Niamh Shields, for years a stalwart of the UK food blogging scene and of Eat Like A Girl fame, has very good reason to be happy. Well, actually, I could think of two reasons. Not only was she recently recognised at the highly-regarded Observer Food Monthly Awards 2011 for Best Blog, but also her first cookbook has been published.
Genuinely interested, I purchased a copy of “Comfort and Spice” (published by Quadrille Publishing) recently via Amazon. Having met Niamh around a couple of years ago and seeing her on the food blogging circuit, I was very keen to get hold of her book, digest it and get stuck into her tasty recipes. True to form, and with her ‘down-to-earth’, relaxed and unintimidating style, the book is really well laid-out. In addition, Niamh’s enthusiasm, experience and integrity, really comes across. The book’s honesty, and its recipes within, are a true reflection of her enormous effort, frugal personality and approach. Niamh is a wonderful person and a good cook too, and most importantly all the recipes are achieveable. It’s all very well people trying to ‘aspire’ to cook like Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adria and so on, yet I find this ‘back-to-basics’ honesty and humility very refreshing.
For instance – in the introduction Niamh says: “I love to eat and I love to cook. It gives me very great pleasure. Food doesn’t need to be complicated, nor does it need to be fussy. Recipes can take hours, or they can take minutes, the end result can always be wonderful food.”
She then continues to “How to be a better cook“. I entirely agree with her and at the end of the day, this is what people want and hope for when purchasing a cookbook. Niamh has this amazing skill, especially via her blog and foodie activities, of demonstrating and communicating her energy and passion in a very encouraging way. Not everyone can do this effectively, but also make food shopping and cooking into such fun.
The book is cleverly laid out in sections such as: “Brunch”; “Speedy Suppers”; “Long Weekend”; “Sugar and Spice” and “Drinks“. Again, true to form, all of the recipes contain elements of her Irish roots and heritage, interspersed with a delicious blend of foodie influences from her various travels.
For example, recipes range from traditional Irish soda bread and farls, homemade butter, jams and compotes, hearty stews and black pudding through to more exotic ingredients and dishes involving chorizo, n’duja, ras al hanout, sumac, miso and tofu. The book has it all.
I have more than 200 cookbooks in my collection, which I started at the age of 13. It includes the culinary ‘classics’ written by Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and her daughter Sophie, Keith Floyd, Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Simon Hopkinson and Nigel Slater. Now “Comfort and Spice” by Niamh Shields takes pride of place amongst them. Moreover, I particularly appreciate Quadrille Publishing and other publishers for embracing a small group of talented and prolific food bloggers, such as Niamh Shields, James Ramsden and Signe Johansen amongst others, who are trying hard to keep it real.
Congratulations once again Niamh and I am sure I will see you around some time…
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The epicurean odyssey continues…