Jamie’s Comfort Food: Scrumptious Happy Classics was my bedtime reading over the festive period, and I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into it (and the dishes featured on the stylishly-shot photographs) as soon as life returned to some form of normality.
Jamie (yes, we’re on first-name terms) needed no introduction to my cookbook shelf; his books take up a dominant amount of space on it – from The Naked Chef (which came out when I was still at school) to Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals and Save With Jamie. They are my go-to books, and many of his dishes (from Lamb Rogan Josh to Cauliflower Macaroni) I’ve made so many times that I don’t even peek at the recipe anymore. All are splattered with his “pukka” meatball sauce and mottled with floury fingerprints – always a good sign.
Comfort Food was the newest addition to the family. Don’t judge a book by its cover, but the cover of this book is really quite special. It looks as lovingly-made as the recipes inside, and – I know I’ve mentioned it already – but the pictures will really perk you up on a bleak January evening. From flicking through the book and watching the series, I knew that the recipes weren’t necessarily low in calories, but many of them seemed nutrient-rich, and – most importantly – all looked utterly delicious.
I love how Jamie’s personality always shines through in his books, and his personal excerpts and description of food always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside; whether it’s “pimped-up” spuds or “filthy-good gravy”, he manages to conjure up how delicious these dishes actually are.
Now, my partner and I have – for the last six months or so – been diehard weekday pescetarians. Why? Because we want meat to be a treat. A very indulgent weekend treat where we can splash out, eat out and devour some of the best meat we can get our hands on. So when I saw the Comfort Food recipe for Beef Wellington, I knew this would make the Saturday night hit list.
We called the local butcher and reserved a kilo of beef fillet at £37. Justification? Well, it would have cost more to buy a round of Jägerbombs if we were out on the town, wouldn’t it? This seems to be my rationalisation for buying everything at the moment: we don’t go out as much anymore so why not use that money to buy *insert clothing/home furnishing/expensive food product here*?
So, we picked up the beef, along with the chicken livers, and then bought the rest of the ingredients for our big Saturday night in. Four cocktails also feature in the book, one of them being a Bellini (made with peach purée and Prosecco) so we grabbed what we needed to drink these whilst cooking (as you can see, there’s no ‘Dry January’ going on in our household).
The recipe for the Wellington, including pictures, spanned over six pages, and contained clearly laid-out steps (both wording and photos). I have made ‘Mini Wellingtons’ once before, using a Lorraine Pascal recipe, but this was my first time working with one big chunk of prime fillet. I was determined to do it justice and not overcook the meat. In fact, my dedication to the job in hand was so strong that I decided to stick to drinking water whilst cooking; the Bellinis could wait.
After searing the beef, the chopping is actually the part that took the longest. In order to make the pâté-type layer that surrounds the meat, you need to finely cut a heap of mushrooms, onions, garlic and livers. But, for me, this was one of the things that made the dish, so was well worth the risk of repetitive strain injury.
The gravy also turned out to be one of the best I have made – the heaped teaspoon of blackcurrant jam, along with the caramelised onions and Madeira, really added to the richness of it. We served it with spring greens (my attempt at trying to convince myself that spring is on its way) and creamy mash. When the moment of truth arrived – i.e. cutting a slice of the Wellington – there were genuine cheers of delight coming from our kitchen. The meat was the perfect hue of pink; tender and succulent. Once again, Jamie’s timings had done us proud.
The recipe was, in fact, designed for six, so we had the Wellington (with different side dishes to provide a little variety) on the Sunday night too (we had to eat it all before the meat-free working week began, after all!).
To say we were chuffed with the results of the Wellington is an understatement, and I’m genuinely excited to try some of the other special occasion comfort food recipes on offer. I like the fact that the book contains a multicultural mix of dishes from around the globe; from the “Mighty Greek Moussaka” to “Divine Dosa” and (this made me chuckle) “Cassoulet de Essex”.
I’ve got a feeling the book will satisfy my sweet tooth, too, and plan on making “The Jaffa Cake” cake for the next office birthday, as well as the “Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies” and “Chocolate Celebration Cake” (can you tell I like chocolate?). Watch this space.
Although comfort food is something that is very personal – everyone has their own idea of food nostalgia – I think Jamie manages to touch all the bases in this book. And dishes that may not have immediately sprung to mind could just be my new favourite meals. Now that’s a comforting thought.
Toni Waterfall – Cookery, Food & Drink A mum with a food-loving family and a part-time pescatarian lifestyle, I’m always searching for delicious and practical ideas to try in the kitchen. My all-time favourite chef is Gordon Ramsay, but I’ve never made a bad meal using a Jamie Oliver recipe. Spaghetti bolognaise is the go-to meal in my household, but I also enjoy cooking curries from scratch – especially seafood ones. I always say that balance and seasoning are crucial elements of getting a dish right. I’m constantly thinking ahead to the next meal and am an impulsive, daily supermarket shopper, as opposed to a weekly bulk buyer.