JCT

#25 What’s your favourite comfort food?

In Food & Drink on January 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

In January, everyone needs chips.

If you weren’t already feeling miserable enough,  you will be when you learn that we are now well into the gloomiest month of the year – officially. If you hadn’t already worked out that January is the coldest, darkest, bleakest, most penniless month, then scientists have done that for you.

The following formula predicts exactly which day will be the most depressing:

1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA

Where:
W: Weather
D: Debt
d: Money due in January pay
T: Time since Christmas
Q: Time since breaking New Year’s resolution
M: General motivational levels
NA: The need to take action

Usually this falls somewhere between the 19 and 24 January. This can be doubly bad if it falls on a Monday or a Tuesday – the days of the week which statistically have the most suicides.

GPs say exercise and reading are the best ways to combat this debilitating seasonal depression. But I prescribe comfort food.

So in an antidote to all those truly depressing magazine articles about wearing Lycra and eating salad (salad?! this is no time for salad!) I propose a poll to find the ultimate comfort food. If I can work out how to add the polldaddy  function to this blog, then please join in the debate there or in the comments.


Meanwhile here are some of my own favourites:


10. Date slice – if you are in the SE15 or SE22 area, I recommend the date and orange slices from charming little deli Frog on the Green. Although these can be argued to be healthy on account of containing oats, there are plenty of unhealthy things on offer in this shop too.


9. Popcorn – at about 75p for a bag of corn that will last ages, this is far too cheap and easy to make for cinemas to charge what they do. It’s been accused of being healthy; not when you coat it in sugar dissolved in melted butter.

8. Cheese – this month I find myself in the mood for grilled Rocamadour or crotin with bread for dipping; Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire with a nice chutney; Comté on its own

7. The Rasa lunchbox – A cheap eats classic. The £3.50 hot lunchbox (it;s probably gone up by now) from the back of this Charlotte Street Indian used to be a press day favourite when working on Tottenham Court Road. One meat dish, one veg dish, rice sometimes a bit of chapati, a little pot of spiced black bean and cabbage, and a tub of milk pudding that I always declined.


6. Cup of tea and a biscuit – there is no crisis so terrible it can;t be solved with a nice cup of tea. Strong, milk, sugar plus a biscuit or two for dunking. (pictured here, Waitrose Essentials custard creams, 47p for a 400g pack)


5. Creme Egg™ – The first Creme Egg™ of the year is an annual rite of passage marking the first notes of Spring as clearly as the call of the cuckoo or the first snowbells to burst into bloom.


4. Cornflakes – but only if eaten in pyjamas at the wrong end of the day. Possibly with chopped bananas on top.

3. Bacon & mush pea sandwich – as featured in Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food.



2. Fish finger sandwich
– I can’t believe it took me so long to discover these. Add reconstituted potato shapes, garden peas, and tomato ketchup to taste.


but the winner has to be…

1. The chip butty – piping hot chips, floury bap, a sprinkling of s and a dousing of v… carb plus carb with some salt and fat for good measure. The furry hot water bottle of comfort foods. Savour on days of low spirits and even lower temperatures.

Now add your own…

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  1. I find celery and salt the perfect combination of a healthy approach balanced against the reality that things have gotten so bad there is nothing else left in the fridge.

  2. OK, some comfort foods for you – we’re talking grotty treats here!
    Try white bread, toasted, covered in Marmite, topped with a fried egg and a pour over of baked beans – much, much better than it sounds, I promise.

    This next one’s pretty serious – taught to me by an ex US Navy submariner: steak ‘n’ eggs. Take a steak, and cut it into pieces “the size of a man’s thumb” as the old salt says… Fry them briefly on a very hot heat, then crack enough eggs into the pan to cover the bottom, creating a sort of eggy, beefy frisbee. Slide onto a plate and murder in chilli sauce or lime pickle…

    This next one is similar: bacon and eggs, as usual, but with loads of lime pickle. Works like a dream. You won’t want ordinary bacon and eggs again.

    OK – true gross-out here: Domino’s pizza (pick your poison) and a portion of kebab meat (the proper old lady’s thigh on a spit, lamb not chicken). Put the doner meat on the pizza, top with extra cheese, and cook as normal. Proper, guilty little one, that.

    Herring roe: incredibly cheap, very strong flavour – you’ll love it or hate it. Roll the roes in salty, peppery flour, and crisp off in a pan with a good whack of olive oil. Serve on butter toast with lemon and more salt squeezed over… really amazing.

    And just for measure, here’s a really good pasta dish you can make with stuff you normally have knocking around. It’s actually quite authentic, so not really junk food, but lovely. Fry LOADS of garlic and chillies in a bit of olive oil. Turn the heat off and break up a tin of tuna fish thoroughly into the mix. Boil pasta, drain, and mix in the tuna mix. Serve up with a good sprinking of parmesan and a dollop of olive oil poured over. Don’t be tempted to add anything else; it’s perfect as it is.

    And finally, my favourite: not junk food, but definitely comfort food. The ultimate tuna-mayo sandwich filling: warning – this is a bit pricey and takes a long time for a sandwich! Finely chop some spring onion (or ordinary onion will do as well). Add a shit load of capers, a good handful of chooped herbs (basil, coriander, chives, any leafy herb will do really), some chillie sauce/chopped chillies, some good-quality olives (stone them and chop them), and a tin of tuna fish (as posh as you like – but NOT real tuna, which doesn’t work well). Next, hard boil an egg or two while you make your mayonnaise. Take an egg yolk, and add olive oil, very slowly, until you eventually reach a fork-bendingly thick emulsion. Loosen with lemon/lime juice or vinegar, and season with salt. Stir the mayonnaise into the other ingredients (use plenty) and smash it all into a fine pulp with a fork. Next, toast some Italian-style bread (like focaccia or ciabatta). Then spread the mixture on thick, top with sliced, hard-boiled egg, MORE mayonnaise, and MORE whole anchovies! Then top with some lettuce (something with crunch, like cos) – and you’re done.

    • Brilliant tips! Thanks for those. Will definitely be having bacon and eggs and lime pickle for lunch next week. (dubious about the Domino’s one, though, I’m afraid)

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yannis Boutlas and Elizabeth Saunders, LanaC. LanaC said: This blog perfectly captures my January mood at the moment! https://jctblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/24-whats-your-favourite-comfort-food/ […]

  4. My personal all-time favourite comfort food is a Ginster’s or similar Cornish pasty with baked beans. Or a rich, meaty stew – braised lamb shanks, for instance. For a quick fix, not a lot wrong with a slab of fruit cake, with or without a hunk of good-quality Cheddar or other British cheese (perhaps not Stilton!) to eat with it.

    • Ah yes, the whole rich family of fruit cakes – lardy cake, tea loaf, etc. And thanks for the cake ‘n’ cheese tip. A friend (from Yorkshire, so presumably should know) was asking me which cheese you were supposed to eat with cake. I was dubious about the practice, but now I know.
      Still not sure about the Ginsters though. In Scotland they do a nice line in pies topped with mashed potato and baked beans.

  5. RE: #6. While I agree with the sentiment, IMHO tea just doesn’t work with London water. This discovery has also made me realise why so many Londoners drink bottled water.

  6. For those up north (well Manchester & Bolton but probably more), please replace no.7 with a trip to your local purveyor of ‘rice & three’. This and That in Manchester’s Northern Quarter is my own personal favourite http://thisandthatcafe.co.uk/

    Other fav comfort food are: Spaghetti Carbonara – that oozy mix of pasta, bacon/ham & eggy cream sauce, Bavarian Slice – like a custard slice but creamier & with jam in and Jerk Chicken with Rice & Peas – from either Jerk’n’Spice on Princess Parkway or Kool Runnings van but will make do with homemade attempt.

    • Thanks for that contribution, though personally the juxtaposition of the words ‘oozy’ and ‘pasta’ makes me retch. And I totally forgot about the whole steamed pudding family jam roly poly, syrup sponge, Christmas pud which must surely be in there, not to mention crumbles (though possibly too healthy?)

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