Monday, September 12, 2011

Six (actually about 10) recipes to make from Comfort and Spice

Publishers have odd ideas sometimes. What possessed Quadrille to call Niamh* Shields first book Comfort & Spice instead of Eat Like a Girl, the title of her hugely popular blog, I can’t imagine. It sounds like a Christmas baking book. Maybe the idea was it would appeal more to the American market? And perhaps they’re right but it in no way conjures up the discursive, leftfield tone of Niamh’s writing (you can actually hear her talking to you) or her wide-ranging choice of recipes.

What I like best about it, I must confess, are the small tips and ingredients made from scratch which, only someone as unashamedly greedy as Niamh - and I say this in the nicest possible way - would have come up with. I can’t wait to make a batch of ham salt, harissa croutons, rosepetal butter and passionfruit and lime curd (1) (All short recipes so I’m counting these as one choice.)

Probably the best section overall is the Eight Great Big Dinners . . . and what to do with the leftovers. The idea of making sausage roll style Lamb and smoky aubergine rolls (2) with leftover shoulder of lamb is genius and you should definitely try her signature two and six-hour pork belly (3) which can be turned into some wicked-sounding pork belly dumplings.

There are also some excellent tips for getting your crackling crisp which I shan’t pass on otherwise you might not buy the book . . .

Niamh’s Irish roots are evident in number of recipes out of which I’d pick the smoked salmon with potato pancakes and cucumber relish (4) using Frank Hederman smoked salmon, as she recommends, if you can get hold of it. She says she’s been making the pancakes since she was at school so they should be good.

I suspect the same is true of her simply named Prawn Curry (5) which she says all her friends now make - the downside of being generous with your recipes. It includes cloves, an interesting touch. Maybe that’s the ‘spice’ of the title’

As well as the butter I’ve mentioned, there are a number of recipes for home-made cheese including homemade paneer (6) which you could use to make her Mutter Paneer. What’s great about this book is how encouraging Niamh is. She almost knows you read a recipe, wondering if it will work then goes on to reassure you how easy it is.

Chicken and chorizo pie (er, 7. I was only supposed to pick six recipes, but never mind) is a winner too. In fact Niamh has obviously got a big thing going about chorizo which appears in rather too many recipes - my one small niggle with the book, apart from its title. But like the rest of this series it has immense charm as does its author. It would be a very good friend in the kitchen.

*Niamh is pronounced neev in Gaelic not nee-am-huh. Just in case you wondered.

Photos are from ‘Comfort and Spice’ by Niamh Shields, the fourth book in the New Voices in Food series, published by Quadrille (£14.99, paperback) Photography (C) Georgia Glynn Smith


  1. Yes, I think Eat Like A Girl would have been a great title, perhaps they were worried it would be offputting for potential male purchasers, though I'd like to think not!

    Recipes I'm hearing about all sound great, may have to break my rule of not buying any more books!!!

  2. That's a silly rule, Kavey. You know you're never going to stick to it ;-)

  3. I have to say it seems preposterous to have such a brilliant following as Eat Like A Girl and for your first book not to be called after it.
    Let's hope it sells well regardless of the not so hot title......
    Any book with pork belly recipes gets my seal of approval!