Picture of shakshuka

Comfort Food

Cook books these days are more akin to coffee table books, with beautiful photography, some aspirational lifestyle stuff that really most of us skip over to get to the recipes, and in the good ones you might some general cooking advice.

I don’t have shelves overflowing with cookbooks, having learned that I often only use one recipe from a book then it sits around taking up room. If I use 3 or more recipes semi regularly it can stick around. I’m not even a massive fan of cooking, I just like nice food, and unfortunately no one else in my household cares enough to cook well, so it’s down to me.

Deliciously Ella' Quick & Easy Cookbook
Deliciously Ella’ Quick & Easy Cookbook

The picture above is the most recent addition to my cookbook shelf, bought purely on spec months before it came out because there was a good offer and I really liked Deliciously Ella’s previous plant based cook book (that I am currently holding hostage from the library – I need to just buy it. 3 recipes: granola, Sri Lankan Curry, and pea and watercress soup). I’m not sure about this new one as it asks for a lot of quite expensive and unusual ingredients (buckwheat groats anyone?). We aren’t vegan, or even vegetarian, but are trying to make an effort to eat a bit more sustainably.

Other staple cookbooks in this house are Jamie’s 5 Ingredients cookbook, Nigella’s Feast (which I break out every Christmas), and Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake (I make soda bread almost every weekend. And demolish it).

Persiana Cookbook by Sabrina Ghayour
Persiana Cookbook by Sabrina Ghayour

Another cookery book that I am holding hostage from the library (it’s still shut – I can’t return it) is Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour. The main character in my current WIP is of Iranian descent and she likes to cook Pesian food, so I thought I would go ‘method’ and give it a go myself. I’ve only made one recipe so far, but I’m determined to try the Iranian rice dish tahdig, like my MC makes in the book, and also zoolbia bahmieh, little okra shaped donuts soaked in saffron syrup and rose that her grandmother promises to make her. They sound divine, and the only way I’m going to get to try them is to make them myself.

I was inspired to write this post by the #7comfortfoods hashtag on Twitter, and the arrival of my new cookery book. Comfort foods are the ones that make you happy either with their heartiness or through nostalgia. Comfort foods are those that you could eat seconds and thirds of, though they need to fill you up so they generally aren’t light dishes. They are the meals you turn to when you are feeling sub par.  And here are mine:

  1. Cheesy pasta. You can call it mac ‘n’ cheese but that isn’t what we called it growing up. I remember it as one of the few things my mum taught me how to cook. I always cook it from scratch, a bit, thick, cheese sauce. If I was trying to be healthy (and my kids weren’t around) I might add pureed butternut squash to the sauce. Gives it a nice colour and a few more vitamins!
  2. Eggs. Eggs in almost any variation. Poached (my favourite), scrambled (a close second), boiled, fried, eggy bread. There are very few meals that cannot be improved by the addition of an egg: Croque Madame, pizza, poached egg on top of a grain salad, boiled egg in pasta. But you just can’t beat a runny egg with some fresh crusty bread.
  3. Chicken fried rice. Especially with leftover roast chicken. I could eat this buy the bucketful.
  4. Stir fried veg and udon noodles. As you can tell I am a carbaholic and you can’t beat these thick noodles, covered in sweet chilli sauce, and vegetables for the obvious health purposes. Also, anything covered in sweet chilli sauce.
  5. Pizza. Ham and pineapple. Don’t @ me.
  6. Cereal. I love cereal and happily eat it as a snack (though rarely for breakfast bizarrely). But I am really particular about it. My usual cereal of choice is sultana bran, and the milk has to be skimmed and ice cold and the cereal eaten rapidly before it goes soggy. But in its perfect form I could eat bowlfuls.
  7. Porridge. This is a new addition to my comfort food stable. For years I didn’t like porridge, but I wanted to so much, it seems so wholesome. A friend regularly told me how she basically made herself like porridge. I tried the odd spoonful over the years but couldn’t get on with it. Until I realise what I don’t like is warm milk – urgh! That was what was putting me off. I also don’t like creamy things (hence the skimmed milk in my cereal). So I started making it with water and lo and behold it has become one of my ultimate comfort foods. I love breakfast so much and like to make it really nice so my meal is porridge (made with water), with maple syrup, pecans, walnuts, banana, berries, and if I have some, toasted coconut. All this takes around 5 minutes to make so there is really no excuse for me, and it looks so appetising.

Bonus (there’s always a bonus!) this is my Hangover Amelioration Process (sorry – nothing can completely prevent it except not drinking): almost every time I have a few drinks I will always have a snack of toast and a glass of milk before bed. I swear it minimises my hangover.

So, what are your comfort foods? And what are your go to cookbooks?

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