right here is one thing about Nigella Lawson. It isn’t her good use of adjectives to explain a chocolate mousse, the midnight dressing-gown fridge raids, and even, dare I say it, her recipes. It’s the best way she makes you are feeling as in case you, too, might be pals along with your neighbourhood butcher or host a cocktail party each night time of the week with out an argument along with your partner over the nice napkins.
For me, watching the extremely acclaimed meals author – whether or not on tv or studying certainly one of her (12!) bestselling books – is akin to consuming a piping scorching cup of tea, watching Paddington 2, or strolling round John Lewis on a wet Saturday. Comforting, soul-warming and oh-so-British.
In reality I can sit by way of a whole 30-minute Nigella phase and on the finish don’t know what she has cooked. For me it isn’t a lot about being taught easy methods to make new meals, however being enveloped within the comforting familiarity of the world she creates; the soft-set lighting; the top quality of the kitchen models and bi-folding doorways; the pantry containing six sorts of soy sauce; and the flippant use of utensils, which makes it so apparent she has a dishwasher.
This kind of visceral soul-nourishing-cashmere-jumper-style consolation is strictly what we’d like in instances like these. Instances once we’re trapped in our houses, away from our family members, many struggling financially, fearful for his or her well being and their futures. So thank god that Nigella had the foresight within the first lockdown to finish writing her latest book, Cook, Eat, Repeat (add in sleep and you have the most accurate description of 2020 yet).
On Monday, the book – coincidentally released on the same day lockdown 2.0 began – will be brought to life with a new BBC series. So, in a bid to channel my inner-Nigella I decided to spend the first weekend of our government-mandated confinement sampling her new recipes. As she says, cooking really is “only either chopping and stirring” so what could go wrong?
The book itself is less of a classic “recipe book” in that it isn’t just a front-to-back catalogue of instructions, but more a collection of food essays interspersed with recipes. The kind of book you can read for enjoyment rather than just blindly follow. I decided three items is a reasonable amount to achieve in a weekend; opting for the fish finger bhorta (p.60), the tuscan bean soup (p.296) and the chocolate, tahini and banana pudding (p.80).
As a pescatarian there are large parts of the book that are (sadly) off limits, but the chapter dedicated solely to anchovies (“A is for anchovy”) make me feel more than well catered for. In fact several of the chapters feel like I could have titled them myself: “A loving defence of brown food” and “Much depends on dinner” spring to mind.
Starting with the savoury items (not a total child) I cook the fish finger bhorta and soup on Saturday night, using all the crockery in the house in the process. Both are surprisingly simple and the fact I am able to achieve this without a meltdown and ordering a pizza instead is a testament to Nigella’s abilities. Both really do just involve a lot of cutting vegetables before throwing them all together in a pan to do the work.
I was worried the bhorta would just be something where I dug around the onions and spinach picking out the fish fingers, but actually the combination of caramelized onions, mustard, chilli, garlic, ginger (I did about half the recommended amount and left out the coriander) was delicious. It felt familiar and yet like something I’d never tasted before. Would cook again.
Feeling surprisingly full after the bhorta (we used 10 fish fingers instead of 12 as Birds Eye sells them in boxes of this size) we held the soup ’till Sunday lunchtime. Again, when it was cooking I was a bit unsure about the final result, but it was really delicious. It felt simultaneously healthy and wholesome and there was enough to go back for seconds, and still have weekday leftovers. Side note, I did forget the bread (sorry Queen) and added a sprinkle of salt on top to serve.
Last but not least we cooked the chocolate, tahini and banana pudding (you can do as a bread too but when given the choice between a loaf and a melt-in-the-middle dessert there really is no contest). Again it was simple, the prep took less than 15 minutes and I was even able to be distracted by Strictly and not screw up. It baked for 40 minutes and it still had that soft centre that I was looking for. Even the household banana hater went back for a second slice.
Each one I would cook again without hesitation, confident that my success wasn’t just beginner’s luck. Unlike the culinary attempts of March lockdown (never again, sourdough starter) Nigella doesn’t set the bar impossibly high in a bid to show off her culinary skills. You really feel as if she wants you to succeed, gently holding your hand and leading you to the oven to prove that even you – the woman who burnt porridge – can share in her love of food. And if there is one thing lockdown 2.0 needs more of, it is compassion and kindness like that.
Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson, (£26), is out now .