Comfort food. We all eat it and need it from time to time, some more than others. For me comfort food done well is filling, hearty and it makes me feel better when I’m either unwell or I need to console myself, lick my wounds or similar. Usually comfort food is garbage nutritionally speaking. It is typically high in salt, high in sugar, high in bad fats and loaded with simple carbohydrates. I am here to tell you that it need not be so. If you want good comfort food then usually it has to be:
- Tasty and/or hearty
So here is one of my favourite dishes that is all three: socca flatbread with a cheesy dip sauce.
This is a dish that will fill you and satisfy your comfort hunger, but will not leave you bloated and tired with a food hangover, and it relies on my favourite staple, the mighty cashew cream. The flatbread, socca, is gluten￼-free and low on carbohydrates. So below is how you make it.
- Two cups of water
- Two cups of gram flour (chickpea flour)
- 3 tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- Fresh rosemary for garnish
- 150 grams cashews, soaked in boiling water for at least 10 minutes
- 1 cup of nutritional yeast
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- Soy milk
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1-2 tsp Chilli flakes
- Salt to taste
Mix the ingredients together until you have something similar to pancake batter. If it is watery add a little more flour, or water if too thick. Socca needs to be crispy at the edges with a creamy tasting centre, so once your batter is smoothly mixed you must let it rest for half an hour. This will give the dense gram flour time to hydrate thoroughly.
To cook it spread some oil around a frying pan and keep the heat at medium. Coat the pan with batter, and let it cook slowly. It will bubble up, this is normal. You do not flip it, hence why a medium heat is important. Allow it to cook through. It is ready when you can lift it from the pan without it falling apart. If you lift it too soon it will flop and split. Patience is key here as it will take a little longer than a regular pancake to cook through, and the first one will be a little more difficult than the others to cook properly. Garnish with rosemary and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Once done you can do anything with it. You could spread with garlic butter, use it as a pizza base, top with a Mediterranean salad, maybe a tabbouleh, or tomato sauce. The possibilities are limitless. For this dish however slice it into six with a pizza cutter.
Drain the cashews and put them in a blender. Start it spinning on a low speed and slowly add milk. Keep this up until you have a smooth cream. It can take a couple of minutes to completely pulverise the nuts so there is no need to rush. Once done, add the chopped pepper and blend again.
Once you have the cream add the nutritional yeast, and add a little more milk if necessary to keep the smooth consistency. Once that is blended add the paprika, garlic, turmeric and chilli flakes. Blend thoroughly. Now you will have a cheesy, creamy sauce.
Unplug the blender and taste. Depending on your preference, add salt slowly and blend, unplugging and tasting as you go. Once you are happy the sauce is ready. I serve it in a bowl that I have warmed in hot water to keep the sauce warm like a fondue. Now it’s your choice! Either spread the sauce on the socca, or dip and munch. Whatever floats your boat. You now have a dish full of good fats, protein, no gluten and very little carbohydrate. Best of all, it is absolutely delicious.
That is how you eat comfort food that hits the spot without hitting your waistline.
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