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Sambal Shiok
Chris Keeling

The autumn’s comfiest comfort food

Seek solace in the season’s heartiest dishes, guaranteed to keep you warm and toasty, however chilly the weather and/or news is

Angela Hui
Written by
Angela Hui
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Temperatures are dropping, night creeps in earlier every night: autumn is upon us. As we switch our summer jackets for parkas and scarves and whatnot, it’s time to celebrate this glorious change in seasons. How? I suggest rejoicing at the return of heartier dishes – and you’ll find some of the best on this list. From pies and pastas to soups and stews, expect an autumnal feast of epicurean proportions – what could be more heartwarming than this comforting little lot? 

Coffee Catalyst Macaroni Pie
Photograph: Coffee Catalyst

The very best mac ’n’ cheese: macaroni pie at Catalyst Coffee

Catalyst Coffee on Gray’s Inn Road has been quietly smashing it out of the park with its take on Greek-ish food at its regular Friday night dinners. Now new chef Dimitris Blachouras (once a cook at two-Michelin-starred L’enclume) is planning three Fridays dedicated to one of Scotland’s greatest delicacies: the ‘macaroni pie’. His version has a base made with eggs, barrel-aged feta, oregano and ‘staka’ (salty clarified Cretan sheep’s butter that makes the pasta gooey and melty). The crust? Oh-so-light handmade rolled filo pastry that’s airy and crisp and means the pie is carb-on-carb without becoming a claggy mass. It’s all baked to golden-brown perfection, revealing a mesmerising stacked hole pattern when you cut through it. Catch it while you can.

Cosiness level Lighting your special-occasions-only Malin + Goetz Otto candle.
48 Gray’s Inn Rd, WC1X 8LT. £10 a slice.

The very best stew: Imone’s soondubu jjigae

Soondubu jjigae? More like soon-to-be your new bae. Order a piping hot cauldron of this Korean tofu stew at Imone and you’re guaranteed to feel brand new. Silky soft white tofu cubes bob up and down in a glisteningly bright red savoury and spicy umami-rich stock that’s studded with enoki mushrooms, mussels, squid and whole prawns, then topped with a boiled egg. To accompany that little lot, get yourself a bowl of pearly white rice, which is desperately asking to be plunged into the soup, absorbing all the warming flavours.
Cosiness level A fleece-covered hot water bottle on a blustery, cold night.
169 High St, KT3 4BH. £8.

Panadera Corned Beef Sandwich
Photograph: Andy Parsons

The very best sandwich: corned-beef-hash sando at Panadera

Bread, glorious, bread! How can an everyday food staple bring so much joy? Neighbourhood Filipino bakery Panadera in Kentish Town makes its own fluffy Filipino-style milk bread called pandesal. It’s lighter than air and softer than a pomeranian, and the bakers here load it with lots of milk and sugar to help counteract the salty richness of the stuff they fill it with: corned-beef pieces made into a croquette, the crust of which acts as a barrier to prevent the meat layer seeping into the delicate bread. Topped with fried shallots, lettuce and garlic aioli, it’s a genuinely incredible sandwich that you’ll think about it for long after you’ve finished.
Cosiness level Cuddling 100 Andrex puppies.
83 Kentish Town Rd. £7.50. 

St John
Photograph: Sam A Harris

The very best pie: St John’s game pie

London can only have one true King of Pies, and that’s St John. The venerable nose-to-tail British restaurant is famous for its burnished, beautiful, flaky-lidded guys. Each one is finished with signature bone marrow, which sits poking out of the pie’s lid like a proud megalith (while its flavours seep into the filling). You’ll find a daily-changing pie line-up on offer at St John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields and you can currently order a spectacular game number for home delivery via Dishpatch. For that one, head chef Farokh Talati brings his Parsi heritage to the table and uses a family recipe that’s been passed down through generations. Filled with pheasant, venison and pigeon, it’s seasoned with Talati’s own masala spice blend (cumin, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, cinnamon and Kashmiri chilli), which adds a warming, fragrant flavour to balance the rich, gamey filling. The meat is slowly braised with shallots and ginger, then left swimming in a wonderfully deep-flavoured trotter stock. It’s so thick and flavoursome, you want to bathe in it.
Cosiness level: A long, lazy bath you accidentally fall asleep in.
94-96 Commercial St, E1 6LZ. £35.

Sambal Shiok
Photograph: Chris Keeling

The very best noodles: Sambal Shiok’s laksa noodle soup 

Laksa noodle soup is the thing to order at Sambal Shiok in Holloway – and it isn’t just any plain bowl of noodles. Oh no, the stuff the team serve up here is so good that its pretty much medicinal. Hangover? Laksa noodle soup. Cold? Laksa noodle soup. Bad day? Laksa noodle soup. You get the gist. Expect a mood-boosting, soothing bowl of fat, slippery noodles bathing in a hot, fiery, shrimpy, sunset-coloured broth. You can customise bowls to your liking, amping up the dish with poached chicken, prawns, fried tofu puffs, veg or egg. There’s even a vegan shrimp-free option that packs just as much of an umami punch as the original. Chef-owner Mandy Yin’s debut cookbook is coming out this month, which means you can learn the secrets of her signature curry laksa dishes in your own kitchen. Pre-order here
Cosiness level: Sleeping with your favourite teddy every night.
171 Holloway Rd, N7 8LX. £14.20. 

Matzo ball soup Reubens
Photograph: Reubens

The very best soup: chicken soup at Reubens

Feeling under the weather? The chicken soup at legendary caff Reubens in Marylebone will sort you right out. Picture a bowl of steaming broth filled with delightful, plump dumplings. You want it already, right? Well, let me tell you that said broth is a translucent flavour-bomb, liberally sprinkled with parsley and succulent shredded chicken meat. And those dumplings? They’re made of matzah meal (crushed unleavened bread), eggs and chicken fat, and are just what the doctor ordered. Basically, Jewish penicillin. There’s also an option to add lokshen (thin vermicelli noodles) to really up the stodge factor and make you feel content for longer.
Cosiness level Starfishing in still-warm-from-the-dryer 600-thread-count White Company sheets.
79 Baker St, W1U 6RG. £8.95.

The very best rice: Macau-style rice at Cafe TPT

If you want a plate of meat and rice then Hong Kong dai pai dong Cafe TPT in Chinatown should be your go-to. The pork chop Macau-style rice really isn’t much of a looker, but isn’t ugly, beige food really the best type of food? The mountainous dome of rice is loaded with chilli-oil-fried pork strips, sprinkled with crunchy onions and then smothered in a coconut flaked, curry-esque béchamel cheesy sauce. Its then baked until oozing and slightly charred. It’s pure nap-inducing stuff. A word of warning, though. Let the baked rice cool a bit before eating or run the risk of scalding the entire roof of your mouth. I know, Ive done it.
Cosiness level Lounging in your fluffy Muji bathrobe all day.
21 Wardour St, W1D 6PN. £13.30.

Duck Ragu Pappardelle
Photograph: Trullo

The very best pasta: duck ragù at Trullo

Italian neighbourhood restaurant Trullo is the kind of spot that you can easily fall madly, deeply in love with. The Highbury pasta purveyor is known for fresh handmade pasta, slow-cooked sauces and antipasti. (Its signature cacio e pepe and carbonara swirls are so famous they basically have their own Instagram followings.) And, as we enter autumn, its chefs are packing out the menu with even heartier stuff. The dish that has really caught our attention, though, is the aromatic duck ragù paired with toothsome pappardelle and dusted with a rather generous layer of parmesan. This stuff is guaranteed to lift even the lowest of spirits. 
Cosiness level Wrapping yourself up like a burrito in a duvet on the sofa.
300-302, St Paul's Rd, N1 2LH. £13.50.

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