Food is Comfort
Food. A lot of us see it as merely fuel for the day. But, you and I, we don’t belong to that category do we? I see food as both a means of pleasure but also as a means of comfort and joy. You, assuming you clicked through because of a tempting picture, are of a similar disposition. Continuing with that assumption, I want to invite you on a journey. One, that I hope will aid you in deriving the maximum amount of joy and comfort from the usually menial and mundane act of eating.
If you still need convincing about the comforting power of food, you can always casually scroll through my Instagram. Shameless self-plug? Yes. True? Also yes!
Welcome to Comfort Cooking.
We all know what comfort food is. Food that makes you feel all types of cosy inside. Food that is easy to eat, deliciously carby and completely void-filling. But when we’re in that mood, we hardly can contemplate cooking. And by doing so, we lose out on a golden opportunity. One that will allow us to relieve ourselves from the much of the stress that drives up to find comfort. Comfort that could evade us, should we only sit down to eat.
That opportunity is, comfort cooking. Relatively low effort, but somewhat involved recipes that not only result in delicious, carby, void-filling food, but also provides you with an outlet. A means of expression and some cases, a means to relax. The satisfaction of making something from scratch is an added bonus.
Comfort Through Pizza
Pizza though, I realise may not sound relaxing to make. In fact, to many a home cook, the idea any kind of bread seems unbearably daunting. However, there is a lot of comfort to be found, with this relatively straightforward recipe. Plus, I don’t have measurements to give this time, so no knead (lol) stressing over teaspoons and cups.
- 1 sachet instant or active-dry yeast
- Roughly a cup of tepid water
- Honey or Sugar, not more than a couple of teaspoons
- All-purpose flour ( I could give a measurement but I eyeball this, I’ll explain why)
- Pinch of salt
If you have a stand mixer with a dough-hook attachment, you’re already set to step back and relax. I’ve done water first, and flour first. Both work fine but flour first is more controlled. Either way, you can’t measure either here. You won’t know how much you’ll need until you start kneading. Easiest way to go about it is, add the honey (or sugar), the yeast and about half the water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Give a slight mix and let it sit for a bit.
That allows the yeast to bloom. Then you add flour and start kneading based on how much you actually want to make. Same with the water. However, the one thing you don’t do is add all the water at once. While the mixer does its thing, all you need to do is watch. Just remember to add the salt after you’ve added a little flour so the salt doesn’t kill the yeast.
What you’re looking for, is a supple, silky dough. This will be one of the best items you’ve ever felt. It should spring back ever so slightly when touched. Now you leave it again, in and oiled bowl, in a draft free place, for an hour or more. Heck you could even leave it in the fridge, overnight.
Good Old Fashioned Relaxation
Should you not have a stand mixer, don’t worry, you can still make this and be relaxed. The principle concepts are the same. There are just some things you need to be aware of going in. Take it a step at a time. Feel it as you go, feel the flour between your fingers and feel it stiffen as you add water, feel the stands of gluten spring back as you knead. And feel the shaggy mass turn silky smooth as you work it.
Don’t let the kneading frustrate you, instead let your frustrations flow into your hands. Let them flow into the repetitions and motions. Down your arms, through the heels of your palms and out. Out of body and out of mind. Take a moment, to find yourself with each knead, let yourself go again, with each roll. Knead until the dough is supple, and springs back ever so slightly. It’s the same concept from here on again.
Let’s Get Saucy
You will now find yourself with a couple of hours to kill. You now grab that book you’ve been putting off, draw a bath, pop open a cool can of Diet Pepsi and chill. No, I didn’t forget the sauce and No it’s not going to disturb your chill out that much either. All you need is a pot, a few things to pop into said pot and voila.
- One medium onion, chopped
- 5-6 cloves of garlic or as many to give you a tablespoon, chopped
- A bunch of basil
- Salt to taste
- Two tins of plum tomatoes in juice
- Water, half an emptied tomato tin.
- Oregano to taste
- Sugar to taste
- Olive oil, ¼ cup
- Balsamic Vinegar, to taste.
Bung It All In
Look, no one’s going to come to your kitchen and judge how fine you’ve chopped the onions and garlic. Don’t linger on this too much. However, if you’re like me and take pleasure in acts involving knives, this is yet another opportunity to unwind. The blade becomes an extension of your being, a part of your existence. As it slices through the layers of the onion, through the garlic, let it slice away at your stress too. Gather the pieces and run your knife through them, as often as you like, slices more stress off with each stroke.
Now it’s just a matter of adding things in a pot, letting it brew, stirring only occasionally. In a heavy-based pot, add the oil and the onion and garlic. Let them come up to temperature together. Once they start to soften, you can salt to aide in that, add a pinch of oregano. When you can smell that, open the two tins and add them right in. Use a pair of scissors to cut up the tomatoes if they are whole. Swivel out one tin, half filled with water and add that to the pot, add the bunch of basil (leaves, stems and all, no chopping needed), and let it cook. Come back occasionally to check, just to make sure it doesn’t stick.
But until it’s as thick as you like, you’re free to go about your day. The sugar and vinegar you add to balance the acidity and sweetness, right at the end. You can now once again, leave the kitchen as the sauce cools, you don’t to come back until you want to cook the pizza itself.
There really isn’t one right way to make a pizza from this point on. You can stretch it out super thin, add only sauce and cheese. Or you can leave it thicker and add a lot of toppings. The possibilities are endless. You can make one great big pie or one medium pie and several small ones. Or you can stuff a muffin tin or heat up the ole’ pizza stone. You can get your family involved, made it an activity. Or you can make it and eat it all yourself. Once you get here, it’s all your call. However, should you need a general idea, here’s what I used this time.
- Half a plate of leftover malai boti
- Half a head or broccoli
- A handful of pickled and sliced jalapeños
- 200 grams total of cheese ( a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar, chopped because why grate?)
Once baked, you’ll have a pizza made exactly how you like it. With every aspect tuned to your tastes. Every bite will add to the comfort, to the satisfaction, knowing that you made it yourself, after having let go off all the stress you’d been keeping locked up inside. You’ll start every bite with newfound appreciation and each mouthful will taste better for it.