It's fairly new and it makes a fairly huge amount of sense - top food blogger with thousands visiting her site every month publishes cookbook: it's win-win for both publisher and food writer alike. Niamh Shields, otherwise known as @eatlikeagirl to her 10,000 plus Twitter followers has written Comfort and Spice, published by the New Voice In Food series courtesy of Quadrille.
Behind the clever retro, informal styling of the book, bound in pliant cardboard, made to look like a trendsetter's notebook with feminine adornments, is some serious commitment to food. Never before has a writer had the audacity to suggest that I should make my own butter, yoghurt, bread, ricotta even. Not even the Italians do that! But I admire her all the more for it. Her reasoning? It tastes better and it's easy. There is no comeback.
I was almost convinced until I realised that it was 6pm on a Friday and that if I wanted to make the lemon and ricotta cheesecake and Turkish eggs, the ricotta and yoghurt would both have to come out of a pot. I felt I had let our Irish self-taught cook down in some way, that I would have to do the recipes again, properly.
First recipe: Turkish eggs, page 28. What are they?
Beautifully poached eggs (Niamh demystifies and simplifies the process) with yogurt underneath and melted butter with crispy sage on top.
Cooking method? Dead easy although I'm still not confident about dropping eggs into deep pan of simmering water, I prefer a shallow frying pan. Layer up the yoghurt with an egg, and then the sage butter.
Taste? Unexpectedly delicious and one that will feature on my post-run weekend breakfast menus in future. I was skeptical about the sage crisping in the melted butter but it did, beautifully, adding a nice aromatic crisp to the 'pillow' of yoghurt beneath the egg.
Advice? Get the best freshest eggs possible.
Second recipe: lemon and blueberry ricotta cheesecake
Cooking method? Beautifully simple, whisk up eggs, sugar and ricotta, add in flour and lemon juice, then fruit and pour into a tin.
Taste? Sweet, fruity and fresh - the ricotta and lemon juice balance the sugar, texture is firm and satisfying, good with a cup of coffee for mid-morning relief. However, mine took one hour, not the recommended half hour, at 150° to brown a little and set properly, so make your own judgement on when the centre has set.
Advice? My 20cm tin was just big enough to contain the mix, a slightly bigger size is advisable if you have one.
What I love about Comfort and Spice is that it has all things nice in it: Niamh takes us on her own food journey, which is personalised and full of passion. From more detailed evening menus which give options for using leftovers to Speedy Suppers, Brunch and Long Weekend sections, the approach is laid-back, informal. I can't wait to try the 6-hour pork belly or the overnight shoulder of lamb. Go to bed, wake up and your dinner is ready? It's genius and a sort of magic that I only thought happened in Aga-land.
Not many cakes and Niamh confesses that she is a fruitie, as the selection of curds and fools demonstrates.
Rose petal butter, 'gutsy' ragu with marrow bone and chorizo in cider.
Lovely present or treat to self. For the true foodie, the semi-foodie who is on the cusp of making their own marmalade and anyone who buys cookbooks for food porn purposes: this one looks great. It delivers too. See the full post and leave comments at www.saffronbunny.wordpress.com