‘Hug in a bowl’ Happy food for your Expat Family.

The comfort of home

We all have our go-to comfort food: that special dish that reminds us of home, perfect for curling up with after a long day. It can be tricky to recreate these dishes when you’re living abroad, and even trickier still if you have to stay indoors for a while. So we spoke with Rachael Kealy (foodie & writer) about her advice for using our time at home and a little ingenuity in the kitchen, to allow us to serve up that hug-in-a-bowl dish you remember so well. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s favourite congee, your father’s special roast chicken, or your mother’s delicious dhal.

Freshly baked bread

For many of us, getting to the grocery store is a challenge at the moment, and that means going back to traditional recipes and methods, as well as making do with what we have. Bread-making, for example, is popular right now, as we seek the simple solace of the sliced pan or freshly-buttered toast we remember so well. Irish soda bread is an easy one - its basic ingredients are flour, butter and buttermilk. If you can’t find buttermilk, adding a little lemon juice or white vinegar to normal milk will work well. You can also mix in your own ingredients, depending on what produce is available: nuts or seeds add flavour and texture, as will dried fruit like raisins or sultanas. If you fancy a challenge, you could try making your own sourdough; it will take a few days to get the starter going, but once mastered, you’ll have the perfect bread for topping with local mushrooms, a farmhouse cheese or fresh figs.

Pizza your way

Pizza is a great way to use up leftovers, experiment with substitutes and incorporate flavours from your new home. If you can’t get hold of pepperoni, try some sliced local sausage instead such as Polish kielbasa, French andouille or Spanish chorizo. If you prefer seafood, ask your nearest fishmonger for recommendations for a local fish, or crack open that forgotten tin of anchovies in the larder. While the traditional cheese is usually mozzarella, it’s fun to explore some alternatives like English cheddar or American Monterey Jack. You can also add whatever fresh vegetables are in your crisper drawer. The great thing is, you don’t even need to make dough to satisfy a pizza craving; try assembling the ingredients on top of flatbread, a baguette or even a juicy portobello mushroom. 

Nourishing noodles

Whether they’re instant or hand-rolled, rice or flour-based, Japanese or Italian, noodles are the ultimate global comfort food and a much-loved part of family dinners all around the world. They’re a great accompaniment to all sorts of dishes, from nourishing broths to rich meat sauces; you can toss a handful of ramen into a warming chicken soup or add some lo mein to fresh vegetables for a quick stir fry. If you’re keen to tackle a kitchen project, you could try making them from scratch, with flour, eggs and a pinch of salt. Or now might be a great time to slow braise that chunk of beef that’s been hiding in the bottom of the freezer. It’ll taste beautiful with some fresh pappardelle, grated Parmesan and perhaps even a glass of that chianti you’ve been saving.


In these challenging times, it’s natural to relish the comfort of familiar cooking and soothing foods. By combining the basics of a beloved family recipe with inspiration from your host country, you can use cooking to connect your old home with your new one. And if you forget a crucial step or key ingredient, your family is only a quick video call away, ready with tips, advice and a friendly smile, wherever you are in the world.