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A small announcement…

Miss South's piece in the Observer Food Monthly, 20th Jan 2013

We’ve got some exciting news for you. Just as our blog enters its fourth year, an article and series of recipes I’ve written is published in this month’s Observer Food Monthly!

Based on my piece about food poverty and eating on a budget not being just as simple as it might seem, I’ve written another piece and a week’s worth of recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a treat or two for them. They’ve very kindly published the whole lot, both online and in the magazine itself.

I’ve budgeted that everything feeds 2 for £20 a week each, priced at Sainsbury’s online. There’s a minimum of energy costs, kitchen equipment and herbs, spices and condiments; but the opportunity to add in the things that you absolutely can’t do without to flavour your food. I’ve intended it as a guide–not gospel–and tried to make frugal food seem fun.

I’m so pleased to have been given the opportunity to do this and at risk of sounding a bit like I’m giving an Oscar speech, I’d like to thank everyone for the overwhelming support and encouragement they gave me over the first piece. Many of you took the time to tweet and email me personally as well as leaving personal, thoughtful, honest comments that created a real discussion on the subject. Some of you even went out of your way to suggest a piece by me to the Guardian/Observer and I hope I’ve thanked you personally.

Both Mister North and I would like to thank you all for the fun, support and encouragement we’ve had in our blogging career. It’s been brilliant so far. I’m certainly a much better and resourceful cook than I was and it’s introduced me to wonderful people and opportunities. Here’s to many more years!

Miss South's article online for Observer Food Monthly, 20th Jan 2013

Comfort and Spice

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!