I’m not a big fan of being rushed. There’s nothing more irritating (at least for the purposes of this blog post anyway) than walking into a coffee shop and being asked immediately by the barista what you want. I’ll always inevitably order the first drink that pops into my head then seconds later spot some mocha-choca-frappe-salted caramel- insanely delicious sounding thing while my perfectly serviceable but dull cappuccino gets frothed up. I need time when it comes to ordering something as important as a coffee, for goodness sake (not even being sarcastic). As with fully caffeinated hot drinks, so with recipes, and this is why I’ve viewed Jamie Oliver with some suspicion due in full to his 15/30 Minute Meals books. I won’t go into it too much, its well trodden territory, but Superman himself would struggle to knock up a dish comprising of a main, sides and dessert in such short periods of time. If you’ve only got fifteen minutes to cook dinner, don’t stress yourself out trying to make one of Jamie’s recipes, have beans on toast or throw a pizza in the oven – life’s too short. I’m not knocking the flavour of Jamie’s recipes at all, in my experience he’s one of the most reliable cookbook authors out there when it comes to flavour, just the practicality of his ridiculous timescales. This is why I wholeheartedly embrace his newest offering, Comfort Food which is all about the flavour and taking time to build up a perfect meal/pudding that soothes and embraces you in it’s comfort-y goodness, without the pressure of a deadline.
I got my mitts on Comfort Food for free after subscribing to the Jamie magazine whilst bored on my pre-baby maternity leave. I was all “yessss, for the price of a cookbook that would inevitably have snuck its way into my collection anyway I also get food porn and dinner inspiration delivered to me monthly for the next year, get in”. In reality, the first copy came in the post on the very day that we brought our new addition to the family home from the hospital, and I’ve barely had time to read it, let alone cook from it. When you’re in the midst of 2 hourly night feeds and haven’t the time to brush your teeth/make a cup of coffee/get changed out of your pyjamas/care about your dignity, food magazines fall by the wayside somewhat. But, after weeks of well meaning people telling us ‘it does get better’ and me repeatedly fighting the urge to half heartedly slap them with the little energy I had, I can confirm it does indeed get better and we now actually have time to do fun things again! And yes, I do find a good read of a cookbook fun, particularly after a day where all my clothes are covered in baby vomit and the one tune stuck in my head is the melody of ‘Three Blind Mice’. Takes the edge off! The ‘Comfort Food’ book is stuffed with perfect looking recipes, and if you watched the accompanying TV show you’ll know how awesome the recipes look. I want to cook everything in this book, truly, and have made a start on this goal by cooking two recipes from it.
First off I made Nasi Goreng, which is a spicy rice dish originating from Indonesia. Even though this book is full of recipes that would suit the more ambitious home cook, this dish is fairly straightforward and takes maybe half an hour tops from start to finish. Cooked rice is combined with garlic, chilli, ginger, fish sauce and kecap manis (a thick, sweet Indonesian soy sauce), then topped with a fried egg, spring onions and coriander. This ticks all the boxes for me – spicy,slightly sweet, carbalicious, with a runny yolked egg oozing all over the rice – and was also a hit with The Boyfriend, who it turns out has had plenty of nasi gorengs’ on his work travels. This version apparently wasn’t as good as the ones he had in Asia (words I simply love to hear after spending time in the kitchen trying to get dinner just right – “yeah, this guacamole’s really nice Hayles, have I mentioned about the one I had in South Africa? That was AMAZING”. That’s wonderful, really, really wonderful darling, but if you could just shut up about the guacamole that would be even more wonderful, cheers. If he ever finds a chilli that he likes better than mine I’m not sure my ego could take it, I fear for the future of our relationship should this catastrophic event ever occur) but he still thoroughly enjoyed it even without any meat. The recipe Jamie gives doesn’t include any meat, but it would be no problem at all to chuck in some chicken or prawns to bulk the dish out and make it feel more like a meal if you’re the type of person that needs meat in your evening meal. I’m one of those people.
So one recipe down and so far so good. What else you got, Jamie? The other recipe I tried this week was his ‘Bonkers Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding Tart’ which I think you’ll agree sounds incredible. I saw Jamie cooking this dish on This Morning and knew instantly that I had to cook it. This Morning can often be full of filler but it does throw out some good stuff every so often. Sometimes it’s a decent recipe, other times it’s a man who likes to have sex with his cars, either is entertaining! The things you learn on maternity leave eh? We had friends over for dinner and whilst the recipe states the tart is for 12 people, if I waited until I cooked for that many people to make it, well we’d be waiting for a very long time. I don’t like the pressure of entertaining for a crowd, I’m too nervous and awkward and can never enjoy myself so I just keep the numbers low now. So I cooked this huge dessert for four people and resigned myself to having loads of leftovers to pick at in the fridge for days to come. I know, tough gig. Basically, you line a loose bottomed tart tin with strips of the pannetone crust, pour some homemade custard over it and then soak chunks of the pannetone in the remaining custard, layer up in the tin with spoonful’s of marmalade and chunks of chocolate and then bake for 25 minutes or so. There was a moment of panic when my tin started haemorrhage-ing custard all over my kitchen sides and floor (less panicked about my horrible kitchen getting messy, more panicked about the sweet delicious custard wastage) but I managed to contain it eventually without it affecting the pudding all that much. I don’t know whether this was because of a flaw in the recipe or because I didn’t pack the tin tightly enough with pannetone crust so that it wasn’t watertight, either way it looked more catastrophic than it actually was. The dessert was undeniably very good. A slice of it is a delicious wodge of citrus and raisin sweet bread drenched in vanilla custard with molten melted chocolate pockets and the odd splodge of marmalade. It’s a perfect wintry dessert, summoning up the nostalgia of a bread and butter pudding, only it happens to be even better. It’s Christmassy without being in your face about it, so would be perfect for a Christmas day dessert if the people gathered around your table aren’t big fans of Christmas pudding and lots of dried fruit. I would certainly have a big smile on my face were this to be served to me anytime of the year. If you have the book you might overlook this recipe as the accompanying photo makes it look a little dry and doesn’t do it justice. It’s also fabulous cold the next day after firming up in the fridge, with the chocolate turning solid again giving you little chunks of cocoa bites to add texture. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that this should only really be served with more custard (Birds, Ambrosia, homemade, whatever, just make. It. Happen.) – double custard heaven. Jamie’s Comfort Food is definitely a winner in this household.