Reading Niamh Shields’s first book, Comfort & Spice, you get the feeling that she’s happiest when she’s in the kitchen — this is a woman who makes her own homemade cheese, butter, mayonnaise and wine vinegar, after all! An Irish expat living in London, Niamh writes the popular and award-winning blog Eat Like a Girl, where she shares recipes, restaurant reviews and stories from her travels and makes no secret of her love of food: “If I am not eating, I am planning my next meal. If I am not talking about food, I am cooking it.” Add to that her self-confessed obsession with chorizo and slow-cooked pork in all its forms, and it’s clear that Niamh is a girl after my own heart.
Even just reading her recipes on the page, it’s obvious that they are full of flavour. It’s obvious, too, that Niamh’s cooking has been influenced by her travels and the diverse city she lives in, with recipes for things like Turkish eggs, chicken skin skewers from Japan, piri piri chicken from Portugal, Beijing dumplings with chilli and soy dipping sauce and, of course, blaas from her native Waterford. This is food to luxuriate in, savour and share with friends and family. Chapters are divided into ‘Brunch’, ‘Speedy Suppers’, ‘Long Weekend’ (which has the added bonus of including helpful recipes for what to do with leftovers), ‘Sugar and Spice’ and ‘Drinks’.
Recipes that I’ve bookmarked to try include slow-cooked pork cheeks in cider, pulled beef nachos, lentil soup with harissa croutons, breaded lemon and sage chicken, pork and chorizo burgers, gutsy ragu with gremolata, overnight shoulder of pork with spiced apple relish, six-hour pork belly, chocolate mousse with honeycomb, chilli chocolate truffles and Irish hot port. This book was made for this time of year, with an autumn and winter full of slow-cooked braises and roasts to look forward to.
Given that Niamh is a self-taught cook whose training extends no further than her home economics lessons in secondary school, Comfort & Spice will appeal to beginners as well as more seasoned cooks. As Niamh says herself, “This book is for all of you who are maybe afraid to cook. It’s also for those of you who love spending time in your kitchen and are interested in learning about different ways of cooking and expanding your repertoire.”
At the end of the day, Niamh sums it up perfectly when she says, “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.”