In the corner of my dining room is a stack of seemingly abandoned books. They aren't shelved, but they aren't on their way to find a new home. This collection of new, never-flexed spines, made possible by a combination of generous publishers and my own hunger for specific authors, has been the bane of my culinary and blogging existences...to make matters worse, uppermost tome is blanketed by the thinnest layer of dust.
Guiltily, I've eyed my stack of new and neglected cookbooks for several weeks, some titles for months. Don't get me wrong--I wanted to read them, cook from them and write about them, but until very recently, I just couldn't.
Since getting back into the swing of things, these titles have beckoned me to frolic in their pages. I've resisted to a certain extent, simply because I didn't think I was up to the challenge of trying something new. That is, until I saw this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge theme: Nigella Lawson, hosted by Foodiechickie.
How better to get me riffling through pages than by mentioning a favoured food writer?
In as much as I love pottering away in the kitchen, that really is a luxury. Life is busy, and although I don't have little ones running around, between work, sorting out Michael's possessions, getting the condo up and running, finishing my last course and all those things --and people--that pop up when you least expect, supper is usually a mad root through the fridge and pantry, hurriedly thrown together, with any leftovers boxed for the next day's lunch. This, of course results in me relying upon a few standbys--sandwiches, doctored soups and pastas--followed by one night of bulk cooking, well bulk enough to last two nights.
Nigella Express is meant for those of us who want delicious meals with relatively little effort. As the opening flap pronounces, "The Domestic Goddess is back and this time it's instant." That's not to say this is a book for the enamoured followers of "semi-homemade." Yes, she uses premade or boullioned broths and some recipes, such as Minestrone in Minutes call for "tomato-based pasta sauce of your choice" but her book isn't permeated with the pong associated by the TMs or (R)s in ingredients lists, as happens with certain other recipe scratchers.
Nigella's language is exquisite and encouraging. Her speedy Chocolate Croissants, made with store-bough puff pastry, starts with "First, let me say that if I can do this, you can. As I have never tried to hide, I have not patience and even less dexterity. But this is child's play..." The recipes are also written with speed in mind--instructions are short and you don't have to turn the page.
The book is divided into 13 chapters, each addressing a different express need, from everyday meals, quick breakfasts, speedy entertaining, holidays, make-ahead meals and quickly-made restoratives. Regardless of speed or reason, this book contains instructions for the food you want to eat.
Here's what I made. Where ever possible, I've linked to recipes.
Please note, I have the UK version of the book--have learned to distrust conversions and "translations". If you are only to get the US version in your shop, you can order it (or many other UK imprints) online through amazon.co.uk, or Blackwell--I've used both in the past and have been extremely pleased.
Breakfast Bars p94
I knew I had to make these as my shopping trolley usually holds a box or two of granola or breakfast bars. Incredibly easy to put together. Yes, they take an hour to make, but I ended up with more than two weeks' worth of morning munchies. Sweet nutty and easily transportable. I've been using salvaged crumbs from my bar-butchering as an ice cream topper.
Pear and Ginger Muffins p 97
Yes, I know...two breakfast foods, but I generally find breakfast the meal I need most and the one I have the least amount of time for. The gingeryness gives the pear a zippy flavour and a happy morning snack food.
Oeufs en Cocotte p65
Is there anything simpler and more pleasurable than a baton of toasted bread dunked into squidgy, thickened and still-warm yolk? I luxuriated this a bit by adding a morel. All this in 15 minutes.
Buttermilk Roast Chicken p274
Roast chicken is a perennial favourite and chicken marinated in buttermilk even more so. I'm used to buttermilk poached chicken that's then fried, but the roasted version just as easily satiated my hunger.
If anything, Nigella Express reminds me that fast food doesn't have to be limiting to pasta and jarred sauce or a fried egg sandwich. Nor does it mean a Styrofoam box in my trash bin.
WCC25's mission was to cook from any of Nigella's books. And I've done my fair share of that. To see other Nigella recipes or -inspired foods I've conjured, click on this link.