Tag Archives: comfort food

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it: popcorn and Worcestershire sauce

Until last week I had never made popcorn on the stove. Well at least not as an unsupervised adult. Do you all know how easy it is to make? Very. And cheap! And not bad for you! A winning combination if ever there was one.


But you know what makes it winninger? Worcestershire sauce. I’m sure Anna will poo poo this particular good + good combination but don’t listen to her, internet. It’s awesome. I used to make it all the time with microwave popcorn in my New York years (read: when I was broke) and am very pleased to have been reunited with a favorite snack.

Thank you, me, for that random popping corn purchase six months ago.

Hot, cheap and saucy

Recent meals have been conjured up to combat a few sad truths: January malaise has set in, it’s freezing out and we have a LOT of root vegetables around. And did I mention it’s freezing?

Last Thursday I hit upon a winner, a perfection of a basic curry I’ve been trying to get right for a long time now. The trick was moving my sauce to North Africa by adding harissa. Who knows if I’ll get it right again, but with any luck the act of blogging it will help cement it in my brain.

I started by slicing an onion and slowly caramelizing it over a medium flame in a little olive oil. The trick is to let the onions sit undisturbed for minutes at a time, but without burning them. Take your time with this. It took me 30+ plus before mine were browned and totally limp.

To this I added a hunk of sliced ginger – I used shoestring thickness slices for no good reason – and two cloves of garlic, also sliced. Let these cook for 10 minutes or so, until the ginger is nice and soft. Turn down the heat if you’re worried about the garlic burning.

I then added a teaspoon/teaspoon and a half each of cumin, cinnamon, tumeric and corriander, a few grinds of black pepper (add a little water if there isn’t enough oil to absorb the spices), and a big spoonful of harissa paste. Harissa varies a lot from blend to blend, so the amount you use depends on how hot yours is, and how hot you like your food.

So now the flavors are developed all that’s missing is the liquid to actually make it a sauce. I added spoonfuls of plain yogurt and water until I was happy with the texture and flavor. To finish it off I stirred in a whole bunch of chopped cilantro and squeezed a lemon into the pot, and turned off the heat.

What did I do with my magical sauce? On day 1 I poured it over roasted carrots, potatoes, parsnips and cabbage (weird, I know, but weirdly good), and some couscous. Day 2 I added it to some good chicken stock I’d livened up with some fresh ginger and more harissa, and added my leftover couscous and veggies for the cheapest, most warming supper I think I’ve ever made.


Butternut squash pasta sauce

My blog mates have been trying to kill you with their posts lately, so today I offer a healthier alternative. I say ‘healthier’ and not ‘healthy’ since while this does involve a very large squash, it also involves a cup of cream and cheese. Yum.

I have never cooked squash before because I don’t really like squash. But I’ve noticed, over the past few years, that I don’t really mind as many vegetables as  I claim to hate. I don’t like them, but they’re ok. So when I saw this recipe for Butternut squash pasta, I thought I’d see if I disliked it as much as I thought I did.

I followed the recipe exactly (well almost), and it was good. If you like butternut squash, it may even be great. But so sweet! Which is weird! When I make it again, I’ll swap out the cream in favor of plain yogurt which should help.

Is squash always so overpowering? I kept adding more lemon juice to balance out the sweet. Any other suggestions, my squash-loving friends?

Recipe after the jump.

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Pea soup from Canadia

Yellow split pea soup

Having grown up in The Great White North, I am often asked ‘what is Canadian cuisine?’ My response is always that there no clear answer – Canadian culture has been so heavily influenced by the massive waves of immigrants over the country’s history that meals can vary greatly depending on regional populations: British, French, Scandinavian, German and (more recently) Asian and American foods all have their place. If I have to think about ‘traditional’ Canadian meals I instantly come up with dishes that would have be served to loggers and pelters: hearty meals that often use preserved meats or game made with ingredients that were either in season or had a long shelf life.

This split pea soup is one of the dishes that I find most comforting and although variations would be found around all of Scandinavia, Northern Germany and The Netherlands, it was also a staple of early Europeans in Canada – likely due to the affordability and long shelf-life of ingredients – even today, having sourced the ham hock from a posh butcher in north London this was under £3.

It might look like gruel, but this a delicious, healthy, high-protein soup that really satisfies after being out in the cold.

Recipe (serves 4)

2.5 Cups of yellow split peas

2.3 Litres of water

1 Ham hock

2 Medium carrots (finely chopped)

2 Medium onions (finely chopped)

1 Teaspoon of dried thyme


Salt to taste – you likely won’t need any if the ham hock is salted

Rinse peas and place in a large pot with the water, bring to a boil and allow them to simmer for 2 minutes. Set aside for 1 hour.

Add ham hock to peas and water, bring to the boil and add the chopped onion and carrot – reduce heat and simmer for about an hour and a half. You will have to skim the surface a few times during this period. Remove the ham hock – separate any meat from the fat and bone, return to the soup. Continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until very thick – you might need to whisk the soup together as the peas start to separate and stick to the bottom. If serving immediately no binding agent is required, but if you will be serving the next day (which adds to flavour), stir in some roux 15 minutes before removing from heat.

To make the roux, melt 1tbs butter in a sauce pan and add enough flour to form a thick paste, cook for a few minutes to prevent roux from tasting like raw flour.

This soup really hits the spot after a long day of clubbing baby seals, but is equally brilliant reheated as an easy meal on a cold London evening.

– Ryan

As Requested by Rob: One Recipe and One Technique

Ryan's secret tool: the potato ricer

The Technique: Mashed Potatoes

Fact: mashed potatoes are best when made with a potato ricer! Every restaurant I have worked at has always used a ricer to give their mash a creamy consistency that you don’t get from mashing (too lumpy) or whipping (often overworked and starchy). Bring salted water and floury potatoes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until very tender. Pass potatoes through a ricer and combine with butter and crème fraîche – add a splash of milk if too thick, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For mustard mash: add grain mustard and dijon to the potatoes and mix thoroughly.

The Recipe: Onion Gravy

* 2 tbsp olive oil

* 2 red onion, thinly sliced

* 2 tsp soft brown sugar

* 2 tbsp plain flour

* 600ml hot beef stock

* 200ml red wine

* 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and sprinkle with the sugar, then cook gently, stirring from time to time for 12-15 minutes or until the onion is lightly caramelised. Sprinkle the flour over the caramelised onion, stir and cook for 1 minute, then gradually stir in the stock, wine and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently until thickened.

We were also asked to recommend a veg as a side for the sausage and mash. My initial reaction is: there are onions in the gravy, but if you really want to go for one of your five a day, I think it should be something that can stand up against the rest of the meal. I think that kale wilted with garlic, shallots, balsamic vinegar and a little butter would accompany this nicely – and it’s seasonal! If you don’t like kale, you could always go with spinach. Maybe a side with this dish isn’t such a bad thing after all.

– Ryan

Barley & Me

The joys of barley have extensively been sung before on this blog and I’m definitely cottoning on too late to what is a great great staple. I’m trying so hard to eat seasonal but being a city person personified and barely keeping plants alive, the knowledge of what food is seasonal escapes me. I mean I had to cancel my organic box because 80% of the contents I did not recognise nor knew what to do with. But I try, and the fact that pumpkin and squash is in season ( I hate Halloween) did not pass me by.


Squash, spinach barley risotto with sage

Really simple recipe: Fry and soften onion and garlic, add chopped handfull of sage and barley before adding vegetable stock. Add cut up squash and boil-simmer for about 20min at least. Just when it gets there, take off heat and add spinach, cover for 5min minutes and add a spoonful of parmesan. Really great result and for once seasonal….well, is spinach? Or sage? See, it’s just too hard…

– Stef

Who doesn’t love a little S&M?


Mmmm, comfort food

British cuisine has a bad reputation the world over, which is completely unfair as the Brits do world class comfort food: fish pies, beans on toast, fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding, roast beef and the full English breakfast.

It’s November and in London this means Sunday afternoons are often cold, gray and best spent in our local pub with the dog, sitting by the fire, reading the paper and drinking a few pints.

After such a perfect afternoon you need a great comfort food that’s not too much trouble to prepare; bring on the king of British comfort food: sausage and mash. Easy enough to prepare and only requiring a few ingredients, I knocked together a meal of caramelised red onion sausage, grain mustard mash and red onion gravy in no time at all. If you want any of the recipes (bar the sausages which a pre-made), leave a comment and I’ll reply via a new post – which will likely be singing the praises of my favorite single-purpose kitchen tool: the potato ricer.

– Ryan

Autumn comfort food

Ok, when I mean autumn I really mean winter by now. But with the sun setting at 4pm (why god why), I feel inclined to cook warm food. Sounds easy but with my fear of cooking still a challenge. But lo and behold my result- well chuffed I was…


Now this might not look like much (contrast with my usual recipe generator on Good Food website and how pretty it looks there) but it tasted really fantastic. I was a bit suspicious of adding a can of baked beans at the end but it really added a bit more depth to the whole thing. Any recipe with few ingredients is a winner in my book as I simply don’t have an extensive range at home (yes, Jamie Oliver, that means I don’t ever attempt your recipes, nor the people at the River Cafe, sorry, half of the time I don’t even know what you’re talking about..). So wohoo for cold weather hotpot!

– Stef

The best soup. Ever.

I went looking for something light-but-exciting for dinner on our first night back after eating ourselves to death in France. Little did I know I’d found the world’s greatest soup on epicurious – from Self no less. It’s fresh, it’s light, it’s spicy, and it’s so simple it barely feels like cooking.

I made a few little modifications to the printed recipe, and one major change: in a very half-assed way, I made my own chicken stock. Don’t let this put you off! All I did was put 3 frozen chicken leg and thigh bones in about a liter of water, brought it slowly up to a boil and tossed in some chinese five spice (a teaspoon or two) and some chinese black vinegar (a tablespoon or two). Simmer away for an hour or so, or however long you have, strain, and voila!

As the head notes to the original recipe stated, don’t be frightened by the long list of ingredients. I’m a slow chopper, and this took less than 10 minutes of prep. Also, while I followed the recipe and added chicken pieces, I won’t next time. The soup just didn’t need the extra expense or dead animal.

After that, here’s what you need:

  • 1.5 liters cooking liquid (I just added water to my stock)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (the recipe called for brown sugar but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 tbsp of sricha or other asian hot sauce
  • Juice of two juicy limes
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced (choose your thumb size based on your affection for ginger)
  • 1-2 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut in thin 3-inch-long strips
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 sliced chestnut mushrooms (slice them big if you want to pick them out before eating, like us)
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • handful chopped cilantro

Ok, this is really easy now. Put your cooking liquid into a big pot with your soy sauce, mirin (or sugar), sricha, lime juice, ginger and garlic and boil 5-10 minutes.

If you’re using chicken, toss the pieces in the 3 tbsp corn starch, and add it and the mushrooms to the pot. Simmer fo 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, add red peppers, cilantro and snap peas, and let sit for 3 minutes.


You’re welcome.


When breakfast takes 8 years

As long as we’re confessing kitchen failures, I’ll admit to something sad: I can’t fry eggs. Either I don’t cook the white enough, the yolk ends up solid, or sometimes I wind up with a pathetic combination of the two. But because I make really excellent scrambled eggs, I’ve never let this particular deficiency get me too down.

There is one recipe, however, that frustratingly highlights this failure: Spaghetti with fried eggs. I first came across it  in my first Mark Bittman cookbook, a gift from my mom not too long after I first started living on my own. The book was great – short recipes, few ingredients, and they didn’t turn out vast quantities of food. This recipe seemed particularly useful, since it only needed three ingredients I always had on hand, took 10 minutes and I could easily throw in a vegetable if so inclined.

If only I could fry eggs. I tried it out a few times, but, well, it just never worked for me

I can’t remember the last time I did a proper shop, so all I could find to eat were eggs and an array of just about every carb but bread, I decided to try again. I put a small serving of pasta on to boil (I prefer shapes to the spaghetti family), and a couple of minutes before it was ready I turned on the flame under a frying pan with a healthy splash of olive oil. One of the many things that always goes wrong for me in the egg-frying department is the white seems to spread out to cover much of the pan. While very annoying in typical breakfast scenarios, it was kind of perfect this time because you don’t really want big clumps of cooked egg white in your pasta.

I drained the pasta when it reached my preferred level of doneness, and in a crucial step I suspect I may have skipped over in past, tossed it in some olive oil. When the egg was done – yolk runny, white just about cooked – tipped it out of the pan onto my pasta, and tossed it all together, breaking up the egg as I went along. The heat of the pasta finished cooking the white, and the lovely runny yolk coated the pasta, making a silky sauce.

I finished the dish with salt, pepper and a splash of tabasco. It was great!

Maybe I’ll be able to poach eggs by 2017…