Comfort Food With Cat Sarsfield: Warm Tomato Dressing

A self-confessed homebody whose favourite activities include cooking, relaxing and finding new places to lie down in her flat, Cat is a writer and food lover who works for our good friends Sonder & Tell

Having lived in some interesting spaces and places (a shed in Cornwall, a bridal suite in California, an old school building in India, a railway house in Sri Lanka – to name a few), Cat is now spending her time writing, cooking and reading in her London flat. 

Cat shares her favourite comfort food recipes. Warning - this blog will make you hungry.

Cat Sarsfield Sonder and Tell
CAT WINDING DOWN AT HER HOME IN LONDON

One minute you're drinking beers with your best mates and having a barbecue with your family; the next you're isolating in a one-bedroom flat with your partner for a minimum of 10 days #summer2021.

In my earlier years, being bed bound meant hot bowls of miyaguk soup (a Korean seaweed and garlic broth studded with pieces of tender, slow cooked beef) or white rice seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil wrapped in crispy, salty, warm sheets of nori. But being an adult means looking after yourself, and so comes the Sainsbury's delivery man tentatively dropping crates of random groceries. Zero vegetables (apart from baking potatoes, obviously). Extra crisps. Chocolate buttons. A crate of beer. Tins of tuna. A jar of Helman's mayonnaise. The delirium of doing an online order whilst in bed for the 903845th day, trying to figure out what you're both going to want to eat for the next week.

And in that delirium, you experience all-too-real fever dreams of sitting at a trattoria in Italy, swirling silky strands of bucatini dripping in olive oil onto your spoon, a plate of burrata bursting with cream ready to be sliced into; eating crispy calamari and oil-drenched stuffed vine leaves and fish caught that morning – simply salted, grilled and finished with a squeeze of lemon on a Greek island; shovelling Singapore noodles into your month, lips stung with chilli and chased by an ice-cold beer.

Instead (but in many ways no less satisfying): jacket potatoes dripping with butter, beans and coarsely grated extra mature cheddar cheese, sliced spring onions scattered on top (you're an adult now), reminiscent of canteen lunches at school. Farfalle pasta salad tossed with tuna, sweetcorn, thin rings of raw red onion, tart capers and shavings of parmesan. Various things on toast: a thick swipe of mayo, overripe, fridge-cold tomatoes and chopped fresh chives. On repeat. Egg mayo studded with radish sprouts and black sesame seeds; avocados smashed with lime, fresh red chilli and topped with hazelnut dukkah (store-bought, because being bed bound means never milling your own spices). Cheese and pickle sandwiches on basic, soft white bread (oh the nostalgia).

On the second evening of isolation – aka the last meal I actually 'cooked' – I made ribollita soup: sofrito (diced onions, celery, carrots, garlic), 1/2 tin of tomatoes, a parmesan rind from the freezer thrown in, white beans, fregola and thinly sliced cavalo nero thrown in at the end. Being bed bound requires simplicity. Baking a potato for an hour (ICYMI: pierce holes with a fork, coat in olive oil and a pinch of salt, bake for 1 hour in a 230º oven, turning halfway through) is low energy and high reward. It only takes one cooking-related action per meal: like boiling pasta or toasting bread (you'll become an expert at that). Lean on store-cupboard staples – baked beans, tinned tuna, anchovies, soy sauce, olive oil.

The true hero of my near 14 days of being bed bound was the simplest recipe-not-recipe of all. Oven-roasted tomatoes spiked with white wine vinegar, chilli, honey and feta. Then eaten with or on anything: spooned on top of toast, mixed into pasta, drizzled on top of baby potatoes, stirred through bulgar wheat or giant couscous or quinoa.

Bed Bound Warm Tomato Dressing

Bed Bound Warm Tomato Dressing

Ingredients:

  • Cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • 3 garlic cloves sliced
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Salt
  • Chilli flakes
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • Feta
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Lemon zest
Warm tomato dressing

Method:

Place a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes (I often opt for on the vine) in a baking tray. I tend to use a slightly smaller one so the tomatoes are a little crowded. Throw in 3 garlic cloves finely sliced, a sprig of rosemary, a heavy pinch of salt and red chilli flakes, then pour a generous glug of olive oil (enough to coat the tomatoes, but also leaving a thick layer of oil at the bottom of the dish). 

Pop into the oven (preheated to 200ºC) for about 20-25 minutes, or until bursting. If your tommies are on the vine, use a fork to remove the vine, then gently burst the tomatoes a little more. Remove the rosemary sprig. 

Add a couple tablespoons of white wine vinegar, a squeeze of honey and one chopped fresh red chilli, salt and pepper to taste. Use your intuition on levels of flavour. You might want to squeeze some lemon for freshness. Lemon zest wouldn't go amiss. Finally crumble in 1/2 block of feta and serve warm. Feel free to add some fresh herbs like chopped coriander and mint, but they're not essential. 

Enjoy in bed with crunchy toast or drizzled on top of your favourite pasta shape. Netflix optional but strongly encouraged. 

Read The Wind Down With Cat Sarsfield here or sign up to Cat's foodie newsletter here.