Comfort and Spice

by Miss South on September 14, 2011

Even if you aren’t a food blogger, you’ve probably stumbled across Niamh Shields’ fantastic blog Eat Like a Girl with its mix of travel, food, great writing and strong personality. It appeals to everyone from die hard foodies to people idly pondering what to make for the one Sunday lunch they do each year. I’m especially fond of it due to the fact Niamh proudly references her Irish roots, never apologising for the cuisine of my youth and helps sate occasional pangs of homesickness.

So I’d been counting down the days till Niamh’s first cookbook Comfort and Spice was published. I had pre-ordered it on Amazon and then Quadrille very kindly offered us a review copy to see what other Irish folk thought. Even on the first flick through I knew I’d have been happy to pay full price for it. I can’t remember the last time a cookbook excited me so much.

It’s quite a small book compared to some of the stupidly large tomes we’re used to these days, but there isn’t a single filler recipe in it. Split into sections such as ‘Hearty Lunch’, ‘Simple Suppers’ and ‘Eight Great Big Dinners’ this is a book written by someone who loves food but understands the home cook and their concerns and costs. There’s no cutting corners on quality and an encouragement to make things from scratch with dishes running consecutively so you can shop wisely while leftovers are given their rightful place. There is no assumption that you have unlikely kitchen gadgets or an army of kitchen staff to wash up items that didn’t really need used.

And if that isn’t already a refreshing change that sells the book to you, wait til you see the recipes. Based round a combination of clever shopping and a good storecupboard, I was cooking from it within an hour of it arriving. Cauliflower soup with spiced butter tortelloni lifted this humble brassica into an evening event so good I forgot to photograph it.

Black pudding croquettes perked up some mediocre slices from the supermarket along with a rosti and some homegrown tomatoes. Ricotta pancakes made Monday morning a sheer joy. The soda farls tasted as good as the ones off my Auntie Georgie’s griddle. Ham salt makes the world a better place and I can barely wait til Christmas to do the spiced beef.

I have more recipes marked to try than not. I love the everyday luxury of the book with cook’s perks such as chicken skin skewers while the tasty practicality of two and six hour pork belly makes me want to invite the world to lunch. I can’t wait to feel the achievement of homemade butter and ricotta. It’s a book that speaks to all levels of cook from the novice to the expert and neither assumes confidence (or a vast spice cupboard of unheard items) nor patronises.

I just can’t think of anything I don’t like about it although if I was quibbling, I’d prefer a hardcover as my cover had greedy greasy fingerprints on it after the first goes. Beautifully written, brilliantly planned, I can’t fault it. Buy one immediately, bring the joys of chorizo on sticks into your life and let Niamh suggest all your meals for the next few weeks. You couldn’t be in better company!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

thelittleloaf September 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm

It’s SUCH an awesome book – was so excited to receive it last week and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. Very impressed you made pasta too :-)

Miss South September 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I am as pleased as punch with mine. Definitely need the pasta machine though as my tortelloni were a bit chunky, but so delicious I didn’t really care!

Mister North September 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Oh, sounds heavenly. Looking forward to seing this when I’m next down in London town… and I was already planning on making spiced beef for Christmas so this has got me even more determined to do so. Yum!

saffronbunny September 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I agree! brave lady to suggest making your own butter and cheese, I am going to give it a go, love the site! the bunny x

Miss South September 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Bunny, we made cheese from scratch recently and it was super easy! I can’t wait to try the ricotta recipe here because nothing impresses people more than saying you made cheese!

I’m scared to make butter though. I imagine it will be so good that I’ll be eating it straight from the jar with a spoon, bypassing the bread completely. That cannot end well…

PS: love the pear post!

Claire September 16, 2011 at 10:24 am

Sounds amazing. I’ve only just recently discovered Niamh, but everything she talks about eating or making literally makes me salivate, so delighted that her book doesn’t disappoint. Off to Amazon I go…

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