Whatever the occasion, food – in the making and the eating – should always be pleasurable. In Simply Nigella, one of the nation’s most loved cookery writers taps into the rhythms of our cooking lives, with 125 recipes that are uncomplicated, relaxed and yet always satisfying.
Simply Nigella – Feel Good Food by Nigella Lawson Review
I’m a Kid in a Sweet Shop!
Could the opening page to Nigella’s 10th and eagerly awaited cookbook paint a more enticing picture of the delights to come, or resonate further with my very parallel thoughts on the avoidance of sugar…?
One quote from The Domestic Goddess says it all, ‘Now, you will never hear me talking about “healthy” food. I loathe the term, but not as much as I am disgusted by the contemporary mantra of “clean eating”.‘ Simply Nigella reaffirms our birthright to love our food. Every crumb. Every morsel. And Simply Nigella reassures the great food writer’s many scores of fans that, despite the very public ups and downs of her personal life over the past couple of years, she is in fact, as lost as ever in her joyous bubble of ‘creative concentration‘. Which for the likes of you and I promises one of the most stunningly beautiful treasures troves of culinary goodness we have ever set our eyes on.
Scrape your jaw off the floor, try to contain the watering of your mouth, deep breaths in and out.
And let’s eat!
I tasked myself with recreating six of these glorious recipes…
But that was no mean feat. For how do you choose when everything is screaming out to be savoured yet devoured in equal measure? Eventually I settled on the following prerequisites; one fish, one veggie, one meat, one pudding, one cake, one sauce – well, it would be rude not to include the latter, wouldn’t it? I made my lists, hit the shops and and then hid in my kitchen like a mad professor attempting to emulate a biological breakthrough: the dancing taste buds of my husband and kids…
First up: Sweet Potato Macaroni Cheese. Easy to prep with a minimum of ingredients, velvety and intensely satisfying, even more so than a bog standard but luxurious version of the classic, which is actually a really tall order to pull off. ‘Mum, can we have this every week,‘ sang my usually-hard-to-please children in unison as we tucked into hearty bowls full of carbs at the table. Even my husband agreed that it was ‘pretty damn good.’ As for me, I loved it so much that I guzzled the leftovers for dinner the following night… but with a small side of cherry tomatoes and rocket. Yep, this is a definite weekday winner and will be made again and again in this house.
And that was swiftly followed by: Salted Chocolate Tart. ‘There. Are. No. Words,’ said my eight year old as she licked the sauce from the pouring jug of the glossy filling clean, eyes closed to heighten the sensory pleasure. And she couldn’t be more right. This is insanely and unapologetically sweet, but the combination of dark chocolate, salt, olive oil and coffee is an absolute conversation stopper… in a very good way.
This is a pudding to be appreciated, as one would a full-bodied red wine. You have to take your time. To eat in any other way is nothing short of a crime. And whilst I’d normally want to cut through such a sugar hit with a little cream or a sharp raspberry coulis, in this case, it’s an absolute no-no. The sea-salt flakes (though Nigella, I must confess to using my beloved Pink Himalayan salt instead) have already tasked themselves with seeing to that. Indeed, the only thing required of the eater is a concentration of meditative proportions so that every morsel lives long in the memory; so intense is this pud that it’ll be a little while before you want to make her again. But recreate her you most definitely will!
Then Friday night’s supper had to be the Fish Tacos. These were perfect and light after the extravagance and, well stodge – good stodge – of the previous days. The children were hardly able to contain themselves as we worked in a factory assembly line to make up the parcels of yummy hake and spices. I can’t deny that they flat-out refused to try anything once it was ready, still, this was a great and really fun way to introduce them to so many different foodie components, and well, it just meant there were more for my husband and I to polish off. The result was a fresh, yet not overpoweringly poky, medley which really sang!
And then came Super Saturday… and the involuntary (on my part) viewing of the rugby, which could only be paired up with the Beef Chilli with Bourbon, Beer and Black Beans. A little like a strapping and muddied man of said match, this wasn’t the most beautiful of sights in the flesh, but a true case of substance over style. The flavours were epic. We adore our chillies (I should add here it was only the grown-ups who partook!) and so upped the ante in that department a little… only to have to swiftly calm everything back down with the addition of the suggested sour cream. But the reward was surely the ultimate winter warmer and a great and hearty meal to have in any cook’s repertoire.
Then before we knew it, it was Sunday, which is traditionally and infinitely (in my world) begging for apple in any guise. So it just had to be the Cider and 5-Spice Bundt Cake with a rather essential Smoky Salted Caramel Sauce. Just because. And once again ‘WOW‘ abounded. My Bundt tin may not be as stylish or beautiful as Nigella’s, it’s true, but the cake turned out perfectly – it’s perfume and taste screaming Christmas, and the best excuse ever to just have to make it again. Whilst this dish may include a plethora of spices, we are talking gingerbready and palatable zing as opposed to anything remotely hot and fiery, meaning children will likely love it too – as did mine… especially with the golden glistening sauce which adds the most brilliant dimension, creating a proper Sunday pudding of cosiness and comfort.
So was I just ‘lucky’ with my choices?
Hell no, I don’t think so. This IS a Nigella book we’re talking about. And I don’t think I’ve ever come across a single recipe of hers which hasn’t floated my boat in some way. The love and willingness to share are perhaps more apparent than ever in this, The D.G’s latest of volumes; in part perhaps because what has worked for her in the kitchen during some of her darkest hours will work for you during yours too, but ultimately because this is a book which celebrates a fresh start. A brand new era.
I love, love, love that…
In relation to this, Nigella comes clean about her obsession with a specific ingredient… or two. And I think we are all like that; ever-changing in our food allegiance. Well, this book is no exception to Nigella’s rule, in that it positively ekes out every which way she can think of to incorporate her latest love of matcha, miso, sea salt flakes, coconut oil and sweet potato – to name but a few! – in the every day.
We can measure the eras of our own lives like this. And the Nigella of now urges us to share in her new found fascinations (the Matcha Cake with its pretty pale pink Cherry Juice Icing springs obligingly to mind). Indeed, Keiko Oikawa, the book’s photographer, makes this creation look exceptionally magical. Likewise, who wouldn’t want to give the No-Churn White Miso Ice Cream, Chai Muffins and Indian Spiced Shepherd’s Pie a whirl?
But next on MY Simply adventure will be:
Dutch Baby (because doesn’t the title alone intrigue?), Old Rag Pie – which begs to be proven to be anything but, Liquorice and Blackcurrant Chocolate Cake (well if that Salted Chocolate Tart was anything to go by…), and Baked French Toast with Plums and Pecans – who can think of a cheerier sounding meal to carpe diem with?
I always make my sweet selection first, but now I suppose I really ought to tell you about the savouries I’ll be succumbing to… Well, the Butternut and Halloumi Burgers are a given. I could almost weep in contemplation of that first sweet-salty hit.
And for the meat-lover in me it has to be the Malaysian Red-Cooked Chicken whose punch may be too much to handle, but I’m willing to give it a go. I am also longing to wrap myself in the blanket-like comfort of a helping or two of the Cauliflower and Cashew Nut Curry. The Brazilian Cheese Bread is giving me a similar glow. And I’ve given my word to my children that I will whip up the delectable sounding Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pots. Of course I’ll probably have to sneak one in for myself… just for the purpose of quality control. The Apricot Almond Cake with Rosewater and Cardamom is calling out my name too… in the interest of investigating fruit, nut and flower marries delicate spice, you understand. How did we get back to the sweets?
As for YOU, well, the proof will be in your reading, experimenting and devouring pudding. But one thing’s for sure, once you step into the pages of this book you’ll begin a culinary adventure that you will never want to stop!
You can catch Nigella’s 6 part TV series to accompany the book as of tonight (Monday 2nd November) at 8:30pm, BBC2.
Simply Nigella – Feel Good Food is published by by Chatto & Windus (Vintage, Penguin Random House).