Our verdict: Comfort

Maureen: This is an example of a perfect book at the perfect time.

Kirstin: March feels like the month furthest away from spring. You think spring is going to come, and then it doesn’t, and it happens every single year.

Maureen: When it’s cold and snowing, what you really need is some stodge, and that’s exactly what this book has. I don’t think we would have enjoyed this book as much if we had done it in say, July.

Kirstin: No. Absolutely not. Which is why I chose to do it now.

Maureen: He did some pretty inventive stuff with cheese, which obviously I can get behind. The cheese aligot was out of this world.

Kirstin: The things I cooked came out really well. He should make an instant pot cookbook.

Maureen: I’m so over the instant pot thing. But I was really impressed with his recipes. He’s definitely moved beyond his Great British Bake Off days.

K: We’ve said this before but he could be the new Nigel Slater.

Maureen: That remains to be seen. But he’s certainly very talented. What a yummy month.

“Comfort”
Overall Grade (A- F):  A (Maureen) A (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Maureen: Cheese aligot. Kirstin: Devil’s Curry.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A.
Any disasters? Nope.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf, but only from November to April. It’s like having your summer clothes. Maureen: I absolutely agree with that. A winter clothes cookbook.                                                                                                                                    Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Yes. There were little twists that were very well thought out. It’s an excellent winter book.

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Our verdict: Comfort

“Marmite and Cheddar Welsh Rarebit” from “Comfort”

Kirstin: What is there not to love about this recipe? Marmite AND cheese on a rainy bank holiday. Served with beer, this could not be any more perfect. And Tom hardly made a sound while eating which is ALWAYS a good sign. I’m already planning to make this again as the months get colder. Or even if they don’t because it’s just so yum.

“Marmite and Cheddar Welsh Rarebit” from “Comfort”

“Crab & Sriracha Mac ‘n’ Cheese” from “Comfort”

It’s always a dangerous thing in this family to try to find a better mac ‘n’ cheese than the one we already know and fiercely love. I’ve written about this before, and you would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but I guess I like to live life on the edge.

Thus, this new mac ‘n’ cheese with crab and sriracha.

I’m not going to bury the lede. We didn’t like this more than our Desert Island Mac ‘n’ Cheese from the New York Times. But it was a nice change from the usual.

Though I need to add a few caveats. First, Andrew (18) didn’t like the first few bites but ended up eating the lot. “I didn’t like it at first, but I guess I do now,” he said, which is hardly a ringing endorsement, but at least he had something to eat.

Another caveat: rather than taking out a second mortgage to buy all the fresh crab necessary for this (300 g, which would run us about £15 if it was all fresh), I used a mixture of fresh and canned. Given that the dish is smothered in sauce and cheese, I didn’t think we would notice the difference. We didn’t.

Would I make this again? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it was good. It just wasn’t better than our usual, so we’ll stick with that.

“Crab & Sriracha Mac ‘n’ Cheese” from “Comfort”

“Caramel Pork Belly with Sticky Wholegrain Rice” from “Comfort”

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I like better than a Sunday dinner that requires a few hours in the oven, which fills up the house with delicious smells. Also, this long-and-slow approach to cooking frees you up to do other things during your weekend afternoon, like finishing reading your current book or watching your favourite sports team.

This pork belly requires some serious forethought, but it’s definitely worth it. You actually have to start a day ahead of time because it needs to sit in a brine overnight before popping it into an oven for two hours. John says that the brine makes the meat more juicy when roasted, and that certainly seemed true even after all that roasting time.

The other aspect of this dish that might make some people nervous is the requirement that you make a caramel for the pork to cook in. I hate making caramel; it completely stresses me out. In this case, I wasn’t as stressed as normal because the caramel is only used as a base of the sauce. So the only thing I needed to worry about was not burning it, which I’m happy to report that I didn’t.

We– at least 3/4 of us– loved the pork belly. (The last 1/4 of the family– Tim– wasn’t as convinced at the beauty of this, but he was coming down with a bad cold, so I blame that. I’m sure he’ll like it the next time I make it.) We hoovered it up; there was nothing left by the time the dust settled. We weren’t quite as keen on the red wholegrain rice. I’m not sure why, because you’d figure that rice is rice, but we all agreed that in the future, I would just make regular white rice to go with this.

A relaxing Sunday afternoon? Achievement Unlocked.

“Caramel Pork Belly with Sticky Wholegrain Rice” from “Comfort”

“Devil’s Curry” from “Comfort”

Kirstin: It’s getting easier and easier to find galangal in the shops, but never have I used fresh turmeric in a recipe (the picture above is of both so you can compare them, should you ever want to!). So this was a recipe I was particularly curious about. Also. Ten chillies. Bring it on. Devil’s curry is a Malaysian curry, so it’s quite dry and very hot. All the things we love. And I mean seriously hot! Which we really, really love! It was a joy to make, smelling all the divine curry smells along the way and a total joy to eat. Much closer to heavenly than anything related to devils, if you ask me. Brilliant!

“Devil’s Curry” from “Comfort”

“Mushroom, Spinach and Ricotta Yorkshire Pudding” from “Comfort”

March is such a funny month. Not quite winter anymore, but not quite spring. You get fooled into thinking that spring will be arriving when you’re greeted with a sunny morning, only to abandon that notion by dinner time when the temperature has dropped to single digits (celsius).

The recipe is firmly in my favourite food wheelhouse: copious cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and a cheese delivery mechanism, which in this case is a Yorkshire pudding. Yum. Just the sort of thing to warm your belly on a cold March night.

As soon as I surmised that Nicholas, Hater of Spinach, would not be joining us for dinner, I decided to make this. However, what I forgot to account for is that his brother, Andrew, is not a huge fan of mushrooms (it’s the texture, he says). So just after I asked, “Doesn’t this look delicious?” he replied, “Are there mushrooms in this?”

Curses.

Needless to say, Andrew was not a fan. But that’s his loss because the adults at the table loved this. In fact, anyone who didn’t have an aversion to spinach or mushrooms would probably enthusiastically eat this, like we did.

John Whaite’s genius idea is to make a Yorkshire pudding, take it out when it’s done, slather it with loads of cheese, spinach and mushrooms (with the latter two ingredients fried when the yorkshire pudding is baking) and then bake it again. Honestly, it was sublime.

Highly recommended for people who don’t have food aversions.

“Mushroom, Spinach and Ricotta Yorkshire Pudding” from “Comfort”

“Pan-Fried Salmon with Lemongrass Sambal and Roasted Broccoli” from “Comfort”

Kirstin: Any recipe that involves 4 cloves of garlic and 4 red chillies is a winner in my books. Chuck in some lemongrass and I’m totally sold. I’ve never made own sambal before and I stupidly misread the recipe so whizzed up the lemongrass into it. I’m going to blame the whole excitement from cutting up aall the chillies. The broccoli was lovely with chilli oil too and the salmon balanced the sambal and broccoli by just being fried very simply. Would I make this again? Yes. And I’ll definitely be making that sambal again. Probably double the amount so I can have it with other things too!

“Pan-Fried Salmon with Lemongrass Sambal and Roasted Broccoli” from “Comfort”