What is comfort food?
Imagine the scene: you’ve just finished a 15-hour work slog, the rain is coming down sideways, you’re starting to get a cold and now the washing machine’s leaking. What do you most want to eat?
Ask ten people and you’ll no doubt get ten different answers, but there will be a ubiquitous theme. It will be something that makes us feel nostalgic, often because it reminds us of home, family and childhood. It is this combination of happy memories and warmth that we all seek out in whatever our comfort food of choice is. Oh, and it has to be packing carbs like they’re going out of fashion, of course…
Depending on your background, your comfort food could be anything from dosa and sambar to shepherd’s pie, from ramen to enchiladas. It tends to be inexpensive, slow-cooked food you remember your parents making when you were little. Or, if you were a child of the eighties, something your parents took out of the freezer and put in the microwave!
While your arteries might complain if you ate macaroni cheese, roast pork, and steak pie every day, a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Everything in moderation, we say. Food isn’t just fuel, it can improve your mood and brings family and friends together. Not many things in life are better than gathering round a big pot of chicken tagine with your nearest and dearest.
Comfort food dishes are often economical, flexible and forgiving. You can adjust them to use up leftovers (hands up – who remembers chicken pie, chicken and mushroom pie, chicken and ham pie, chicken and leek pie, chicken and sweetcorn pie…). They often turn out to be seasonal too, presumably because when produce is in season it tastes better, it’s more readily available and it’s cheaper.
Sadly, for most of us, it just isn’t practical to come home after a busy day and start making cassoulet. Anything that takes longer than about half an hour is only realistically going to be done on a weekend.
But when you’ve got the mid-week blues, you crave something homely and comforting. So we’ve taken some popular comfort food dishes and made them accessible as mid-week meals, just when you really need them. Check out our SimplyCook Mexican Bean Chilli, Beef Stroganoff, Pork Chop with Cassoulet Beans and our delicious Beef Rendang. We’ve sealed in the flavour so you can get that slow-cooked feeling but in under 30 minutes. That will definitely hit the spot.
In the dreary depths of winter, comfort food is good for the soul. When you’ve got more time at the weekend, invite some friends and cook up a storm with our individual chicken and pesto pies:
Individual Chicken and Pesto Pies
You will need:
- 50g butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- Leftover roast chicken, roughly chopped
- 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
- 200ml chicken stock
- 3 tbsp creme fraiche
- 3 tbsp ready-made pesto
- 35g sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 25g pine nuts, toasted
- 200g puff pastry
- 1 egg mixed with a little milk
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4. Melt the butter in a wide pan and slowly cook the onion and carrot until softened and starting to turn golden.
- Add the chicken and heat through for a couple of minutes before adding the flour. Cook for another couple of minutes, stirring to ensure the flour doesn’t catch but instead combines with the buttery juices.
- Slowly stir in the stock to make a sauce and let it heat through and amalgamate for a couple of minutes.
- Stir in the crème fraiche and pesto along with some salt and pepper and take off the heat.
- Stir in the pine nuts and sundried tomatoes.
- Fill individual pie dishes almost to the top. Brush some egg wash around the edge of the dishes then top with circular discs of puff pastry. Brush with more egg wash. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden.