Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Comfort food

I really hate mashed potato.

This surprises so many people. When I say that it is the food I hate most in the world, most people suddenly feel sorry for me.
"Oh, but mashed potato is the ultimate comfort food!" they will say, "how can you not like it? its so rich and comforting."

The texture just doesn't do it for me. And I am still scarred by my school dinner experiences with luke-warm mashed potato that had black lumps in it - that we were forced to eat with luke warm tinned plum tomatoes tipped over the top! Even writing that makes me shudder.

But there is plenty of classic comfort food that I do love, and I am cooking rather a lot of it now that the clocks have gone back and the central heating has been switched on again. I made this glorious-looking toad in the hole last week, from Nigel Slater's recipe in Real Food. Greedily, the four of us devoured this entire dish at one sitting - the children asked for thirds!

Other favourite autumn and winter comfort foods:

  • any kind of risotto
  • jacket potatoes, with leeks in a white sauce poured over the top
  • cauliflower cheese
  • chocolate cake
  • any kind of crumble
  • lamb curry
  • minestrone soup
  • porridge

Tonight I made a butternut squash and goats cheese risotto. Comfort food that is also gorgeously, and appropriately bright orange. Here is my recipe.

Butternut squash and goats' cheese risotto

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small goats' cheese
  • 850ml chicken stock (or even better, 100ml white wine plus 750ml stock)
  • 200g risotto rice
  • generous pinch of thyme
  • pinch of black pepper

Pour a slug of olive oil into a large heavy pan and put over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes until the onion is starting to soften. Add the chopped squash and give everything a good stir. Cook for a further two minutes until the squash becomes even more vivid and starts to soften around the edges. Tip in the rice, pepper and thyme and stir once again so that the rice is thoroughly coated in the oil.

Add the stock, a little at a time, stirring all the while. Add more stock whenever it looks dry. After about 20 minutes stirring start checking the rice for 'doneness'. It should be chewy but not chalky.


When the rice is done, remove the pan from the heat, crumble over the goats cheese and give everythig a final stir before serving.


I haven't photoshopped the picture of the toad at the top - the hens are just laying eggs with bright yellow yolks at the moment!


  1. am now becoming REALLY quite concerned about our parallel lives. Have been sat at work today telling my disbelieving boss how vile mashed potato is..he nearly threw me out of the room.The texture, the lumps, I really don't care for the clever people who say,"Ooh, but you'd love MY mashed potato, I do it with cream/leeks/peanut m&m's etc.etc. NO, I WON'T!! It is EVIL stuff!and quite frankly, only good enough to use as wallpaper paste. And even then you would see the lumps. Rant over. Love the toad in the hole picture. Now THAT is comfort food...

  2. p.s- I really hate goats cheese too though....sorry x

  3. Hello there! I didn't know you had a blog, but now I have popped by to see your lists, and fine ones they are too :D Can#t agree about mashed potatoes though - I LOVE them.

  4. I also hate mashed potato - as Henry says, it's Gagtastic. Bleugh. I don't mind eating shop bought though but it's too expensive! I can't do goats cheese either but the risotto does look gorgeous.

  5. I can't decide which is stranger...liking mashed potato or disliking goats' cheese!

  6. I'm now dribbling all over the keyboard!
    It's not fair I can't even cook food like that right now (lack of kitchen) and we are living off....microwave meals!
    I don't know how much longer I can cope with it!!
    Oh and I love mash and goats cheese - maybe not together....actually I could right now....comfort food.....

  7. the risotto looks gorgeous. I feel so inspired that I have put it on my menu for this week


Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.