Comfort food is a term much bandied about these days. Indeed, I have seen it used in so many different contexts that I am no longer certain I understand what it means. To add to the confusion, what constitutes comfort food is, clearly, a matter of subjective judgement. What may bring “comfort” to me might have no such affect on you. For me, comfort food must be part of winter. It must usually be hot and come from the past, or have associations or links with food eaten in childhood. It smacks of solid fare and of a simple, no nonsense approach to eating.
Thus, if you flashed the words comfort food before me, I would immediately think of dishes like sausages and mash, corn beef and cabbage, spaghetti Bolognese, roast beef with trimmings, rice pudding or boiled eggs and toast. All of these create warm feelings within me and conjure up memories of happy meals eaten in other times.
I hope that you share my understanding of what is meant by comfort food. Even if you don’t, as the chill winds of winter approach, I feel certain you will appreciate this bacon and cheese pie which, for me, is quintessential comfort food. A dear friend gave the recipe to my wife many years ago. She in turn had inherited it from her Yorkshire mother-in-law. Like some of the other recipes I have shared with you, it has long been a great favourite with my children.
Bacon and Cheese Pie
Serves 4-6 persons
900g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
180g grated cheddar cheese
2 large onions, chopped
400g streaky rashers
Salt and grated black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C
Grease a large ovenproof dish. Lightly grill the rashers, slice into small pieces and put aside.
Melt the butter over a medium heat, stir in the flour and add the milk gradually until it has been incorporated and the sauce is smooth and glossy. Add the grated cheese and stir until it has melted into the sauce. You then have a strong cheese, or Mornay, sauce.
Check for seasoning and remove from the heat.
It is now time to put everything together; Layer the bottom of the dish with some of the onions, scatter a handful of the potatoes on top and then some of the chopped bacon. Continue this layering process until all the ingredients are in the dish and then pour over the hot cheese sauce, making sure that it reaches the bottom by giving the potato and onion mix a few pokes.
Place a lid on the dish and cook on the top shelf of the oven for at least one hour.
To check that the pie is cooked, insert a skewer or fork as you would for testing whether potatoes were cooked. About 20 minutes before the end of the cooking period, remove the lid. This should give you a pie with a golden brown crust. Allow to cool for a few minutes before dishing up.
I always serve this bacon and cheese pie with a crisp, green salad. While leftovers heated up the following day are delicious, particularly when accompanied with fried eggs, as is to be expected with potatoes, this dish does not freeze well