How to comfort eat well 

Sophie's Pad Thai with courgetti

Food writer (and yo-yo eater) Sophie White has a new resolution this year: to ditch all diet talk and cook good food that will get her through January

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By Sophie White on

It's time to finally accept that January is too goddamn depressing to entertain any serious thoughts of dieting or weight loss. Every year we resolve to implement a new improved life regime that doesn't involve dipping roast potatoes in butter. This resolve is an unfortunate but seemingly inevitable by-product of what I call Feasting Fatigue, that moment after 18,000 mince pies when your body is literally crying out for you to stop force feeding it.

Sometimes by now my face literally hurts from the continuous 30 day eating bender that is December and even though I know that eater’s remorse usually follows any good bout of gorging, still I plough on. This is mainly because a weird part of me thinks I have to cram all the eating I can in while I'm 'being bad' because come January I'll have to “be good” again.

Ah the endless cycle of being bad and being good. I didn’t really get the hang of the whole too-much-bad-food-equals-back-fat thing until relatively late in life. I continued on through my 20s eating like one of those people who have a really fast metabolism and can eat whatever they want, only I don’t have a really fast metabolism and canNOT eat whatever I like.

I am refusing to diet this January. It's already a long month of reflecting on our shortcomings and feeling generally disappointed in life why compound on this by failing to stick to some bullshit diet goals

I always thought that I really envied people who could eat whatever they like without gaining an ounce but on reflection, I actually think if I were to suddenly develop a high-speed metabolism I would probably lose the will to do anything in life aside from eating. It’s really only the fact that I can’t eat twenty-four hours a day that means I can get anything else done. Pursuing personal goals, maintaining inter-personal relationships, creating meaningful memories would all fall by the wayside if I could just lie around eating lime flavoured Doritos and tzatziki all day and still get into my jeans.    

I’m just one of those people who is never too full for dessert, can finish a large popcorn in the cinema and still go for a meal after and is genuinely baffled when someone describes a meal as “too rich”. How could it be too rich? Surely that’s like saying it was “too delicious”.

If all this obsessing about food and weight is a bit tiresome and predictable I apologise. I hate this aspect of myself. I hate conforming to a stereotype and especially such an uninspiring one as the “woman obsesses over her weight” thing but I think for me a far greater issue than how I actually look is the endless yoyo-ing back and forth between the aforementioned “being good” and “being bad”. I can’t seem to just be “normal”. I am always either eating a fried cheese sandwich and hating myself for it. Or ordering a salad and watching someone else eating a fried cheese sandwich and feeling homicidally jealous.

As a part of my quest to "be normal" this year, I am refusing to diet this January. It's already a long month of reflecting on our shortcomings and feeling generally disappointed in life why compound on this by failing to stick to some bullshit diet goals. Instead I'm going to make some mildly healthier versions of my favourite comfort meals and quite possibly dip a few roast potatoes in butter along the way.




Serves 2

  • 1 butternut squash, halved lengthways and deseeded
  • Generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 large handfuls of kale, stalks removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 generous teaspoons tahini
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 4–6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Pierce the thick necks of the squash halves with a knife a few times, then place both halves flesh-side down in a baking dish.
  2. Season with the chilli flakes, sea salt and pepper and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and cut the squash flesh into chunks.
  3. Place the kale, oil and lemon juice in a bowl and massage for about 5 minutes until the ingredients are well combined and the kale is bright green in colour.
  4. Place the tahini, a pinch of salt and the garlic in a small bowl and gradually add the water, whisking until the mixture has the consistency of pouring cream. Add to the kale and toss to coat. Divide the kale mixture between two large bowls and add the squash.




Serves 2

  • 30ml Thai fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 30ml water
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g broccoli, chopped quite small
  • 100g mangetout, roughly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 courgette, very finely sliced lengthways
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lime wedges and a handful of chopped roasted peanuts, to garnish



  1. Put the fish sauce, tamarind paste, water and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a small cup and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the chicken to the pan with salt and pepper to taste, the chilli flakes and lime juice and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork in a bowl, then push all the chicken to the side of the pan, pour in the eggs and quickly scramble them with a spatula.
  5. Mix the chicken into the scrambled egg, add the tamarind sauce and toss in the broccoli, mangetout, carrot and spring onions. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the broccoli is cooked to your liking.
  6. Add the courgetti and toss everything together until the courgetti have softened. Transfer to warmed bowls, garnish with lime wedges and chopped peanuts and serve immediately.


Recipes taken from Recipes For A Nervous Breakdown by Sophie White, published by Gill Books, out now.


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Sophie's Pad Thai with courgetti
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