Winter Comfort Food

Winter is for hibernating, keeping warm and eating comfort food. You might be still studying  – or recovering  – from those exams, so you need to look after yourself.

Studying requires the right kind of fuel to keep you going (and warm). And cooking some wholesome food is a good way of taking care of yourself (or someone special).

Here are my three favourite comfort foods for when it’s cold: porridge for breakfast, soup for lunch and risotto for dinner. You don’t need to do all three in one day of course!

Porridge is cheap and easy. You just need oats – unprocessed, not in those wasteful little sachets, no additives necessary. I do add a bit of brown sugar, but you can omit this if you are not a sweet tooth (and of course, in the interests of health, not too much sugar). I half cover the oats with boiling water, then add some milk (or substitute) and do the rest in the microwave. Half a banana, a bit of honey and some yoghurt and you’ll find it sustains you pretty well for the morning. My aunt likes to add walnuts before microwaving – she says, because they look like your brain, they must be good for it! (I think we might need to check the evidence on that but the walnuts definitely add to the nourishment).

The basis of a good soup is the stock. It is cheap and really, really easy to do a good chicken stock – the only problem is where to store all the liquid you get from a bag of chicken carcasses, which will cost you a couple of dollars from the market or a local butcher. Get free range – avoid supermarket offerings as they are generally not free range (although I have seen RSPCA approved ones in some supermarkets). If you are vegetarian, you could make up a really nourishing vegetable stock. I add celery, onions, carrots, herbs and wine to my chicken bones and bring it all to the boil, then let it simmer for about twenty minutes. Alternatively, you can use bacon bones – for a different kind of soup. Then for the soup use leeks and olive oil or butter, your vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, anything really), the stock, herbs and there you go. Simmer it all together for about twenty minutes or until the veggies are soft and then use a blender, if you have one, to get it smooth. Serve with crusty bread and (well, I like cheese, but whatever you think goes with soup :). Central market has a newsletter and a store of recipes to try – check them out here.

Risottos are pretty easy, too, especially if you have a rice/risotto cooker. You can actually do one in the oven too – see below. The basis is slow absorption – you use arborio rice that is a bit glutinous (nice for doing creamed rice, too). The traditional method is to stand there and add the liquid (your stock), wait til it absorbs, then add a bit more, stand, wait, add etc for ages until it all perfectly comes together. It is actually quite hard to get that magic texture, and I can’t ever quite do it like the good Italian restaurants, but I can tell you it is just as tasty even if it is gluggy. Or here’s a recipe for a much easier way to do it in the oven! Adapt ingredients to suit your tastes and preferences.

So have a go, do something nice for yourself. Keep warm.


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