I have made mistakes in my life. Food mistakes. I’m not proud of them but I guess that’s how we grow as human beings; by ordering the wrong stuff in restaurants and bearing the scars of the trauma as trophies of our survival.
I still remember most of mine. There was the wood-fired pizza place in Harborne in Birmingham circa 1993 which offered balti pizza as a special. It was special. In a very bad way. The memory has haunted me for twenty odd years. It was something out of the culinary repertoire of a student who wakes up starving after a 2 day bender to find only a block of cheddar, a frozen pizza base and last night’s curry that his housemates left in the fridge. The lightbulb goes on over his fuzzy little head and 30 minutes later food hell arrives on a plate, as indeed it did for me. I sent it back.
Then there was the time, about three or four months after I arrived in Malaysia when, still adjusting to my new surroundings, I found myself sledgehammer dazed in the food court of a shopping mall in suburban KL. I simply couldn’t think what to order, there was so much amazing food. So I ordered a baked potato. It was a moment of shame. I really don’t know what came over me. It was probably a desire for something familiar; familiar and (indubitably) crap.
Then the other week I stopped off in a Thai place in Tooley Street behind London Bridge called Suchard. The food was about as Thai as the name. We’d actually been looking for a place round the corner from where my friend worked but couldn’t find it so after 30 or 40 minutes of searching we were just plain hungry.
We should have known just by looking at the menu – it was just too long – bad sign. But seriously green papaya salad served with rice and with seafood added, the kind of seafood that cheap caterers buy frozen in sacks? I wouldn’t have served it up at home. It wasn’t even cheap.
Sometimes one just wants something easy, comforting and nice. I guess that’s the definition of comfort food. Can comfort food be fussy? Perhaps, if you’re a startlet in a Californian teen soap and comfort means whatever you can order by phone in Beverly Hills.
In the hills of the Weald it ain’t like that. You want it, you cook it. At least I do.
So I thought I’d share a comfort food recipe. Most of the time that means pasta for me. Carbs are comforting.
This recipe is very simple. It comes courtesy my friend Sophia who first cooked it for me on her boat not many years after my balti pizza hell. It’s essentially spaghetti and goats cheese. Quantities are per person
60g chevre or similar goat’s cheese
2 cloves garlic
15-20g pine nuts (pignoli)
Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Meanwhile peel the garlic, take of the end off and remove any shoot in the middle. Halve and quarter it and put it in a deep frying pan or wok in olive oil. When the garlic has started to brown drop the temperature and add the goat’s cheese. Try not to let it burn. You want it to melt gently. When it has then add the spaghetti and stir it around the pan so it’s coated with the cheese. Chuck in the chopped pine nuts and fresh ground black pepper and bingo.