I have a confession to make. Despite the love for cookbooks, the passion for cooking and the fact that I have had a very lazy afternoon and evening, sometimes I just can’t be bothered to cook. Yes I’ve got a long list of recipes on the wall and too many cookbooks, but today I just could not bring myself to cook anything from them. Today I really didn’t know what I wanted to eat, everything on the list just looked too time consuming or pointless to cook for one. Tempted with the idea of a takeaway, I nearly caved but possibly for the first time in my life, my willpower came to the rescue. Miracles DO happen! Driving to the supermarket, I had a brainwave and knew exactly what I had to have. Now foodies, brace yourselves because this is a very unfoodie confession and Italians, all I can do in advance is apologise and beg you to forgive me. But when I want comfort and a filling dinner, it has to be spaghetti bolognese, and, gulp, it has to be Dolmio, There, I’ve said it. A whole paragraph to summon the courage to say those words! I can’t help it, the heart wants what the heart wants! Or the stomach anyway. Anyway, I’ve said before, I’m not a food snob and I know that a bottled tomato sauce advertised by creepy puppets that look like David Gest isn’t authentic Italian food. I don’t eat it to get an Italian hit. I eat it because it takes me back to being a little girl watching Gladiators and Generation Game on a Saturday night with the family eating spaghetti bolognese. What you ate with your family as a child definitely plays a big part in what your tastes are as an adult, and it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your eating habits are or how many confits, emulsions or quenelles you’ve had, you will still hanker for food that takes you back to your childhood. Admittedly, the spag bol I had as a child was homemade and tasted marvellous (and randomly had peas in it), but I no longer live at home and today was not a day I wanted to stand around chopping onions and garlic, so Dolmio it was. I ain’t ashamed, and neither should you be of your go-to comfort foods! The boyfriend can’t understand the love for spaghetti bolognese, to him its just a run of the mill meal his mum forced him to eat with big chunks of veg in. I pity him for not having the Gladiators/spag bol experience, he don’t know what he’s missing!
If you’ve seen Ratatouille (a Pixar film about a rat who can cook, and is definitely in my top 5 films of all time), then you’ll probably remember the scene where Anton Ego, the mean food critic, takes a bite of the rats Ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood and his mothers lovingly made ratatouille. Then he is transformed into a lovely lovely man and they all live happily ever after after. True. The power of good comfort food! A certain cheap nasty sausage brand has ripped off this scene for its adverts, and for that they should be thoroughly ashamed!
To make this Saturday night even more comforting, I had some shop bought vanilla ice cream and some toffee sauce. Sounds unexciting doesn’t it? Wrong! Good vanilla ice cream is so overlooked, and while cookie dough, strawberry cheesecake and the like are delicious, vanilla will always be my favourite, its just so good. I’m not talking about cheap fluffy aerated vanilla ice cream, good ice cream should never be fluffy, only smooth, and must have little flecks of vanilla seed contained within. Otherwise don’t bother. Homemade toffee sauce by the way, is amazing and you really should make it. I used to make it for toffee apple crumble, but every time I made it I would sneakily eat several spoonfuls at a time, leaving not a great deal for the crumble. I always had a sneaky feeling it would go great with ice cream, and my instincts have not failed me! There is no nutritional value whatsoever to this sauce (its made up of cream, brown sugar, butter and golden syrup) and will keep your dentist in business for quite some time, but if you make a batch it does keep in the fridge for about a month. I can guarantee though that it will not be around that long. I know that I’ve been pretty bad this week with the food I’ve eaten, but in my defence I am running three miles tomorrow for Sport Relief, and have been to the gym several times. I only exercise so that I don’t have to give up the food I love.
Anyway, to compensate for the lack of cookbook challenges this weekend, here are some of my favourite comfort foods:
- Cheese and baked beans toastie. Sounds messy, is messy, but is also delicious and my favourite childhood food. Best part is the nearly burnt crispy bits of cheese stuck to the crusts.
- Dairy Milk. I love ‘grown up’ chocolate, but while they may be tasty and sophisticated, they do not comfort in the way Dairy Milk does. Christmas Day as a child was not complete without a ginormous Dairy Milk present, tucked down the side of the bed and bit by bit devoured by the time we had to go back to school. Unbeatable.
- Roast chicken. No explanation needed.
- Steak and dauphinoise potatoes. The fail safe meal the boyfriend cooks for me on a Saturday night in when he’s home. Red meat, carbs, cheese, cream, and the boyfriend back home – perfection.
- Apple and blackberry crumble and Birds custard. I love homemade custard, but childhood custard was always Birds. Blackberries handpicked with the parents from the fields in the village. Heaven.
What about your comfort foods???