Cook Book Review - How To Eat by Nigella Lawson
You settle down to watch T.V and a Nigella Lawson show is about to start, do you:
a) Press the pause button whilst you make yourself a brew and find your secret stash of dark chocolate? Because it's Queen Nigella and she'd approve of this indulgence.
b) No need to pause anything, you've been waiting for this to start since you read her twitter post 6 months ago. You've pre-ordered the book, watched her on The One Show and then bought the dress she was wearing. Because Nigella encapsulates female empowerment and looks good doing it.
c) Yawn and say " Blimey, not her again" then switch over to UK Gold. Because as much as you like a good cooking show, the close up's of Nigella licking a spoon in her £300 silk dressing gown in full glamour make up is just nauseating.
I choose a. I find her t.v shows relaxing to watch, her cooking style whimsical and I giggle at those spoon licking moments. What I've never done is bought any of her books because as lovely as she seems, her smoking hot looks and cheeky innuendos have prevented me from taking her too seriously. This year Nigella celebrates the 20th anniversary of her book "How To Eat” and according to many chefs and food writers, its the bible of cooking. I want to know what all the fuss is about.
I hold my hands up and admit how naive I was to underestimate her and without wanting to repeat what the critics have already said far more eloquently than me, it’s not just a cook book. It’s more than that, its an encyclopaedia of cookery covering all the basics and classics, its also a book you take on your morning commute. I actually read it from cover to cover like a novel. One anecdote recalls how mayonnaise was always easy to make until someone convinced her that it was difficult, and she then chastises you with the mere suggestion of mixing it with a food processor “….or it will taste just like the gluey bought stuff. And then Hell, you might as well just go out and buy it”.
The book is split into clear and useful chapters; you’ve come home late and don’t want to spend hours cooking? Turn to p167 for FAST FOOD. Are you feeling calorie conscious? P387 LOW FAT should help. Cooking for one? Go to p125 and read the chapter that begins with “Don’t knock masturbation…”. I’m also pleasantly surprised to read that although Nigella encourages us to buy the best quality produce , she doesn’t condone food snobbery, make the best with what you have - amen sister!
Now I am aware that Nigella has a cookbook dedicated to Christmas, but seeing as this is the December issue of CIBARE it feels only right to get my festive on. Even in a book that really only touches on the subject, she has most angles covered. As much as I love goose, I’m in the minority so when choosing the menu it had to be the roast turkey. This was served with Nigella’s butcher Mr Lidgate’s chestnut stuffing and cranberry and orange stuffing (yes two types), gravy made from the turkey giblets - zero waste. Roast potatoes, brussel sprouts with chestnuts and bread sauce “This is essential: of course it is” . Roasts are a personal thing and l quite like carrots to accompany mine, but strangely this seems to be the only thing missing in the book. No problem, I roast mine with a squeeze of maple syrup, cumin and a sprinkle of paprika.
Cooking begins at the crack of dawn. Having prepped the stuffings the night before, the bird goes into the oven for around 2.5 hours leaving me with time to peel the spuds, make the bread sauce and start on my Clementine cake. All cooking instructions are comprehensive and simple - there are no photos to accompany any of the recipes so read carefully and go with your instinct.
Guests arrive at 3pm and the food is served soon after. A top quality turkey is a huge expense but there are cheaper options, just remember that the turkey will need a lot more TLC when cooking. Baste it often and cover it with tin foil, nobody wants to eat dry meat. The chestnut stuffing was a winner, absolutely delicious but sadly the cranberry stuffing wasn’t, apart from cranberries, the other main ingredient is breadcrumbs and really thats all we could taste. The sprouts were tasty although on reflection I would have added some crispy smoked bacon to the mix, but come to think of it I think thats the whole point of this book, Nigella’s giving you a solid base to build upon. The bread sauce was delicious but needs to be eaten whilst still hot, otherwise it starts to solidify. The gravy was meaty but I couldn’t get mine to be thick enough, so I added a little cornflour and hey presto!
The desert was a beautifully simple Clementine cake that Nigellas admits is essentially a recipe by Claudia Roden, I served mine with a little whipped cream. It’s flourless, ground almonds are used instead, making this scrumptious cake rather heavy. A little slice of this goes a long way but hey, you’re supposed to feel as stuffed as the turkey you’ve eaten right?