It has been a week of comfort food, undoubtedly the result of a combination of things: confinement, a space of hunger and a humid winter climate.
This week there were no roasted vegetables; no miso soup bowls. Just deep plates of baked pasta with cream and roast chicken; chicory garnished with blue cheese; even a splendid row of chocolate pudding with caramel sauce.
This is clearly the food I need right now, as well as kitchen stalwarts like baked potatoes with butter and cheese; aubergine parmesan, gratin potatoes; a baked bean with black molasses and chilli, and a couple of absurdly hearty pasta dinners.
I made lasagna one day last week, for the first time in memory.
My food seems to have become a catalog of old favorites, familiar flavors, and soft, comforting textures.
With a change in the weather on the horizon and the possibility of being allowed to play again, this is certainly about to change, and I’m looking forward to it.
But for now I’m comfortably settled in the carb corner, making sure there’s something for pudding too, preferably the baked or steamed variety, with a drizzle of gooey sauce running from its crown.
They say “listen to what your body wants.” Well, I hear you.
Chicken, pasta, cream and almonds
If you are making this from scratch, I suggest using chicken thighs instead of breasts, as brown meat is more succulent. But you could use the leftover rotisserie chicken instead. Just be sure to include the toast juices and tasty jelly from under the bird. This is a hearty dish, but a side dish of vegetables will be welcome. My own pick is steamed winter cabbage with olive oil. For 4 people
sprigs of rosemary 4
black peppercorns 8
olive oil 4 tablespoons
chicken thighs 1 kilogram
pasta like trofie, fusilli, etc. 250g
lemon 1, enthusiasm
Dry marsala 100ml
double cream 250ml
Set the oven to 200C / gas mark 6. Remove the rosemary leaves and put them in a spice grinder or mortar. Add the black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes, reduce to a coarse powder with the grinder or a mortar and then add the olive oil.
Place the chicken thighs in a roasting pan, pour the herb oil over them, and turn the thighs to coat the chicken evenly. They should end with the skin facing up. Grill for 35 to 40 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes, then remove the meat from the bones. Keep the pieces large enough.
Bring a deep saucepan of water to a boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta in boiling water for about 9 minutes. While cooking, remove the tarragon and parsley leaves from their stems and coarsely chop. Finely grate the lemon zest and add to the tarragon and parsley.
Place the flaked almonds in a shallow skillet and toast over moderate heat until evenly browned, then set aside.
Drain the pasta. Pour in all but a couple of tablespoons of the fat from the roasting pan, place over moderate heat, pour in the marsala, and stir to dissolve the caramelized juices from the roast. Pour in the cream and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken to the sauce and, once hot, add the pasta.
Add the lemon zest, herbs and almonds, transfer to a warm serving plate and serve.
Steamed Chocolate Pudding, Maple Syrup Sauce
If you prefer, make a larger pudding. You will need a 1.2 liter pudding container with a snap lid. Steam for 90 minutes. Makes 3 small puddings or 1 larger
For the pudding:
brown sugar 75g
gold powdered sugar 75g
flour with yeast 100 grams
ground almonds 50 grams
cocoa powder 50 grams
For the maple sauce:
Maple syrup 100ml
double cream 200ml
Butter three 300ml pudding containers (I use plastic ones with snap-on lids) and place parchment parchment on the base if you’re concerned about the puddings sticking together.
Put the butter and sugars in a food mixer and beat until fluffy. Mix the flour, ground almonds and cocoa. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly. With the mixer still on, add the eggs to the butter and sugar, little by little. (If they start to set, add a little of the flour mixture.)
Bring a deep pot of water to a boil, just enough to reach halfway down the sides of the pudding containers (or cook in a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water).
With the machine on low speed, add the flour, almonds and cocoa to the butter and sugar mixture, then the milk. When no traces of flour remain, transfer to pudding containers; smoothing the top.
Cover the basins with their lids and lower them into the boiling water. Cover with a weight to keep them in place, cover the pan with a lid and steam for 30 minutes. (If you are using a steamer basket, lower the covered puddings into the basket and seal it tightly with a lid.) Check the water from time to time and top up if necessary.
To make the sauce, pour the maple syrup into a skillet and bring to a boil, pour in the cream and stir until combined.
When ready to serve, remove the puddings from the water and let them rest for 10 minutes. Shake the puddings out of their pots and remove the foil and paper, slide a spatula down the sides and place upside down on a plate. Serve with the maple sauce.
Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism