For me, the phrase ‘comfort food’ inspires visions of feel-good and satisfying suppers: autumn root veg and hearty bakes oozing with golden, melting cheese.
Comfort is also about feeling happily lazy, and in the kitchen that means not taking a whole evening to cook, nor facing a pile of washing up after you’re done. These recipes are my favourites for maximum ease and flavour, but minimal clear-up.
The classic side dish of cauliflower cheese is beefed up into a main with the addition of squash, and while that bakes there’s plenty of time to get together a simple but special salad with a few beautiful ingredients.
To celebrate the best of the season’s fruit, combine apples with the fragrant spices of a mince pie (is it too early to say mince pie?!) and just add butter – the ultimate comfort ingredient.
Spiced baked apples with coconut and orange zest
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 4 large apples, whatever variety you like
- 40g mixture of dried fruit, such as raisins and sultanas
- 25g desiccated coconut
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamom (seeds from about 1 pod, crushed)
- 25g pecans
- 30g butter or coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp finely chopped orange or satsuma zest
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- natural yogurt or coconut yogurt, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 220C/ 200C fan/gas mark 8.
- Use a small knife to remove the core of each apple (try not to cut through the bottom, so it holds the stuffing, but don’t worry if you do). Remove a little more around the core, making a good amount of room for the stuffing (eat any bits that can be eaten!).
- Quarter-fill a mug with just-boiled water (about 60ml) and drop in the dried fruit. Set aside.
- Using an ovenproof saucepan with a lid (one that’s the right size to fit the four apples snugly), toast the coconut and spices for a minute then tip this into a bowl.
- Toast the pecans for a minute then roughly chop them before adding them to the bowl.
- Add the melted butter or oil, vanilla, zest and ginger to the bowl, along with a tiny pinch of salt.
- Lift out the soaked fruit (leaving the water in the mug) and mix it through the nuts. Put the dried-fruit water in the pan.
- Fill each apple with stuffing mixture and sit them in the water in the pan. Put the lid on and place in the oven carefully, so the apples don’t fall over. Bake for 20 minutes then take the lid off and bake for another 15-20, until the apples are tender and golden on top. They will be piping hot, so leave them out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving up with a big dollop of yogurt.