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Why Roasted Salmon Is Ruby Tandoh's Comfort Food

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“Everybody’s gotta eat right?” This quote from Common is what ushers you into Eat Up! Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want, Ruby Tandoh’s just-released book. Since Tandoh competed on The Great British Bake Off in 2013—she was that season’s youngest baker, still in college, and a finalist—she has published two cookbooks: Crumb: A Baking Book, then Flavour: Eat What You Love. Eat Up also offers recipes, but they are layered between stories and reflections.

The supposed simplicity of Common’s question—much like the title’s mandate—is what Tandoh spends her book unpacking. We all have to eat, but eating is complicated, really complicated. Which means, in Eat Up, you’ll find food to make—from tomatoey chickpea pasta to caramel-swirl brownies—but also food for thought—from food in films to food in prisons, from cooking snobbery to eating disorders.

What Ruby Tandoh Wants to Tell You About Eating Well
What Ruby Tandoh Wants to Tell You About Eating Well

In this spirit, the recipe titles bring more to the table than you’d expect. It’s not just Chicken Soup, but Chicken Soup for the Common Cold. Not just Hazelnut Porridge, but Hazelnut Porridge for Diabetes. And not just Salmon with Sweet Potato and Kale, but Åsa’s Salmon with Kale and Sweet Potato, for Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder and Low Moods. This one, in particular, caught our eye—both for how wonderful it sounded and for Tandoh’s story behind its origin. Here is what she wrote:

Anyone who’s ever suffered from depression—no matter how mild or short-lived—will know that it is stubborn. It comes to you and sticks like a burr. There’s no banishing it with positive thinking or peppy mantras; no cocktail of antidepressants can guarantee to lift the cloud away. But there are things that you can do to help yourself stay afloat through the sickness. There’s one meal that I always turn to when my depression sets in: it’s a meal that my friend Åsa made for me when I visited her in Norway, and it reminds me of all the joy I felt eating a dinner cooked for me by someone who cared.

Comfort food.
Comfort food. Photo by Julia Gartland

When I make it for myself now, it’s a way of re-enacting that care, and showing myself the self-love I deserve. What’s more, it’s great for a sickly brain. It’s a dish of baked salmon, served with kale and sweet potato mash. The salmon is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are fantastic for brain function, and vitamin D, which can help to remedy the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Kale is a source of iron and potassium, while sweet potato provides a healthy dose of vitamin A, which is great for your skin and vision. And even without considering the vitamin- and mineral-rich credentials of the meal, it’s a dish that makes you feel a little better just for the sheer vibrancy of it: bright green kale, pink salmon, terracotta sweet potatoes and a lot of good, home comfort.

Åsa’s Salmon with Kale and Sweet Potato

Åsa’s Salmon with Kale and Sweet Potato

Food52 Food52
Serves as few or many as needed
  • Salmon fillets (1 per person)
  • Medium sweet potatoes (1 per person), cubed
  • Fistful kale (1 per person)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky salt
  • Unsalted butter, soft
  • Heavy cream
Go to Recipe

What food to you make to comfort others or yourself? Tell us about it in the comments.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Salmon, Seafood, Sweet Potato/Yam, Wellness