If you’re feeling low or want to cheer someone up, what’s the first meal that springs to mind?

Whatever that meal, it likely falls under the category of comfort food.

Every region of the country and every country around the world have their own version of favorite go-to comfort foods. But whoever we are and wherever we are in the world, it’s almost always a simple dish with a nostalgic connotation that triggers a warm, fuzzy feeling just thinking about it.

We asked Classic Journeys guides around the world to share their favorite comfort foods, and show us how to make them at home.

These will not be the healthiest or most artistic dishes, but they’re delicious and they’re bound to lighten your mood, if not your waistline!

Italy: Risotto
Tuscan Pumpkin Risotto

Creamy Italian risotto with everyone’s favorite fall ingredient, pumpkin!

“When the hills of Tuscany welcome the warm tones of Autumn,” our Tuscany guide, Luciano, tells us, “I love to cook this risotto, drizzle it with local olive oil, and enjoy with a glass of Chianti wine!”

8 cups of vegetable broth
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cups risotto rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1.5lb pumpkin, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1/3 cup European butter
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated or shaved
1 tablespoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the vegetable broth in a pan. In a separate pot, fry the onion, then add the rice and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and stir into the rice until the wine evaporates. Add the pumpkin, then a half cup of the vegetable broth. Stir until the broth evaporates, then add another half cup. Do this for around 15 minutes, until the rice is al dente to taste. When ready, stir in the cheese, butter, oregano, salt and pepper and serve!

France: Tartiflette

Cheese, bacon and carbs are the ultimate trio and this dish from the French Savoy region combines them perfectly. Traditionally, it’s made with Reblochon cheese made in the French Alps, but unfortunately the FDA banned this from the USA because it’s unpasteurised so brie or camembert are great alternatives.

“This is my favorite après ski dish when skiing in the French Alps,” says Classic Journeys French guide Isabel. “When growing up, it would be a competition between French siblings and cousins to see who could finish the whole dish, and our fathers would greedily wait for us to give up so that they could have the rest! When I am home, I will make this and it transports me straight back to the mountains and those memories. It’s the ultimate winter dish, but I also make it in the summer for an evening meal in my garden, after a day of walking or cycling.”

1 pound of potatoes (waxy ones, like new potatoes), chopped into cubes
1 packet smoked bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of white wine
7 fluid ounces of heavy/whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 round of camembert/brie/reblochon cheese

Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain water and potatoes to steam dry for 5 minutes.
Fry the bacon, onions and garlic in a pan, add the wine and cook until evaporated.
Stir into the potatoes with cream, salt and pepper.
Add to casserole dish.
Slice the cheese wheel in lengthways, then into half moons or quarters and place on top, rind up.
Bake in the oven at 425°F for 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden brown and potatoes bubbling.
I like to add some chives from my garden to garnish!

Japan: Ramen

Ramen has long been a street food and family suppertime staple in Japan, and is increasingly becoming a hit around the world. Translating to ‘pulled noodles’, this is a delicious broth of meat, vegetables spices, served with a boiled egg.

“From the flavors, to the colors to the sound of slurping noodles, this dish is so comforting to me,” says Masako, our guide on the ground in Japan. “Ramen culture comes from cheap, casual, no fuss eating. It was an inexpensive way for my parents to feed everyone a good nourishing meal. People often worry that ramen is too difficult to make (I have seen recipes that make my eyes water more than a mouthful of wasabi!) but this is an easy version I cook for my family and they love it.”

3 eggs, boiled
Half cup of soy sauce
Half cup of rice vinegar
3 cups of water

1 pound of chicken, pork belly, or beef
1 white onion, finely sliced
2 cups of shitake mushrooms
2 carrots, finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated
4 cups of broth
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
9.5oz packet of udon noodles
3 cups of spinach
1 handful of green onions, chopped
1 red chilli pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Peel the boiled eggs, then marinade in soy sauce rice vinegar and water (the longer left to marinate, the better)
Fry onion in a pan until soft.
Add mushrooms and carrot, fry until soft.
Add garlic and ginger and fry for one minute.
Add broth, water, and soy sauce, bring to boil.
Add meat, then reduce to a simmer until cooked.
Add noodles and spinach and simmer until soft.
Remove from heat and serve with sliced eggs, red pepper (not too much for children!) and green onions on top, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Ireland: Shepherd’s Pie

A homecooked staple across the UK and Northern Ireland, Shepherd’s pie dates back to the 1700’s and is made of two layers. First you have lamb and vegetables in gravy, then a crust of creamy mashed potato.

“I’ll put this together, head out for a crisp, brisk walk through the countryside, then come home, light the log burger and pop this in the Aga. Perfection! I’m not alone in this being my favorite comfort food,” says Donal, our Ireland guide, “This is a favorite family supper across Ireland and Great Britain, the kind of thing you’d eat at your Granny’s or cook for a friend or relative who’s been ill or just had a baby. It combines everything in one pot, and you can eat it with just a fork.”

For the base:
1 pound of ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried parsley
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1.5 cups of lamb stock
2 cups of frozen peas
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the potato layer:
1.5 pounds of potatoes (ideally Yukon Gold), peeled and diced
3oz butter
Salt & pepper, to taste

Fry the onions and carrots until soft, then add the garlic and meat and fry until cooked.
Add in the stock, peas, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and flour, then simmer until reduced.

Place in casserole dish.
Boil the potatoes until they easily break with a fork, then drain and mash with butter, salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes on top of the meat.
Bake in the oven at 400°F until cheese is crispy and golden and the meat is bubbling.
Additions: To make it even more comforting, sprinkle grated cheese on top of the potato before you bake it!

Thailand: Tom Kha Gai

A silky, coconuty soup from Northern Thailand (think chicken soup with a deliciously exotic twist). For a vegetarian option, swap the chicken with tofu.

Classic Journeys guide in Thailand, Oomi reminisces “When I was ever unwell growing up, my mother would make this as a healing remedy, saying the spices, garlic and ginger would make me feel better and they always did. These days, after a busy day in Bangkok, nothing beats sitting down to sip this soup. The name translates to ‘boiled galangal chicken’ and traditionally we would make this with galangal instead of ginger, but here is a recipe with ginger which is much easier to find!” 

1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 tablespoon of Thai red curry paste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
6 cloves of garlic, diced
1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into strips
4 cups of chicken stock
4 bay leaves
2 stalks of lemongrass, sliced
1 inch of fresh ginger peeled
13oz can of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
Quarter cup of lime juice
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
Half cup of green onions, chopped
Sriacha sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 handful spinach leaves

Sauté the curry paste, red pepper flakes and garlic in the coconut oil.
Add the chicken and brown.
Add the stock, bay leaves, ginger, lemongrass, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, mushrooms, onion and pepper. Cook until the vegetables have softened.
Remove the lemongrass, bay leaves and ginger.
Add salt, pepper and sriracha to taste.
Serve garnished with spinach and green onions.

Colombia: Carne Guisada

A dish of melt-in-the-mouth beef and potatoes in a spicy stew, Carne Guisada recipes are passed down generations of Colombian families.

For Ana Maria, who leads our tours in Colombia, it’s the reminders of family home-cooking: “As a child, I would come home from school to my mother, grandmother or aunt cooking Carne Guisada, the smell would fill the house and I would be incessantly asking if it was dinner time yet! It’s the same for Colombian children today and will be for generations to come. This dish is made all over Latin America but I assure you, we Colombians do it best!”

1.5 pounds of beef, cut into chunks
1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 bay leaf
10oz of russet potatoes, quartered
Salt, to taste
White rice, cooked
Your choice of avocado/sour cream/basil/cilantro to garnish

Saute the onion and garlic in a pan, then add tomatoes and cilantro and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the beef, water, cumin and bay leaf.
Simmer on low for 2 hours, until the beef becomes tender.
Add the potatoes and cook until soft.
Serve with boiled rice and your chosen garnish.

South Africa: Bobotie

Bobotie (you pronounce it ba-boor-tea) is a truly South African dish of two layers: first mix of meat, fruits and spices and then a creamy egg topping.

“I love Bobotie because it sums up the mix of Cape Malay and Dutch heritage in my culture. To some people the combination seems odd, others say it’s like the Greek dish, moussaka. But everyone who tries it, loves it” assures Clive, who leads our South Africa tours. “Often I will prepare the meat part in advance, return home after a bike ride and put everything together. It’s an incentive to pedal harder! Enjoy with a glass of South African pinotage wine for complete perfection!”

For the meat mix
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 pound of ground beef
Quarter cup of milk
2 slices of white bread, crumbled
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of mixed herbs
3 tablespoons of sultanas
3oz of dried apricots, chopped
1oz of toasted almonds, chopped
6 bay leaves (or lemon/orange leaves)

For the egg topping:
1 cup of milk
2 eggs

For the yellow rice
1 cup of white rice
1 teaspoon of ground tumeric
2 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Peach or mango chutney

Fry the onion in butter until soft.
Add garlic, curry powder and turmeric, then stir.
Mix in the meat, breadcrumbs, milk, dried fruit, almonds and bay leaves.
Add to a casserole dish and cover with lid or foil.
Bake at 325°F for 60-90 minutes.
Turn up the oven to 400°F.
Whisk eggs, milk and seasoning.
Pour egg mixture on top of the meat and bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until cooked and golden.

Cook the rice with the turmeric and broth. Season to taste.
Serve together, garnished with cilantro with a generous spoonful of chutney.

Explore all of our culinary tours here to find more comfort food around the world.