The concept of British food has changed considerably since the immediate post war years. The end of rationing, increased immigration and a more widely travelled population have added to a greater culinary experience. Add to this the rise of the TV chef; from Saturday Kitchen to Jamie Oliver and adventurous food no longer seems to be beyond us Brits. Yet in times of difficulty we still return to basic, easy to cook, comfort food.
A 2009 survey carried out by the TV channel Good Food found that over half of the 3000 people surveyed "revealed that they had put on weight in the last six months as they ate comfort food to get through the recession" (Good Food cited in The Telegraph). Top of the list of comfort foods was 'bangers and mash' followed by 'fish and chips' and 'beans on toast'. Why do these foods become so highly sort after when comfort is needed?
Academics think they have found the answer and have calculated a formula, containing eight factors, "to compile a 'comfort index', which measures how warming and filling dishes were, as well as how certain foods triggered happy childhood memories." (Wallop, 2009) They found that overall it was dishes with "simple ingredients and uniform colour" rather than "more complex dishes" that were more comforting.
Comfort food does not however have to be boring and it is not hard to find simple, easy recipes that would feature high on the 'comfort index'. My all time favourite is a pork dish first cooked for me by my husband. It's simple, relatively quick and uses ingredients that are easily and cheaply sourced. If you don't like pork it can be changed for other meats; chicken works well, fish or roasted vegetables could also be used.
Spicy tomato pork for 4
8 strips of belly pork (or 4 pork chops for a healthier version)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 clove of garlic (or small squeeze of ready prepared garlic paste)
Mixed herbs (dried are fine)
Rice (or packet microwave rice in a flavour of your choice)
To create your masterpiece:
1. Preheat oven to gas mark 7
2. Lay out pork in a casserole dish or deep baking tray
3. Pour can of tomatoes into a bowl
4. Slice onion thinly and add to tomatoes
5. Add garlic, a pinch of herbs, a table spoon of tomato puree and a splash of Worcester sauce and chilli powder (about a teaspoon, more if you like your food spicier) and stir.
6. Pour mixture over pork, cover with foil and place on middle shelf of oven for 20 minutes.
7. After 20 minutes remove foil add a little water if the sauce is too thick and return to oven for approx another 20min or until the sauce begins to blacken (you are looking for it to caramelise rather than burn) around the edges.
8. When ready, allow to stand while you cook the rice. (If you are using boiled rice on the stove put this on to cook at stage 7.)
9. Serve and enjoy.