January blues getting you down? LEAF ARBUTHNOT is on hand to help with some delectable comfort food
The three months following New Year are the worst. Hands crack, lips chap, crimbo cheques become but a sepia memory, to clutch at when your card is rejected.
After around the 6th of January, purportedly the bluest day of the year, I start on the gargantuan process of resigning myself to another three months of shit weather and shit times. It’s tough going, but one sure fire way to beat the blues is to cook. At this time of year, you shouldn’t be angling for Heston wank or healthy dishettes, but comfort food at its most cocooning. When there’s no prospect of a Christmas presents or a New Year snog to lift your chin, good, traditional food becomes a very good friend indeed. Here are some suggestions.
Flawless Apple Crumble
My desert island pudding, without the slenderest skinniest shred of a doubt. Simple, hearty, delicious. In the folly of my teenage years, I used to swap half the flour for crushed ginger nut biscuits. Now I don’t.
7 large braeburns, peeled
250g caster sugar
200g plain flour
150g butter, cubed
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Chop the apples into small chunks and place at the bottom of a large, deep dish. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar if you have any, and a tablespoon of water. Throw all the other ingredients into a magimix and blend until it has reached the texture of rough breadcrumbs. Pour these on top of the apple and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with clotted cream.
The best roast potatoes you will ever taste
No, really. My friend Rosie once had seventeen. The trick is to not scrimp on the fat: go goose or go home. The semolina gets them really crunchy, and the turmeric gives them a lovely golden colour.
10 large desiree potatoes
100g goose fat
2 sprigs rosemary
Salt and pepper
Chop the potatoes into chunks, with as sharp edges as you can manage. Place in boiling water and simmer for 8 minutes. Meanwhile place the goose fat in a large metal dish and heat in the oven at 200 degrees. Once the potatoes are done, drain them and sprinkle them with semolina and turmeric, turning them in the colander with a wooden spoon to ensure they are well coated and a little fluffy. Once the fat in the oven is melted and smoking, pour the potatoes onto it and stir around, covering in the fat. Season liberally with salt and pepper, add the two sprigs of rosemary and bake for 45 minutes at 180 degrees, or until golden. Stir about halfway through to ensure an even bake.
Carrot and coconut soup
Velvety and vaguely exotic, this is ideal for seeing you through another freezing evening.
6 large carrots, chopped into rough disks
½ can coconut milk
400ml chicken stock
1 teaspoon curry power
2 leek, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, diced
In a large pan, fry the garlic and onion until soft. Add the leek and celery, along with the curry powder and a tablespoon of water. Put the lid on and allow the vegetables to reduce slightly. Then add the carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the carrots are soft, then allow to cool. Add the tangerine then blend until smooth. Return to the pan and stir through with the coconut cream, salt and pepper and more curry powder if need be.