What does comfort food mean to you? Do you think of a succulent Sunday roast with all the trimmings? A large pot of creamy Ben and Jerry’s? Spaghetti bolognese, just like grandma used to make? Or maybe a simple meal of toast slathered in peanut butter ticks all the boxes?
Comfort food is generally defined as food that provides a soothing emotional reaction, usually due to nostalgic memories about a time when life was simpler, when a steaming vat of chicken soup could make all the blues go away. Even as adults, when we are feeling rundown, tired, fed up or even on those days when the rain is hammering down and you can’t quite believe that THIS is your summer, we tend to reach out for something delicious to cheer ourselves up.
Around the world, the idea of what constitutes comfort food changes drastically. From pecan pie in the US to nasigoreng in Indonesia, the tasty treats we turn to when the going gets tough can vary according to the recipes, cooking techniques and available ingredients of our country and culinary culture. However, something most comfort meals seem to have in common are that they tend to veer towards carbohydrates or sugar – wholesome, calming dishes, or quick-fix hits for a sugar high.
You won’t be surprised to hear, then, that Indian cuisine – one of the most popular culinary traditions in the world – has comfort food down to a fine art. After a hard week of work, many people up and down the country find themselves reaching for the Indian take-away menu – forget about cooking, comfort meals are all about feeling taken care of and enjoying one big hug on a plate. Traditional Indian cuisine delivers the perfect menu to chase all those worries away; and the dishes are not so different from some of our western favourites…
Instead of Porridge, Try Khichdi
A flavor some and aromatic blend of dal and rice, the sheer texture of khichdi makes it a massive hit in the comfort stakes. An Indian version of porridge, khichdi is particularly favoured in West Bengal and Gujarat and was the original forerunner of popular UK brunch favourite, kedgeree.
Instead of Biscuits, Try Pakoras
These deep-fried taste sensations are enjoyed during monsoon season, often as a tea-time snack. Brew up a steaming cup of spiced, masala chai and a pakora to dunk – rainy day bliss.
Instead of Crisps, Try Banana Chips
Down in the southern states you will find bananas and coconuts grow in abundance and feature in a wide variety of dishes. These crispy, sweet treats will keep you munching away and keep those troubles at bay… At least until you realise you have polished off an entire bag.
Instead of Cake, Try Gulab Jamun
Commonly known as Indian doughnuts, these traditional desserts are created from deep-fried milk solids, fried to golden perfection and soaked in sticky syrup. Paradise on a platter.
Of course, if you really want to feel taken care of, then forget the take-away and head on out to one of London’s best Indian brasseries for the evening. Here you’ll find classic, authentic recipes with a side helping of comfort – just make your local your new home away from home!