The comfort food I reach for most often is pasta. Nothing else provides the sort of balm that a bowl of spaghetti can bring, other than perhaps the reassuring sight of a jug of thick custard. But a pan of fluffy white rice, especially if it’s been cooked gently with star anise or a cinnamon stick, comes a close second.
The nutty, soothing smell of rice cooking is one of those scents that greets you when you come into the kitchen. In fact, I think it’s among my top ten kitchen smells along with onions sweating gently in olive oil, a simmering stock pot, sausages sizzling on the hob, toast that is about to go over, and the hum of garlic hitting a pan of hot butter. They are all evocative childhood scents, which is probably why they still hold some magic.
A pan of slowly browning mushrooms is up there with the Great Kitchen Scents, too. Here, their earthy sweetness is brought out even further with a spicy garlic butter. Make sure you give the mushrooms a chance to brown all over as that’s where so much of the flavour is. If you can’t get gochujang (an incredible Korean fermented chilli paste made with fermented soy beans, rice flour and chilli), use a teaspoon of white miso and a few dashes of a dry hot sauce like sriracha. This sweet, spicy butter is so good I’m planning on making extra for steaks at the weekend, blending all the ingredients with softened rather than melted butter, then rolling into a sausage and placing in the fridge to be sliced off and melted over just cooked meat.
I had planned to pop a crispy fried egg on top of this, imagining you’d want the yolk to cut through the spicy sauce, but I found it didn’t need it in the end. Although if you make extra and serve it all again in some new iteration tomorrow, a fried egg would be a great addition.