Comfort Food cookbook review

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I like this cookbook, from the ‘fine cooking’ series by Taunton Press, even if it does look quite basic at first glance. The recipes are well laid out and easy to follow, and while they are ‘comfort food’, the dishes are varied and created with healthy ingredients. No short cut or processed ingredients are used. The only hitch for me, in a metric country, is that the measurements are in lbs and ounces and need to be converted.

The dishes covered are soups, chilis, stews, gumbo, ragout, pasta, one pot dishes, casseroles, fried chicken, curries, and familiar classics like chicken cacciatore, meatloaf, osso bucco and pot roast.  If you are a seasoned cook with a large repertoire (and a bookshelf groaning with cookbooks already) you probably know most of them but for a new, aspiring cook this is a good basic collection of recipes. It is always good to have reliable recipes for hearty international favourites like steak and Guinness pie, beef stew with red wine, braised lamb shanks, and of course, paella.

 It is a good all round reference recipe book for all sorts of occasions and meals. There are breakfast and lunch dishes with step by step photo guides. Every cook needs to know how to make a perfect omelet, blueberry muffins, buttermilk pancakes, waffles and eggs Benedict, to serve up a scrumptious breakfast, and homemakers, whether sharing or single, can benefit from tips like a buyer’s guide to bananas and how to fix a broken hollandaise. In fact, as a first cookbook, this would be an invaluable gift for a new homemaker. It even covers sandwiches, from classic grilled cheese to croque Madame.

Other sections of the book covers side dishes, like scalloped potatoes, shrimp fried rice and mashed potatoes. There there are the desserts, all classic comfort foods like eich, dark, sinful Southern Devil’s Food Cake to pure hearted, country style carrot cake (although it looks more on the indulgent than healthy side with a whipped cream cheese and vanilla frost). There are also instructions on how to ice a cake, how to make perfect pie crust, flaky pie crust and a classic rice pudding. In fact it covers almost every aspect of comfort food cooking in one book. I think it’s good value, available from both Amazon and Book Depository.

My thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

Barrio 2013!

After last year, we were all worried that the Brisbane Barrio Fiesta had lost its mojo – but this year I am happy to say it came back bigger and better than ever. It was great fun, and great food, all the way.

barrio2013 kids stall1

One of the new attractions was a kids’ activity tent. Here my granddaughters get into the fun of painting and decorating. If anyone spotted that pink My Little Pony baby she is holding, could you leave a comment? She is very upset at losing it.

barrio 2013 layla art

Very proud of her art work!

barrio 2013 2The weather was a bit overcast, but there was no rain, and a good crowd gathered. There were lots of stallas as well, and that always is good to see.

barrio 2013 bread stall

This is good to see as well – lots of lovely bread. I bought loaves and yummy coconut buns to take home and enjoy!

barrio 2013 cake pop

My grandkids loved the cake pops – this one was sooo pretty – until grandson ate it up!

barrio 2013 dancer

On stage there were graceful, beautiful dancers…

barrio 2013 girl duo

and talented singers

barrio 2013 family
I met this beautiful family from Saints Crusade

barrio 2013 food queue
and the queue for Hector’s Lechon went on forever, as usual – but on the Fruit Spin stall, the bubble tea ran out – sob!

barrio 2013 paquino Tshirt

My son-in-law Mannie got this great Tshirt

barrio 2013 adria

All in all – a great day. Can’t wait for next year.

Why kimchi is Irish comfort food

the-kimchi-cookbookThe strong resemblances between Ireland and Korea may account for my obsession with all things Korean – particularly cinema and food – but do these similarities exist on a more personal level? Reading Lauryn Chun’s Kimchi Cookbook, I am even more convinced that somewhere back along the line, the two groups were one, and split apart, maybe when Atlantis sank.

In her book, Lauryn Chun writes about the comfort food of her Seoul childhood – “Suddenly it all made sense – why I was so curiously drawn to food and wine, my secret fascination when the deep smell of an aged wine elicited a faint memory of roasted soybeans…that made me recall the comforting memories of my childhood in Seoul, Korea.”

And suddenly it does all make sense – comfort food is that food that reminds you of when you felt comforted and nurtured in childhood – which is probably why my particular comfort food is cabbage. My grandmother Jess had a knack for making children feel comforted and nurtured. She wasn’t a great cook, but she cooked a lot of cabbage.

These days I prefer it stir fried to boiled, but the smell of cabbage always makes me feel comforted. Even eating it raw has the same effect, because she always gave me the hard stalk from the centre of the cabbage to chew on.

It’s extraordinary that Lauryn (born in Seoul, Korea) and I (born in Cobh, Ireland) share a comfort food. Thousands of miles apart, but united by the same pungent vegetable, and memories of happy moments in childhood. I came to kimchi late in life, thinking it was probably what my elders used to call ‘an acquired taste’ – in other words, no one in their right minds could just naturally take to it.

In my mind I likened it to sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), which I have never liked. But kimchi is quite something else – spicy, cheeky and yes – comforting. It warms the stomach and the heart. (Now I am yearning for a gingered pork and kimchi riceburger from Mosburger – yum!)

Anyway, this book is basically everything you ever wanted to know about making kimchi at home, from ‘is it even possible?’ to ‘can I make instant kimchi with apples, persimmons and pears?’ Well, of course it’s possible – Koreans have been doing it for centuries – and yes, you can and it looks lush.

In her introduction to the recipes, Lauryn Chun writes movingly about her early childhood in Seoul, and growing up in the very different culture of Southern California, where her mother cautioned not to eat kimchi in public or share it with her American friends because they might be offended by its malodorous nature. I think I went through the same thing with pig’s feet when I moved to England as a child.

Similarly, it was discovering diverse food cultures elsewhere that did away with any self consciousness about her own food culture and awakened her love of food. Me too. Discovering Spanish, French and Middle Eastern cuisines opened my mind to new tastes, and my heart to old comforting memories. One thing we all share, world wide, is an attachment to the food we grew up with, and a feeling of being comforted by familiar tastes.

Lauryn’s mother operates the Korean restaurant Mother-in-law’s Kitchen in California, and Lauryn makes and sells Mother-in-law’s Kimchi (MILKimchi) using the restaurant’s own recipe, so the recipes’ pedigrees are impeccable.

Ah the recipes! I didn’t know kimchi could be so versatile.There are recipes for each of the four seasons, from long brined and complex in winter and autumn, to short brined and simple for summer and spring. For example, instant red leaf lettuce kimchi is more of a quick salad that can be served with barbequed meat.

The autumn sees kimjang, the cabbage harvest and annual kimchi making, with the abundance of the season reflected in the recipes – butternut squash kimchi, kimchi with persimmon and dates, traditional napa kimchi, daikon kimchi and the  recipe used by Mother In Law Kitchen. Then there are recipes for using kimchi in cooking, such as Eggs Benedict with Kimchi Hollandaise.

There is so much to take in, it is impossible to mention it all here. The Kimchi Cookbook is a great read as well as a great cookbook.

*If you want to know more about the Korean/Irish connection check out The Irish Association  of Korea, and the Irish Embassy in Korea.

You can buy MILKimchi and DIY kimchi kits at Lauryn Chun’s website.