Last week I highlighted comfort food as being a thing I love now that I didn't love much before. Well, this is true; my attitude to food is going through a sort of metamorphosis, and while I have always loved eating and cooking, I guess I have never really needed the sort of comfort eating that I am referring to here, and so it's never had a real place in my heart.
There are, of course, two types of comfort eating, and while I have certainly been guilty of the more negative and stigmatized version on a few occasions (this has made an appearance of its own recently, especially in the first week of my new job when I had received a 'congratulations' box of chocolates from a friend...), I refer here only to the way that humans turn to food as they would turn to a warm blanket and a sumptuous novel; a way of cooking and eating that is thoughtful, never thoughtless.
There is something about putting on my Hungry Caterpillar apron, tying back my hair and chopping in a silent kitchen (I rarely listen to music when I cook) that puts every disordered element of my life into place. With a collection of exciting ingredients, my awesome knife collection (thanks Dad!) and a suitable pan, there is a certainty and routine that can't always be found elsewhere in life. Put one cup of rice in a pan with two cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat low; 18 minutes later you will have a perfect pan of rice. Simple, certain and wonderful.
In the past few weeks I've created a couple of simple meals that have been a comfort and a pleasure from picking out the ingredients to scraping the last grain of rice/splodge of sauce off the plate. They're not rocket science, but I love reading other people's ideas as it feeds my own inspirations, and so, with a hope that someone somewhere might get their own spark of inspiration from my creations, I will be sharing them over the coming weeks - and I want to hear of any similar comfort meals that you have, as I'll be needing the inspiration, I'm sure!
To begin - Spicy Squash and Cashew Nut Risotto
Half a butternut squash, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Enough risotto rice for everyone
Chilli flakes (if I had real chillis I'd have used real ones!)
Salt and pepper
1. Fry the onion in oil until soft, then add garlic and rice and stir until everything is coated in oil
2. Cover the rice with stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed, then add the squash and a ladleful or two of stock, and keep stirring!
3. As the liquid is absorbed, keep adding more until the rice starts to feel tender when you taste it (about 15-20 minites); the suqash should also be soft by now!
4. Heat another pan and add the cashew nuts (no oil is needed, the pan should be dry); toast until they are brown, but be sure to keep an eye on them or they will burn (mine did a bit, oops!)
5. when the rice is soft enough, add the toasted cashews and the coriander to the risotto, stir, season and serve! (with a large glass of chenin blanc, maybe!)