24 February 2008

WCC 25: Nigella Lawson

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


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Gigi said...

Nigella's books are the only ones I don't own. Even though I watch all of her shows. The buttermilk chicken looks so delicious that I may have to purchase the book very soon.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Nigella is the best. That's for sure. I love her no fuss style and her wonderful voice. It's so soothing!These look great J.

Lis said...

Holy cow everything looks wonderful, Jasmine! I can't decide which I'd like to try first! :)


Anonymous said...

I don't know about some of these, but any time someone pairs chicken and buttermilk they have a winner in my eyes!

K and S said...

mmm breakfast bars, fast, homemade and nutritious :)

Madame K said...

I really like Nigella. Her first cookbook, How to Eat, sits on my shelf, dogeared and the pages falling out. The recipe for Lemon Linguine is a family fave in my house.

I don't have this new one (yet), but appreciate your preview!

Kalyn Denny said...

Everything you made looks very tasty. Do you know I don't own a single Nigella cookbook? Not sure why not, this one looks great!

glamah16 said...

I have never purchased a Nigella cookbook. I have only read a few bad things about here in the blog world. She knows her food, has great style, and all of your versions of her recipes look awesome. Might need to invest finally .

Anonymous said...

When I left Canada (in 1994)I hadn't heard of Nigella and she has not made it into Italy until recently and even then only on satelite TV.
I have been promising myself that I would get at least one of her books sooner or later, but everytime I hit Amazon I end up going for something more obscure, justifying it by saying "Her books will always be there". No more. These recipes have convinced me. Mostly because at the end of the day I'm too tired to be inventive. I can usually only manage that on weekends ;)

Helene said...

I am also among those who do not own any of her cookbook and I don't know why since she is my girl crush!! I am in love withe muffins and the ginger right now!

Annemarie said...

Nigella Express is an interesting one - the TV show was really, really, REALLY annoying and put me off getting the book. Now Delia Smith, the doyenne of British cooking, is republishing her good-food-in-a-hurry which is rife with things like frozen mashed potatoes (??!!). It makes me want to call up Nigella, apologize, and suggest we spend the day together baking (she can even chose which recipes).

Jenny said...

So you had no problems with her book and the conversions?
Well duh, obviously you didn't. :-)

Shaun said...

Jasmine, honey ~ Although so few ingredients are required for oeufs en cocotte, the perfect ensemble does for my angelheart Eric a luxury make. I can't believe I missed this WCC, but I should because I did miss it. Glad you did such justice to her latest offering, about which I've been on the fence. Maybe I'll get it now...One can't call him or herself a devotee without the entire collection anyway. And if that's an excuse to cram one more cookery book into the minute space left of the shelf, so be it. A wonder, as always, Jas.

jasmine said...

Hello all

I'll edit the post to make this clear, but whenever possible, I get the text in it's unadulterated original English...in other words, mine's the UK version. Don't trust the English to American English translators, nor the converters to get things right.

I also highly recommend, if you've had issues with N's other books/recipes or are wary of trying them, get them in the original English...and buy a scale.

Kalyn (and anyone else who's looking for just one of N's titles): get How To Eat...a masterpiece, IMHO.

Annemarie: do you need a dishwasher or a crumb picker upper? I'll be more than happy to fly over if you're doing a baking day with her :)


creampuff said...

How did I miss this event?! I have the book and love it. But what I don't I love about Nigella.

Everything looks delicious!

Sara said...

Jasmine, thanks so much for taking part in WCC this month. I love Nigella and I am enjoying reading Nigella Express.