Comfort food doubling as medicine (+recipes)

By Grant Allen

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The last thing you feel like when battling flu is cooking.

When colds and chills strike, the best way to feel better is to take comfort in simple meals. Photo / Thinkstock
When colds and chills strike, the best way to feel better is to take comfort in simple meals. Photo / Thinkstock

Who has not been afflicted by one of the latest bugs sweeping the country? If you have escaped, then I'm sure you have family or friends who have come down with something.

I'm so over it. Usually I shake off a cold after a day or so, but not this one. I've felt exhausted, hot and cold, downright wretched and certainly not interested in food or making it. Finally, I gave in and went to the doctor, taken medication and now I'm coming right.

In times of old, managing a return to health would have emanated from the kitchen. Food as medicine was well documented by the likes of Mrs Beaton and Miss Fannie Farmer, circa 1900. Any respectable Victorian or Edwardian guide to running a household would have included a chapter on "Invalid Cookery".

Fast forward to 2012. We have to keep eating, we don't feel like cooking, and we may want to help the afflicted by dropping off some nutritious supplies.

Here are some thoughts:

* If you're making food to tempt a flagging appetite, keep it simple, soothing, smooth, savoury and satisfying.

* Keep portions small and make the plate look as attractive as possible.

* Avoid over-spiced food and put the chilli on hold.

* Avoid anything too fatty or too sweet.

* If you're making food to drop off, portion it into one-meal containers which can be easily heated.

* Make a ready-to-cook, one-pot dinner, seal it in a snaplock bag and attach cooking instructions, eg, a casserole which includes all the meat, veges, stock and seasoning, ready to be put into a dish and into the oven.

* Make a bigger meal which will provide leftovers for re-heating, eg, lasagne, macaroni cheese, some pies or a braise.

* Use disposable containers such as tinfoil trays which can be put in the oven or plastic for the microwave, so you don't have to run around collecting dishes.

* If you don't cook, drop off a few simple groceries or some commercial ready-made meals. Supermarkets have tasty pre-roasted chickens, bread rolls and salads which you can grab in 10 minutes and drop round in their own containers. When you're sick, the thought of shopping can be all too hard.

And don't forget to take flowers as well.

Roast chicken and mashed potatoes

You can't go wrong with roast chicken. To make it easy on the digestion, remove the skin and make lots of gravy.

Keep the portion small, but be generous with the soothing gravy. Made with a good stock, this adds an extra health benefit to the plate.

Serve with steamed greens with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Here are other recipes to help you feel better:

* Lemon barley water

* Macaroni and cauliflower cheese

* Junket

* Soup and samo

- Herald on Sunday

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