This month I was lucky to not only get a review copy of the ICA’s beautiful Book of Crafts but also Penguin Books sent me the latest offering from Jamie Oliver – Jamie’s Comfort Food, to review.
I have a lot of cookbooks. Of all my cookbooks I have maybe fifteen than I use a lot – I’m thinking Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course, Avoca 1 and 2, The River Cottage Meat and Bread books, a batch of Rachel Allen books, Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, Lisa Faulkner’s Recipes from My Mother for My Daughter, Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake, the great New Curry Bible by Pat Chapman and two of Jamie Oliver’s – Jamie’s Kitchen and his 30-Minute Meals. These are the ones that are much loved, much splashed and much used. The main thing that these books have in common is that they are all a great mix of new and old. They are great for refreshing my sightly stale versions of family favourites and also for giving me new ideas that are then rejected out of hand by my little panel of culinary experts, or quickly become the stuff of legend.
These days I’m picky about cook books. Between staring down the husband who thinks I already have enough (seriously, much like wool, enough is never enough) and disliking shelling out €20 for a book that is either cordon bleu gone mad, or full of stuff I already have, I’ve actually taken to borrowing books from the library before buying so I’m sure I’ll like before I buy. So when Jamie’s Comfort Food arrived I was delighted to get a copy and also curious to see if it would live up to expectations and become a new ‘go to’ in my kitchen.
Jamie’s Comfort Food is a hefty pink tome (as admired by Yoda) that comes with a strange half-dustcover that will last about 2 months! As the title suggests, it’s filled with 100 recipes for comforting grub set out under six headings – Nostalgia, Good Mood Food, Pick Me Ups, Ritual, Guilty Pleasures and Sweet Indulgence. It promises ‘the ultimate versions of all-time favourites’ like Shepherd’s Pie, Fish Pie, Burgers Chocolate Celebration Cake, and new favourites like Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Shawarma, and Katsu Curry.
By way of a complete contrast to his more recent books where Jamie doles out (very handy) tips to serve up good food fast, Jamie’s Comfort Food is all about preparing meals slowly and carefully. This isn’t about making dinner on a Wednesday but more about the kind of weekend dinner you start and then hang around to tend to every so often. It’s food for when you’ve time on your hands, and a few hungry mouths to feed, and is absolutely prefect for this week’s soggy old Irish weather. That’s not to say that these are labour intensive recipes, but more than they are the kind of things that marinate, cook slowly, or simmer away while you potter. Neither is the book focussed on cooking on a budget. The ingredients list go the full spectrum from cheaper meats – like beef mince, right the way through to veal and duck breasts. In those respects it’s a more general cookbook than Jamie’s recent ones.
The recipes are served up in Jamie’s usual informal style. A short introduction (am I the only one on the planet who would read a cook book for these alone?) gives a little background to the recipe and helpful tips on accompanying side dishes. The range of recipes is seriously impressive and there is literally something for everyone in here. I’m particularly loving the recipes for condiments like mayonnaise and tartare sauce – which I admit I’ve fallen out of the habit of making in the last few years. The photographs are really stunning. I love the way the food is presented – generous portions of fresh, good food – with none of the smeary puree nonsense with a single olive in the centre of the plate staring up at your poor hungry face. Smaller images are used to show cooking / preparation methods clearly, which is great. The instructions are lovely and easy to follow. Ingredients, serving sizes, preparation time and – a first for me, nutritional information, are clearly set out. Each recipe includes an estimate of the calorie content and at the back of the book this is further broken down to grams of fat, saturates, carbohydrates and sugar. I don’t necessarily read these little gems of guilt-laden-information but hey, it’s nice to know they’re there. Sadly, one of my own little pet peeves is that the oven temperatures provided don’t state whether they are for a fan oven or not. I always assume they aren’t and adjust accordingly but man alive, please cook book writers, add a little note so I know for sure!
So far I’ve tried two Comfort Food recipes – the homemade beans (minus the chilli oil as it kills the hubby’s stomach) and the Chicken Tikka Masala and they were both fantastic. At last I’ve the answer to whether homemade beans are worth it (yes!) and I’d definitely make both again. The next recipes on my hit list are for Toad in the Hole (I won’t be looking up the nutritional info there), the Cornbread and Chipotle Butter (at last a Polenta recipe that appeals to me) and the fresh pasta. I’m torn between the Jaffa Cake and the German Coffee Cake, but safe to say one or the other, or maybe both, will make an appearance at our Knitting Group one of these Wednesdays.
All in all, Jamie’s Comfort Food is my kind of cook book. A great range of recipes, plenty of inspiration and new ideas for a slow Sunday when the rain is lashing down and Mary Poppins is on for the fortieth time. It’s the kind of book you could open with a blank mind and put down only to see if you can turn your hand to it yourself. It’s a great addition to my collection and I’d heartily recommend it as a lovely pressie for any food lover.
Jamie’s Comfort Food is available in your local bookshop or online. For any Irish readers I found it for a great price at Easons retailing at €24.99 and currently with a 3 for 2 deal and free delivery for order over €10. Not bad for a bricks and mortar shop! In addition to the book, you can catch up on the Comfort Food TV series thanks to the very cool 4-OD, here.
I was provided with a free copy of Jamie’s Comfort Food for the express purpose of carrying out this review. All opinions as stated are my own. I have no affiliation with Eason’s bookshop but a great fondness for looking around actual real-life bookshops, particularly when it’s raining and my bus is late. Neither do I have any affiliation to Channel 4 but am forever grateful for the access to the 4-OD service because I am very flaky and cannot seem to ever remember to record stuff.