I find it fascinating that concepts of 'comfort food' can differ so wildly between people. That 'comfort' has such a varying meaning dependent on which particular need one is looking to fulfill and how we then translate that into food. For some, chocolate (predominantly milk rich) provides the ultimate hug if they are feeling somewhat low. For others, a large dish of fish or cottage pie with its rich pillows of potato topping is what they crave to dive into in times of need. Starchy and milky dishes seem to feature high on the menu for some (and no, I won't dabble with any tinpot theories of seeking the comfort of our mother's milk), whereas others seem to favour a steaming bowl of goodness either in vegetable or fruit form.
Feeling rather fatigued and hungry after a rare late night out (made even later by the clocks springing forward) without supper, lunchtime found me seeking the silky and unctuous stroking that only one of my favourite dishes can guarantee - baba ghanoush. This Arabic dish based on roasted or grilled aubergines, has cousins known as mutababal in the Levant and patlican salatasi in Turkey, both of which have variations of seasonings although the main ingredient and method remains the same. Research indicates that to be truly authentic, baba ghanoush should include flat-leaf parsley. Sadly, hunger got the better of me after a long, brisk walk and so I simply went with the ingredients that my fridge and cupboards could offer.
Baba Ghanoush (my version)
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/2 - 1tsp ground cumin
squeeze of lemon juice
salt to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Stab the aubergines a few times with a fork - this prevents them from exploding in the oven. Pop them in the oven with the whole garlic cloves in a dish until they are soft, approximately 30 minutes.
2. When they are cool, cut the aubergines in half and scoop the flesh into a food processor (if you'd prefer a stiffer dish, put the flesh in a colander to allow any liquid to drain. I was too hungry!). Squeeze the garlic from they're papery coats into the processor. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, the ground cumin and a good grinding of salt. Whizz until you have a smooth puree.
That's it. Simple, fairly quick and delicious to dive into when one is in need of comfort.
(p.s I'm aware that it's not the most visually appealing of dishes but the taste more than compensates for the lack of aesthetics).