Sod spending January nibbling away on some rocket detox diet crap, the winter months with the cold, the dark and the economically enforced hibernation mean comfort food is the order of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love a decent salad [although I loathe rocket] – on a sunny day, in the garden, with a glass of something cold and pink. But not in any month where I can see my own breath outdoors, or when I’m to be found wearing a scarf more for warmth than dramatic effect.
We’ve had quite a mild start to the year so far but if the downward temperature trend forecast for next week follows a linear progression throughout February even the nitrogen in the atmosphere will be falling as solid snow by the 29th. So I’m retreating to the kitchen, in a cardigan, making food as warm and comforting as a duck down duvet.
In the past week alone we have seen:
- Fish finger [US translation = fish sticks] sandwiches with the a compulsory splodge of salad cream for Sunday lunch – see picture above. A double whammy of winter woes and a hungover heads demanded nothing less than this king of comfort foods.
- A baked Vacherin for supper with the sort of dipping ingredients I’ve already mentioned in this fondue recipe.
- A surprise roast turkey dinner from the Shopkeeper – an unexpected weekday treat – and cauliflower cheese has accounted for around three of my ‘five a day’ for most of the week since.
- A whole roast crispy duck’s worth of pancakes.
- The remains of said duck with some mushrooms, wine, mustard and rosemary in a creamy pasta sauce the next day.
- And tonight we’re heading for some slow braised steak and buttered baked potatoes.
I’m booking my arteries in for a re-bore sometime in March, but that’s the point – now is not the time to stint on culinary comforts! So your challenge is this…
Leave a comment listing your favourite comfort food between now and the 4th of February, after which I’ll pick my favourite and come up with a version of it to publish here. Feel free to leave just the name of a dish or a whole recipe, and if you want to tell me why it’s your comfort food of choice so much the better.
Over to you…
Posted in Competition, Fun
Tagged cardigan, cauliflower cheese, cheese, Comfort food, duck, fish fingers, fish sticks, pasta, roast, salad cream, Vacherin
At one of my local farmers’ markets [actually the one that’s a bit more frou-frou than farmer] there is an occasional visitor, a South African sausage maker, who makes the most luscious Luganega sausages. Luganega and its seasonings, like most things Italian including the language, vary from region to region, from town to town, and it’s also known as salsiccia a metro as it is traditionally sold by the metre. This chap’s version is lightly spiced with chilli and bursting with fennelly flavour. I visit this particular market about every other week, and when my man is there he doesn’t always have the Luganega, so I probably get my hands on them once every eight weeks or so, by which time I’m always more than ready for another bowlful of this.
- 3 Luganega [about 230g, or around 36cm if you’re buying in Italy!]
- 300g fresh tomatoes
- 170ml dry vermouth [perhaps here it should be Italian, but there’s normally French in my kitchen]
- I medium onion, chopped
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 dried chilli, flaked
- 1 star anise
- 150ml single cream [or double if you prefer]
- 200g pasta, penne work well here but I’ll use whatever’s in the cupboard
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
Sautee the onion in a little olive oil until softened and add the flaked chilli and crushed garlic. You can vary the quantity of chilli and use or discard the seeds depending on your need for heat. Skin the sausages and crumble their contents into the pan, stirring and browning the meat. Roughly chop the tomatoes [slice cherry tomatoes in half] and add to the pan. This is a rustic affair so there’s no need to bother with skinning and seeding here. Sprinkle in a small pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper and add the vermouth. After a brief bubbling boil turn down to a low simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cream, check and adjust the seasoning. You will of course have set your pasta cooking at the appropriate point during this process so that by now it’s just al dente – as all brands vary I’m not going to attempt to give you more advice than you’ll find on the side of the packet. Use a little of the pasta water to thin the sauce if it seems too thick. For best results add your pasta to the sauce and give them a minute together in the pan on a low heat to get to know one another better before their dinner table debut, where you can make them feel welcome with a confetti of parmesan.
When I first made this there was another stall at the same market selling a wonderful fennel pesto, but they’ve since disappeared. If you can lay your hands on some add a couple of spoonfuls along with the tomatoes and maybe leave out the star anise.
Posted in Recipe
Tagged chilli, cream, fennel, garlic, onion, pasta, recipe, sausage, spicy, star anise, tomato