This week I have taken a real look at comfort food. When spending time alone and cooking for yourself I think this is the food you will always turn to. Different for everyone but I imagine everyone knows what their comfort food is. I cant imagine not being able to cook your own comfort food.
As you become a better cook does what you eat for comfort food become more complicated? Not for me, if anything I think it gets simpler and simpler.
At lunchtime today I felt like a River Cafe classic. A dish I saw on the TV many years ago. You basically make a paste with grated Parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil. Then add it to cooked spaghetti. The classic then uses basil leaves but I threw some peas in there. Delicious lunch which set me up well for a run in the -4 oc weather we’re having at the moment.
After my run I went into hibernation mode. Going out in the hunt for some dinner just wasnt an option so I had a think about what I had in my fridge. I had some mince beef and it made me think to make a Picadillo. Its a Latin American beef sauce of sorts. A little like a ragu and can be eaten with either rice or as a taco filling. It varies from Cuba to Mexico but always has spices, tomato and raisins.
I have a wonderful Cuban friend who I immediately spoke to about how she would make her Picadillo. Hers has a focus on olives, red pepper, oregano and cumin.
I looked at this dish and looked at different recipes and found huge variations which made me realise I could bring to the party what I fancied. I like dishes like that. I’m a huge believer in tradition and it felt nice to find a dish I felt I could happily bring my own variety to. True comfort food perhaps?
Picadillo with winter herbs, raisins, smoked paprika, honey & lime with sweetcorn & cornmeal tortillas
For the Picadillo
300g minced beef
1 onion (finely diced)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1tbsp cumin seeds
1tbsp smoked paprika
a few sage leaves, a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf and a stick of rosemary (any combination, whatever you have)
2tbsp tomato puree
1 medium sized potato, cut into roughly 2cm cubes
juice of half a lime
a handful of fresh coriander
Fry the beef in a pan until it starts to colour. Drain off any excess fan and then add the onion, garlic and cumin seeds. Once the onion has softened add the remaining ingredients except the honey and lime. Cover with water and simmer gently for an hour or so or until the sauce is rich and most of the liquid has evaporated. About 20 minutes from the end add the potato cubes. At the end add the honey, coriander and lime juice to taste and set aside.
For the tortillas either get shop bought or make them yourslef. I made them with 3 parts plain flour and 1 part ground cornmeal. Add a little baking powder and bring together with warm water. Roll as thinly as you can and cook in a hot dry pan.
To serve I like to top the tacos with tinned sweetcorn and a squeeze of lime juice.