I have to confess, I was immediately drawn in by the title of Carolyn Caldicott’s new recipe book, Comfort. Because it seems the colder the weather the gets, the greater the role food plays in our lives. And this isn’t only due to increased appetites and more time spent in either; the emotional and physical comfort of food must have something to do with it too.
And that’s exactly what Carolyn taps into. In Comfort, there are recipes to pick you up when you’re feeling down, (spiced banana raisin bread) or easily-prepared suppers to help you upwind. There are simple yet impressive dinner party dishes so you can ‘concentrate on the company, not the catering’ (lemon sole in caper butter), as well as hearty meals to feed the family (chicken, mango and coconut curry). Chapters include ‘Breakfasts worth getting up for’ (which let’s face it we all need during the winter, what with leaving warm, snugly beds to face the bracing cold), ‘Bake the blues away’ and ‘Drinks to pick you up and put you back to bed’. So far, so very tempting.
I flick through and read some of Carolyn’s writing. Her tone is friendly, instructions deft and the copy is peppered with clever tips and nuggets of history; I LOVE her idea for weekend porridge (milk, double cream and a tot of whisky, topped with butter and brown sugar – not sure what traditionalists would say, but I’m in!), and did you know that Shepherd’s Pie is furrowed with a fork to represent a ploughed field? We definitely approve.
Comfort‘s pages are scattered with beautiful evocative images of the countryside from misty woods, snow-laden trees and a rainbow-crowned cornfield, to cosy cottages and a roaring fireplace. It’s shorter than many cookbooks of the same price, but what with all the ingredients swaps, tips (e.g. how to make cinnamon sugar/ homemade fruit compotes) and serving suggestions, there are actually many more recipes than you think. You also feel that each recipe has been carefully selected, considered and tested: a case of quality over quantity let’s say.
So how did the recipes fare then? Pretty darn delicious. I cooked up the chicken and mango curry (yum) and baked a batch of the honey-toasted nut and seed granola. Both recipes were simple, tasty and quick to make. I hadn’t come across the idea of putting fresh mango in a curry before and needless to say I’m very happy I have: it provided a welcome bite of sweetness in between juicy chicken and creamy, coconut sauce – down-to-earth home cooking at its best.
Previous co-owner of the World Food Cafe in Covent Garden and with many a cookbook to her name, Caroyln’s genuine experience rings through every page of Comfort. Authentic and clever ingredients boost the flavour of ordinary dishes and make them really rather special (e.g. mushroom ketchup and juniper berries in steak, kidney and porcini pie), while timeless classics are effortlessly updated (take the clotted cream rice pudding, for instance). The overall design does feel a bit dated and clunky, and the index is a tad confusing (you’ll find roast chicken under ‘p’ for ‘perfect roast chicken’!), but don’t let this put you off. The recipes inside are practical, foolproof and utterly delicious. Who can resist pillowy soft Devonshire scones or steamed syrup and honey pudding? Not me. Bring on the cold weather!
Published by Frances Lincoln, Carolyn Caldicott’s Comfort is available to buy online here.