Niamh Shield's Irish roots are definitely apparent as you flick through her first cook book Comfort & Spice, recipes for Spiced Beef, Irish Hot Port and Blaas (Niamh is a Waterford native) sit side by side with more exotic fare. Living now in London, Niamh writes the incredibly popular Eat Like a Girl, where her love for food and cooking have made her one of the most influential UK food blogs.
I was so excited when a copy of Comfort and Spice plopped through my letter box. I love Niamh's blog and I followed her comments about putting the book together on Twitter back in the spring. So I couldn't wait to get browsing through it the minute it came through the door. I was not disappointed, this is probably the best cook book that I have read this year. There are so many recipes that I want to try and so many others that make me want to experiment more with my own dishes.
She starts the book with some excellent advice on becoming a better cook, including using fresh, seasonal produce, the importance on knowing the basic cooking techniques and how to experiment with flavours. The book is then divided into five different sections: Brunch, Speedy Suppers, Long Weekend, Sugar and Spice and Drinks, the first three of which are then split into simple subdivisions, for example Brunch has the subdivisions of Light and Comforting, both of which sound great to me.
The very first dish that I made from the book was delicious Herbed Lamb Cutlets with Anchovy. These were a great success with the Beau and while the meat needed to marinate for a minimum of four hours, the actual work involved in making them was minimal, what more do you want from a dish?
Another success was the Overnight Shoulder of Pork. This dish needs to cook in a low oven for 12 hours. Myself and Dad realised that this was the perfect dinner to set up during the Ireland vs USA rugby match. Once again minimal work was needed for a very tasty dinner. We had Danish guests for dinner that evening and they were particularly complementary not only about the pork (and its amazing crackling) but the accompanying side dish; a spiced apple relish. (Apologies for the slightly blurry photo but I was in a rush to eat!)
The best thing about Niamh's book, and there are a lot of things to like about it, is that after each of the "Big Dinner" recipes, such as the pork above, there is a leftover section which provides you with a couple of recipes for using up any food that might otherwise go to waste. After the roast shoulder on the Sunday, we made her Pork Croquettes for dinner on the Monday, using up all the left over pork, the leftover potatoes and most of the leftover apple relish. Our only mistake was in putting the leftover gravy in the freezer before dinner as the croquettes were a little dry, but the apple relish remedied that to some extent.
Another thing that I like about this book is that each recipe comes with its own introduction, a particularly personal touch that really brings across Niamh's personality.
I would highly recommend this book for all home cooks, whether beginner or advanced, as it really does contain something for everyone.