Cookbook 56: Comfort Food: Recipes to soothe, cheer, reassure and indulge

I bought Comfort Food: Recipes to sooth, cheer, reassure and indulge some years ago, and mostly because it has a stuck on velveteen texture on the cover, and books that feel good as well as sound good are hard to put down.  This book is odd though.  If I feel like comfort food should be something that is tasty and relatively easy to cook.  Dishes which require 4 hours in the fridge before you can eat them really isn’t something that is going to soothe or comfort me… it’s really just a whole pile of work.

Also the recipes are somewhat unsatisfying.  There is a crumpet recipe in this book which I have tried multiple times, which has never worked.  It does have the best roast potato recipe I’ve ever made though, so I don’t know.  I made three dishes from this book (I was going to make 5 but ran out of time), and they were good, but missing something which would have made them brilliant.

The other weird thing about this book is the serving sizes.  Some of the recipes serve 2, which seems a completely reasonable serving size for comfort food, and other recipes serve 8 or more (as in the case of the chocolate cheese cake).  A standard serving size, which could be factored up or down as necessary, would have been sane.  Overall I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.



Pizza base

  • 225g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 225 – 350ml warm water


  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small green pepper, 1/2 small red pepper and 1/2 small yellow pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
  • 300g ready-made pasta sauce
  • 55g mozzarella cheese, thickly sliced
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil


  1. Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a mixing bowl.  Drizzle over half the oil.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the water.  Mix to a firm dough and shape into a ball.  Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until it is no longer sticky.  Oil the bowl with the remaining oil.  Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with the oil.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  2. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down to release the excess air, then knead until smooth.  Divide in half and roll into 2 thin rounds.  Place on a metal tray or baking sheet.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C.  For the topping, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the vegetables for 5 minutes or until softened.  Spread some of the tomato sauce over the pizza bases, but do not go right to the edge.  Top with the vegetables and mozzarella cheese.  Spoon over more tomato sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until the base is crispy and the cheese has melted.

Notes on this recipe:

  • We skipped the sauteed vegetables and made our own toppings.
  • Be careful adding the water to the recipe. I added about 250ml and the dough was too sticky.  Start with the lower amount of water and gradually add more until the dough comes together.  Add extra flour if the dough gets too sticky (as mine did).
  • Don’t use all the oil to coat the dough as stated.  Lightly oil the bowl and leave the dough sitting in the bowl for the required time.  If you fully oil the dough (as I did), then you have to knead for ages until the oil is absorbed.
  • This recipe serves 2

Leek and Potato Soup


  • 55g butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 leeks
  • 225 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 850ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 150ml single cream (optional)
  • flat-leaf parsley to garnish
  • crusty bread, to serve


  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the prepared vegetables and saute gently for 2 – 3 minutes until soft but not brown.  Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and liquidise the soup in the saucepan using a hand-held stick blender if you have one. Otherwise, pour into a blender, liquidise until smooth and return to the rinsed-out saucepan.
  3. Heat the soup, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve in warm bowls.  Swirl with the cream, if using, garnish with flat-leaf parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Notes on this recipe:

  • This is one of my favourite soups.  This recipe did not meet my expectations.  It was okay, it was missing something and I’m not sure sure what.  It did taste much better the next day, so maybe the secret is to let this sit for a day and reheat it to eat later – which is somewhat annoying because that’s not good for comfort.
  • Oh this recipe serves 4 – 6.

Deep Chocolate Cheesecake



  • 4 tbsp butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 115g digestive biscuits, finely crushed
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Chocolate layer

  • 800g mascarpone cheese
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • juice 1/2 orange
  • finely grated rind of 1 orange
  • 175g plain dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • chocolate leaves, to decorate


  1. Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin
  2. To make the base, put the crushed biscuits, cocoa powder and melted butter into a large bowl and mix well.  Press the biscuit mixture evenly over the base of the prepared tin.
  3. Put the marscarpone cheese and sugar into a bowl and stir in the orange juice and rind.  Add the melted chocolate and brandy and mix together until thoroughly combined.  Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the biscuit layer.  Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 4 hours.
  4. Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator, turn out onto a serving platter and decorate with chocolate leaves.  Serve immediately.

Notes on this recipe:

  • My sister and I discussed this recipe in depth, detailing everything we’d change if we cooked it again.  Pretty much it’s going to be a different cheese cake.
  • Marscarpone is pretty tasteless, so this is missing the tang that Philly cream cheese gives a cheese cake.  The amount of marscarpone is also incredibly expensive, and when it’s expensive and not particularly tasty it’s a bit of a let down.
  • There was absolutely no taste of orange in this cheesecake, if you want it to be jaffa (ish) flavoured you’re going to need a add a whole lot more orange juice (easy if you’re using a different cheese), and a whole lot more rind.