The mood in our house has been somewhat sobre lately. Not for any concrete, pre-packaged reason, but for that unattainably tear-your-heart-out existential melancholy. And so this morning I took to try and remedy the situation with the only way I know …
My Ukrainian mother used to tell me stories of how, when she was little and poorly, her mum would make her this modest dish that would, without fail, lift her spirits and heal her body – fried potatoes. The spuds would be fried to an almost sloppy consistency and always in fat – butter was preferable but too expensive and not that easy to source in post-war urban Southern Ukraine – so they would use what was available and often sent from near-by villages. Pork fat.
Or to be precise shkvarki – bits of bacon or salo, that resulted from an earlier rendering of pork fat or even another meal. They are the left-over of the left-overs, those scrunched-up pieces of fatty saltiness that do wonders when your tongue and tastebuds are ‘furry’ from a cold…or numb spirits…
I have been preparing to make Ukrainian salo – that ultimate dish of cured pork fat that my dear reader will soon have the pleasure of pre-reviewing. And so the by-product has been some left-over bits of raw fat that I have rendered (as above). The bits that haven’t melted look bronze and pink and totally unattractive, but I have saved them to make this early-morning healing omelelle.
And so I got up early, fried slowly a couple of spoons of shkvarki, added thick slices of pre-cooked potatoes, chopped up spring onions and mixed up eggs. Allowed to set just about and voila – an omelette to heal your soul and warm up your belly.
This was served with an unlikely accompaniment of beetroot and (canned) asparagus. We needed comfort, but a little bit of sexy glam was not to go amiss.
I would love to hear what your ultimate comfort food memory is?