Summative season can be really stressful, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me. Cooking is a great way to break out of a rut and insert something new into the sameness of lockdown. Personally, I need my three meals a day (plus snacks), so I am including here a comfort breakfast for a cosy start to the day, a comfort lunch for an energising midday break, and a comfort dinner to wind down for the evening.
Breakfast: Banana-Oat Pancakes
I’ve always been a breakfast person – maybe it comes with the territory of being an early riser. While my weekday breakfasts are usually pretty solidly either a vegetarian variation of an English breakfast or a bowl of yoghurt, berries, and granola, sometimes on weekends I’ll take a bit of extra time to make myself something cosy. One of my favourite morning treats is banana-oat pancakes, which you can make equipped with little more than a trusty blender, a pan, and a spatula. For one hungry person or two people if you want to share, blend one egg, half a cup of oatmeal, one ripe banana, and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and baking soda. Once that’s done, melt butter or coconut oil over medium heat in a pan and pour about a quarter of the batter into it. Wait for bubbles to form in the centre of the batter and the edges to firm up, and then flip and cook for about one minute more, checking to see both sides of the pancake are golden. Serve warm, with your preferred toppings: I like berries and a dollop of yoghurt or ricotta or almond butter.
Lunch: Vegetable Soup
Since I like to work during the day, I’d rather spend less time on lunch and more on dinner. Being able to relax during the cooking process is part of cooking for comfort! One of my go-to comfort lunches is vegetable soup with a side of some kind of cheese on toast. I used to be wary of making my own soup, but it really is easy. I start by heating a pot to medium and browning a medium onion and two or three garlic cloves in butter with mixed herbs. I then add my chopped mixed vegetables of choice – some great options are carrots, leeks, courgettes, squash, or celeriac – and turn the heat down to low, sweating them with the onion and garlic. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the vegetables are nice and golden, add stock to cover them and simmer until everything is tender (about 10 minutes more), then turn off the heat and blend with a stick blender.
What says comfort more than pasta? There are few things as lovely as a freshly made carbonara, and it doesn’t take long at all. Before I proceed, I must admit that I stray from Italian tradition by putting garlic in it. Hey, at least it’s not cream (the ultimate carbonara crime). You start by cooking chopped pancetta (not the traditional guanciale, but accessibility is also a key part of comfort) in a frying pan and, if you’re as heretically inclined as I am, adding a little chopped garlic for the last 2 minutes of the bacon’s cooking time. Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted water. Once your bacon is cooked, pat it dry and put it back into the pan with the heat off. While your pasta cooks, beat an egg, grated parmesan, and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Stop cooking the pasta 2 minutes before the recommended cooking time, and save about 1/3 of a cup of the water you cooked it in. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the bacon, combine, and then add the egg mixture and some of your pasta water, mixing to coat the pasta. Check the consistency and add more pasta water as needed. Serve immediately and momentarily forget that Turnitin even exists!
I hope these recipes bring you comfort and joy to power through summatives and wintry weather. I would be remiss not to credit the many sources of inspiration that I’ve adapted my favourite meals from: the pancakes are adapted from @ratcettes on Instagram, the carbonara is inspired by Antonio Carluccio and @scheckeats on Instagram, and I learned to make soup from the mother figures in my life. Other delightful recipe sources include Nigella Lawson’s website, @halfbakedharvest, and the New York Times’ cooking section. Happy cooking!
Image via Pixabay