funny how something so mundane can be so good. But that is the way of life sometimes.
Like all things so simple, there are a number of requirements which must always be met:
The toast must be proper thick sourdough. It must be spread with butter. Tomatoes must be sliced thinly and then drizzled with olive oil and Maldon salt. The tomatoes have to come from the fridge, even though I don't usually keep them there.
The contrast between the hot toast and coldish tomato is taste heaven. Truly.