The healthy-ish comfort food you need as autumn comes along.
This is the kind of meal I like to have on a cold winter day. Beware! It does take around 2 hours to do the whole meal but most of that time is waiting for the potatoes to boil or waiting for the casserole to bake. If you’re looking for a cheap, savory vegan meal then this is absolutely worth it.
I find that when it comes to vegan food, squash and aubergine (eggplant), really do have the power to alter the whole meal by soaking up so much of the flavor. I love Bulgarian cuisine. It took me such a long time to fully appreciate it though – as a kid I found it boring and wanted hamburgers and pizzas every day. Looking at it now, there is such an overwhelming amount of accidentally vegan dishes that it makes me incredibly happy to have grown up in this kind of eating culture. Granted, that also includes a lot of grandmothers that believe that if you don’t eat meat you won’t grow up (Sorry, grandma!), but also a lot of grandmothers making vegan dishes without even realizing it (Lentil soup, hello?).
Vegan potato and squash casserole
- 600 g potatoes (peeled and cut into circles)
- 1 squash (peeled and grated)
- 2 carrots (thinly chopped)
- 1 leak (thinly chopped)
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 400 g canned tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic (thinly sliced or minced)
- 4 tablespoons of oil
- black pepper
- fresh parsley
- basil (fresh or not)
How to make it:
- Cut the potatoes in thin (but not as thin as a chips) circles and then boil them with a little salt.
- Prepare your vegetables and throw them in a large pan or pot with some oil.
- Sprinkle them with salt while you fry them and fry until they get softer.
- Add the tomatoes and season with more salt and any additional spices you like.
- Cook for a few minutes more, taste and add additional spices if needed.
- Preheat your oven to 200 °C (392 °F).
- Layer in a baking pan one layer of potatoes, sprinkle with salt, then add a layer of the vegetable tomato sauce.
- Add a layer of potatoes (with a little salt) and then sauce and continue until you are out of ingredients. Make sure that the top layer is sauce.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes and enjoy both hot or cold.
*I believe this would taste awesome with many different vegetables, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try different veggies in it.
* I add some nutritional yeast to the sauce for some B12 and a bit of cheesy smell.
What is comfort food?
Comfort food may be associated with the reason why many people refuse to go vegan and state that they can never “imagine not eating *insert animal product here*”. A 2015 study at Sewanee found that comfort food was associated with close relationships. It reminds of us our “social ties” and helps us feel less lonely when we feel isolated. We all know that eating is often seen as a social activity but comfort food is a bit different. It makes us feel less isolated, even if there is nobody around.
What is the most common comfort food?
An interesting study by Brian Wansink and Cynthia Sangerman asked a population of 1,000 North Americans to choose their favorite comfort food and the answers aren’t much of a surprise. The most common comfort foods are: chips, ice cream, cookies, pizza, pasta, and burgers.
- Comfort foods make us feel good because they usually include either a lot of sugar or salt and activate our brain’s reward system. For some foods, that is the same brain region that is activated for drug abuse.
- When we are in a bad mood, we are generally drawn to comfort foods and foods high in sugar and salt as a form of self medication.
I see it a lot as our brain trying to trick us into taking the easy way out. When we are feeling sad or lonely it would take a lot of effort on our part to contact someone we miss or go out and meet new people. Eating a big pizza is just a lot easier and gives us a reward quite similar to the pleasure we receive from being with people we like or love.
I am no expert but I vouch that the next time you feel the need to comfort with food, you either try some healthier options like this, or try to think behind what is causing that craving. Getting to the causation will allow you to have more control over your eating habits and allow you to dictate your life more, rather than allowing salt and sugar to do that for you.