My friend Luke and I were having one of our movie nights, drinking a few beers/ciders, and as per usual I was whipping up a batch of mac n cheeze. We were wondering what it is about mac n cheeze that makes it such perfect comfort food, and landed on a theory that it’s the creaminess, the stodginess and the simplicity of the stuff that really hits the spot. It’s just the perfect anytime dinner, especially to share with friends so you can both ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ as you’re eating it!
It’s the weekend and after a few chores on Saturday you look at your calendar and realise Sunday is mostly clear. You can have a sleep in under clean sheets, watch The Simpsons with your breakfast, and take an easy stroll. It’s also the day to make the most of the cosy indoors and treat yourself to a delicious, warming dessert.
First though: tamarindo candy! I’ve got to explain the magic of this stuff, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it… I first came across these little balls of fruity candy in Bristol’s Sweet Mart, and was blown away by the sweet, sour and hot taste of each tiny little ball! Turns out it’s a treat in most places where the tamarind tree is indigenous: countries in Africa and South Asia (and Mexico, though it was introduced there in the 16th century).
I figured there had to be a glut of unusual ingredients in there, but after a little research I realised all tat taste just required were three simple ingredients: tamarind paste, sugar and something spicy. If you want to buy tamarind candy you can. If you want to be a little healthier and use coconut sugar, you can. Play with the amount of spice too – that box of candies I got at the grocers must have had at least two tablespoons of cayenne pepper in it!
I love making dishes with unusual flavour combinations, so when I read about Chiles on Nogada, a Mexican dish from Pueblo, my interest was piqued…. stuffed poblano peppers featuring lots of fruits and spices, bathed in a walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds? Wow!
Supposedly the recipe was developed by nuns, who peeled and ground the walnuts for days, awaiting the arrival of Agustín de Iturbide! It’s served nowadays in Mexico when the pomegranates are in season, and often to celebrate Diez y Seis de Septiembr (Mexico’s Independence Day).
It’s autumn! Hooray! I love the changing of the seasons and autumn is my very favourite. Snug jumpers, lace up boots, crisp air and all of those beautiful leaves. And, of course, comforting one-pot meals with soft root vegetables, lots of spices and chai tea.
I also love seeing all those pretty pumpkins heaped into crates along the roads in Easton, in Bristol where I shop for fantastic food ingredients. Halloween is coming too, so it kinda made sense to make something comforting, with spices, and with pumpkin!
For me vegan baked cheesecake is the ultimate comfort food: somewhere between a cake and a dessert, and always a delight. I remember my first slice of vegan cheesecake. It was at Govindas in Swansea, it was mind-blowing for my newly vegan self, and I practically begged them for the recipe!
I came away with a few hints on how to use vegan soft cheese to create the delicious masterpiece I’d just eaten, but for this recipe I prefer some less processed ingredients to help create the soft pumpkin cheesecake layer: cashew nuts and coconut oil.