It’s the Northern Hemisphere winter and we’re fast approaching the year’s shortest day. It’s more often gloomy than bright, the sun sets early and leaves fill the gutters. Setting foot outside a warm home or office becomes a chore, coats and scarves weigh heavy on tired bodies, so when we finally do have some respite at home, simple, soothing food is definitely on the menu.
Carolyn Caldicott and photographer husband, Chris, have produced a timely antidote to chills and sniffles, in the form of a little book of winter-warming recipes called Comfort. Starting with Breakfasts to Get Up For, Carolyn teaches us how to perfect the classics like a boiled egg and soldiers, porridge and eggy bread and sensibly suggests a trio of eggs, potato rösti with a stiff Bloody Mary to blitz that Silly Season hangover. Hearty Meals for Friends and Family includes favourites such as pie and mash, shepherd’s pie and spicy warmer-uppers like spaghetti puttanesca or chicken and mango coconut curry. Every page of this cookbook oozes relief from inclement climes. Chris Caldicott’s photography takes us into farmhouses where fires crackle as they fuel ancient black stoves, enamelware trumps fancy serving dishes, and there, in the midst of all the recipes, a rainbow arcs across a steel-grey sky – a double-paged message of beauty and potential that exists in spite of all the rain and sleet and snow; a reminder that things won’t stay grey forever.
Carolyn offers up edible tonics for seasonal maladies, along with easy snacks, hot toddies and classic English puddings – each and every page designed to coddle the reader into rosy-cheeked contentedness.
I’ve always been seduced by any sort of baked cheese, so as my recipe test I chose Whole Camembert Baked with Garlic and Rosemary. So quick, so wicked, so ideal for sharing with some chunks of oven-warmed sourdough bread and a bowlful of crudités. Here’s the recipe for all you fromage fans out there:
1 whole room temperature Camembert (250g/ 9oz size in a wooden box)
1 plump clove of garlic, sliced,
1 sprig of rosemary
Warm baguette or ciabatta
Mixed crudités – carrot, celery, raw mushrooms, fennel, apple…
Slices of your favourite saucisson and ham
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5
Tip the Camembert out of its wooden box, remove the wrapping and carefully squeeze the cheese back into the box. Using a small knife make a few slits in the top of the cheese and insert the garlic slices and rosemary leaves.
Place the Camembert on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or so, until the garlic is golden, the cheese has a slightly swollen appearance and feels soft and molten to the touch.
When I reached into the fridge today I saw immediately that a hungry mouse had nibbled at my perfectly-ripe Camembert de Normandie au lait cru from the dairy at St-Hilaire de Briouze (in London you can buy this at the Hamish Johnston fromagerie on Northcote Road, SW11), but there was still plenty left for me to play with. In the store cupboard I had a couple of bulbs of black garlic from The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight, so I substituted that for regular garlic. Black garlic has the consistency of treacle once the clove is exposed, so if you use this, poke holes into the Camembert with the end of a chopstick or similar, and use it again to push the gooey garlic into the cheese.
I absolutely hate cleaning the oven, so I try to protect its innards as much as possible and therefore set the wooden Camembert box on a small enamel dish before placing it in the oven. Thank goodness I did – the cheese was flowing out of the box like lava after 15 minutes in the heat.
This recipe couldn’t be easier to follow. I served the molten cheese with sourdough bread, heirloom radishes and batons of cucumber, whilst watching Kind Hearts and Coronets – a film to warm the cockles, as we say in London Town.
One final suggestion in the lead-up to Christmas: if you know someone who’d benefit from a bit of TLC, why not package this up with a copy of a heart-warming DVD or book and a pair of super-long socks with padded soles?
To order Comfort at the discounted price of £7.99 including p&p if within the UK (or +£2.50 for orders from outside of the UK) please call +44 1903 828 503 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and quote the offer code APG258.
Comfort – Recipes to warm the heart and feed the soul, by Carolyn Caldicott, photographs by Chris Caldicott
Published by Frances Lincoln
I received a copy of this book for review and all the opinions expressed in this post are my own.