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Ok, this is bad, but I lived in the UK for 2 years and never once picked up a Nigella Lawson cookbook. Nigella is a British cooking icon. She is ridiculously famous, has written ten cookbooks, done various television shows, and has a very successful cookware line. Plus, she is beautiful and I am pretty sure many young female chefs aspire to be just like her. Her writing style is amazing, she uses interesting words and a sharp wit that keeps you coming back for more. I wish I would have read her books while I was living in her homeland, but at least I’m making up for it now.
I first checked out “Simply Nigella” from the library, and then soon after checked out 4 more of her books to read through. Simply Nigella is my favorite by far, it is her newest book (2015) and I feel like it aligns to my style of cooking better than her older books (some of which were written in the 90’s).
When I first cracked open the cover to this book and started reading the introduction, I threw down the book and frantically starting typing a text as fast as I could to my brother’s girlfriend, who lives in London, and is probably my favorite person in the world to talk about food with.
Me: “How did I not know about Nigella?!?!”
Her: “Nigella! She is a classic over here.”
Me: Wow, feel stupid for a minute. Recover, and then proceed to text for the next 45 minutes about how amazing she is. We actually exchanged quotes out of her books.
Nigella’s introduction to this cookbook probably shocked me more than any other cookbook introduction I have ever read, and I’ve read a lot. In particular, she writes “The clean-eating brigade seems an embodiment of all my fears. Food is not dirty, the pleasures of the flesh are essential to life and, however we eat, we are not guaranteed immortality or immunity from loss. We cannot control life by controlling what we eat. But how we cook and, indeed, how we eat does give us – as much as anything can – mastery over ourselves.” (Simply Nigella, Nigella Lawson, ix) Stop and let this sink in for a minute, because in our politically correct, walking on eggshells, can’t actually say what we feel culture at this time, this was a huge breath of fresh air. Finally, someone said it.
I think I’m going to frame this quote and hang it on my kitchen wall. Like Nigella, I also cannot stand the phrase “clean-eating” that gets thrown around with reckless abandon, especially these days with the start of the new year. I definitely support eating nutritious food, but eating (and cooking!) should be a fun, pleasurable activity, not a restrictive boring “diet”. Nigella gets it, and I wish so many others would let go of their “perfect clean-eating regime” and start enjoying cooking again.
So, off the soapbox and back to the book. I initially read the whole book cover to cover, and then went back to decide which recipes I was going to try. Nigella’s recipes are a little meat-heavy, but that never bothers me about cookbooks, I can always read through a recipe and think about how I can adapt to a vegetarian version. Although I did skip over the Oxtail on Toast completely, for full disclosure.
What I like most:
Nigella’s writing style. It is like no other cookbook author I have ever read. She writes with honest, open opinions, and I don’t get the sense that she cares what other people think of her work at all. I love her use of strange words to describe cooking and foods, for example, she writes “I don’t tend to bring it out for eating out loud, as it were, without some zhuzhing up” (Simply Nigella, Nigella Lawson, 113). To talk about hummus. I think you can tell by the fact that I keep wanting to quote her that I really love her writing style.
Yes, to a degree. I don’t think Nigella cares that much about her food being overly nutritious, but she cooks real food with honest ingredients and therefore, her recipes come out on the nutritious side of the spectrum. She writes “I have always believed that food you cook for yourself is essentially good for you.” (Simply Nigella, Nigella Lawson, x) Yes, yes, yes. I wholeheartedly believe this, and I think you can essentially eat whatever you want as long as you make it yourself, if you are using real food ingredients. Where we (Americans) get in trouble is the amount of food we eat “out”. If you make triple chocolate cookies with flour, eggs, and butter, or triple chocolate cookies with almond meal, flaxseed, and coconut oil, they are still both triple chocolate cookies. A treat, as they should be, and the rest is just details.
Hm, this is tricky. Nigella has grown kids and I think it shows in her latest work. She is definitely not writing about how to make things “kid-friendly”, but each of the three recipes I tried for this post my kids devoured with no hesitation. I am not an advocate of making “kid-food” at all, but it is nice when a recipe writer is mindful of little mouths and their struggles.
Borrow or buy:
At first, I did not think I would purchase this cookbook. But I have now renewed it twice and I can’t seem to let it go off of my kitchen counter. I also added it to my Amazon save for later cart, where it sits with about 50 other cookbooks I wish I owned. Somehow, it makes me feel better just knowing they are in my Amazon cart, even if I will never actually buy them. This is probably Amazon’s worst nightmare, but I know I’m not alone in this strange habit. So I may or may not end up buying this book, I guess time will tell. For the sake of this question, though, I am going to go with borrow.
Yes, this book is definitely entertaining. She writes personal head notes to all of her recipes which really adds a lot to the book. She also talks about how certain recipes came about, which I am always interested in. It is definitely a book you can read cover to cover, and I don’t think I need to mention her writing style again.
What I made:
- Spiced apple and blueberry compote. This was delicious. As in it only lasted one day. I made it early one Sunday morning and served it over some chickpea flour crepes with plain coconut yogurt on the side. This compote basically tasted like the best applesauce I have ever eaten, and my kids loved that it was a bright purple color.
- Pea and broccoli soup. Apparently, Nigella is well known for her love of peas, and for good reason. My daughter loves peas, so I immediately was drawn to this soup. Turns out, it is one of my favorite soups I have made to date. She uses a mint teabag to make the broth, which I found nothing short of genius.
- Triple chocolate buckwheat cookies. Basically, who can resist a title like that? The chocolate flavor in these was unreal, I guess that is what happens when you use three different forms of chocolate.
If you are anything like me and have been living under a rock, please give Nigella a try. A British icon indeed.
*Note: I can’t reprint the actual recipes here without breaking some serious copyright laws, so these posts are not intended to give you actual recipes, just inspiration!