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Food: Dishes to soothe the soul

Nurturing, nostalgic. . . In turbulent times, food can be a real source of solace. Some of Velvet’s favourite foodies share their current comfort dish of choice

Nicola Miller, Bury St Edmunds food writer

"When I am stressed, the last thing I want to do is cook but I'm not one of those people who loses their appetite either. I have yet to meet a life event that stops me from eating and this is where chocolate comes in. I am very particular too. Fancy single estate brands of dark intensity are for the good times when a few squares of dark intensity will satisfy. But when I am feeling miserable what is needed is a 250g hunk of inexpensive milk chocolate which I will mindlessly devour until I am as sleepy as a milk-drunk baby. "

* Visit nicmillerstales.com

Riadh Falvo, Cambridge chocolatier, Bumble & Oak

“When asked about my current comfort food, I instantly thought of chocolate. Being a chocolatier, this was an obvious choice, and I replied to the invitation with the question, “Would chocolate be too clichéd?” I was assured that chocolate is perhaps the ultimate comfort eat at the moment, but funnily enough it is not what a chocolatier reaches for. Not always.

“Then we hit 27C, and I remembered what my chocolate teacher used to tell me religiously every year: “In the summer, we make ice cream!” It has been on my weekly shopping list as an ‘essential’ - Ben & Jerry’s being a favourite - but there was never enough cookie dough, so I started making my own!”

* Follow @bumbleandoak

* Pictured: Coconut milk and lavender sweet potato ‘nice cream’ with a lemon basil honeycomb

Pina Broccoli Anaia, Cambridge food blogger, One Two Culinary Stew

“Lasagne is wonderfully filling, with its rich ragù, sharp cheese and velvety béchame, but it’s the process of making it that I find the most comforting.

“The series of calming movements help switch off my mind: the rhythmic chopping of onions and carrots, the gentle stirring of meat sauce as it simmers, the precise grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the careful whisking of butter, flour, milk and cheese.

“Then comes the therapeutic repetition of layering these fragrant ingredients between pasta sheets, all culminating in a delicious labour of love oozing with deep flavours. It tastes like home.”

* See onetwoculinarystew.com

* Portrait picture by Stella Pereira

Helen Underwood, Kingston sourdough baker, White Cottage Bakery

“I’m lucky to have been in lockdown with my adult family - and my girls are keen cooks. And we’ve all been obsessed with fresh pasta. I developed a pasta recipe using our sourdough starter and we can’t get enough of it!

“Sometimes we’ll go the extra mile and make a more lavish dish – we’ve been using a lot of foraged herbs to make cannelloni and ravioli – but for good old comforting eating you can’t beat a simple plate of pasta drenched in a chilli and garlic-infused olive oil, sprinkled with grated pecorino and topped with pangritata (fried breadcrumbs).

“Simple, delicious. . . perhaps just one more forkful?”

* See whitecottagebakery.com

Jo Kruczynska, Ely cake baker, Afternoon Tease

“Food, and my love of it, is definitely what’s been getting me through this difficult time. My love affair with brunch is well documented on my social media and my go-to comfort food would have to be eggs! There are endless dishes to be made from the humble egg and to me brunch is a hug on a plate.

“ A couple of my most recent fave egg-based brunches have been: creamy scrambled eggs with chives, avocado and nduja (a spreadable spicy Italian salami) on Grain Culture toast; a bagel filled with avo, bacon, and a perfect fried egg topped with sriracha; and pan-fried garlicky wild mushrooms on sourdough toast topped with a six minute boiled egg and grated pecorino.”

* See afternoontease.co.uk

Stella Pereira, Cambridge food stylist and photographer

“Food from my childhood seems to bring the most comfort. We love soft Portuguese milk buns, glazed with milk and honey. Plain, plaited or swirled with a quick fruit compote.

“We bake buns on Saturday mornings. The first ones are eaten straight out of the oven. By Monday, they are perfect for French toast. By the end of the week, any left behind end up in an orange infused bread and butter pudding. Topped with toasted almonds and a dusting of icing sugar."

* See stellapereira.com

Laura Donohue, Camrbridge blogger and cookery teacher, Crumbs on the Table

“My comfort food is not so much a food, as a food ritual. I’ve discovered the delights of ‘elevenses’, when I take a moment to indulge in a cup of good strong coffee with a little baked treat.

“I make a batch of favourite biscuits - peanut butter oat, snickerdoodles, world-peace cookies - and freeze the dough ready-rolled into cookie-sized balls so I can bake just a few at a time when need strikes.

“It’s comforting to know there’s a little of what we fancy safely tucked away, and there’s less temptation this way to scoff the lot! This late-morning ritual is a cheering pick-me-up, and helps structure the day.”

* See crumbsonthetable.co.uk

Stuart Tuck, Cambridge chef and owner/operator, The Architect

“Whenever I hear the term 'comfort food' the first thing that comes to mind is pie, whether it's roast chicken, ham hock and leek in a perfectly crumbly shortcrust base topped with the lightest puff pastry; a shepherd’s pie packed full of lamb and veggies in a rich gravy under a blanket of cheesy (I use Saint Agur) mashed potato, gratinated, bubbling and crispy in all the right places; or a good old-fashioned hot water-crusted pork pie with a hunk of bread, pickles and English mustard. But never EVER a 'pot pie'! That's just a casserole pretending to be a pie.”

* See thearchitectcambridge.co.uk

Read more: Allotment's Katie Moore shares two of her top comfort-food recipes

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