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.

Our verdict: 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”

“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”

“Cookie Dough Brownies” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”

CBAMBrownies I made these Cookie Dough Brownies for the first May Bank Holiday Weekend, when we went away with our good friends and their sons. The weekend featured all the best things in life: Laughs, Games, Long Cycle Rides, Beautiful Vistas and Good Food. These brownies definitely contributed to the last thing on that list.

If you’ve ever devoured an entire container of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, this is the recipe for you. Just so you can judge whether or not I like that flavour of Ben & Jerry’s, I give you this factlet: during my pregnancies, I would often buy pints of said ice cream and then hide them in the back of the freezer so I wouldn’t have to share them with anyone. Good times. (I would NEVER get away with the same tricks now because my family has become wise to my ways. Bummer.)

But I digress. To make these brownies, you first make the chocolate chip cookie dough and then freeze it into small balls. Once they’re frozen, you evenly distribute into the brownie pan and then pour the brownie mix around and over them. Once baked, it looks like a regular tray of brownies, but it’s anything but. The brownies are like that flavour of ice cream in that if you get lucky, you discover a lump of chocolate chip cookie dough when you bite into the delicious brownie. It’s like a Treasure Hunt in your mouth and it totally works.

These brownies proved to be so popular during our weekend that when there was only one slice remaining, it became the Grand Prize of our last epic battle of “Monopoly Deal.” The winner was very happy.

Would I make these again? Absolutely. In fact, the boys asked me to make them again after eating only one bite. I would call that a success.

If you’d like to make these yourself, thus ensuring that you become the most popular member of your household for as long as the brownies last, Google Books has uploaded “John Whaite Bakes at Home.” Click through this paragraph to find the recipe.

 

“Cookie Dough Brownies” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”

“Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”

CBAMPBJCupcakes

Maureen: I was excited to make these for you. As an American, I always felt it was my patriotic duty to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for you. Now we have peanut butter and jelly cucpakes! What do you think?

Andrew (14): They’re…. [pause to select adjective] interesting.

Maureen: Good interesting or bad interesting?

Andrew: I’m not sure.

Maureen: I’m surprised you’d say that, since you’re a PB&J veteran and you love them.

Nicholas (10): I think there’s too much peanut butter.

Andrew: I agree. I was trying to nail down what it was that I wasn’t sure about, and that’s it.

Nicholas: There’s too much peanut butter in it, and not enough jelly. They’d be really good if you made the balance equal.

Maureen: Or, alternatively, make the cupcake chocolate rather than peanut butter flavoured, and then put a little chocolate in the middle of the icing, just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Andrew: If you balanced out the peanut butter and jelly, they would be good.

Maureen: How many stars would you give it?

Andrew: 3 stars.

Nicholas: 2.99999 recurring. You can put a line over the last nine, and then people would know it’s recurring.

Maureen: I don’t have that symbol on my keyboard, but thanks for the tip.

The recipe for this can be found by clicking through this sentence, but be sure to replace the Stork called for in the recipe with butter. Everything is better with butter.

“Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes” from “John Whaite Bakes at Home”