Friday, 12 October 2012

Nigellissima: A Review

Since I bought a copy of Nigellissima, Nigella Lawson's new book, I've been cooking from it. Lots. It's typical Nigella, really - lots of hearty but simple to make recipes, described in normal, non-pompous language. And as she says on TV, she's looked to Italy for the inspiration for it.

However, the links between some of the foods and Italy are sometimes a bit tenuous. Although Nigella describes the inspiration for Eggs in Purgatory as coming from Dante's Inferno, when I tweeted a picture of it I recieved a reply telling me that this is actually a well-known Mexican breakfast. In a way, I don't care: the eggs were delicious and I hadn't known about them before I saw Nigella cooking it. By the way, this is probably one of those recipes in the book you flick through to get to all the other meaty stuff, but don't. It's become one of my favourite late breakfasts or lunches.


Eggs in Purgatory (a.k.a the Mexican breakfast of egg in tomatoes, garlic and chilli)

There are also quick family-friendly meals (not just pasta) you can throw together - I've tossed chestnuts into my sprouts and bacon at Christmas but I'd never thought of combining chestnuts and pancetta to make a quick Marsala-soaked pasta dish. And the peas, pancetta and orzo was quick and simple to whip up, too - a bit like making a risotto. The children loved it. However they weren't fooled by the Mock Mash (semolina and milk), pushing it to one side and asking for some real mashed potato. I liked it though and would make it again - a kind of English-style polenta.


Spaghetti with bacon and chestnuts
And there are slow-cook meals too - the Italian roast chicken, for example. As the chicken roasts, all the juices from the bird trickle down into the vegetables underneath: perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Forget the roast potatoes, just break open a ciabatta to mop up all those delicious juices.

Nigella's Italian Roast Chicken
Obviously, dessert-wise, with Nigella you know you won't be disappointed. My children wolfed down a wedge of the olive oil chocolate cake as an after-school snack - and you'd never know it was made from olive oil. It's light, quite dense and moist inside - perfect for serving warm with a scoop of ice cream.


Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

And the chocolate hazelnut cheesecake was a roaring sucess - it took me around 10 minutes to prepare it - the next 4 hours it was sitting in the fridge. The girls loved it, obviously - you'll only need a small slice, about half of the size of this one pictured.  It's pretty filling, you see... *blushes*.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake (a.k.a Nutella cheesecake)
As for the tone of the book, imagine pottering about in the kitchen and having Nigella standing next to you, telling you what to do next. That's what you get. The book's entertaining too, for all the Nigella-isms: "children's little hands are much better suited for rolling dough", don't EVER use green peppers and frequent references to her Italian inspiration, Anna del Conte. There's even a little tribute to Lady Gaga in the book too.

The only criticism I would really make is that in this book, the 'notes to the reader' part is split apart from everything else and wodged in at the end. It lists certain recipes and gives freezing and storage instructions. I much preferred the layout in Kitchen, where this was given at the end of each recipe. In fact, how long a dish is likely to keep for could be a factor in whether you decide to make it at all - so this information, at least for me, is best bundled together.

Since I bought the book I've cooked from it a lot - and you will too. It's a really worthwhile book to have to hand. Nigella understands that you need a book for all types of eating - sometimes you'll eat alone, other times two of you and sometimes you'll have a table of 8-10 people to feed. This book covers all the bases, has some really delicious treats in and they're all delivered in Nigella's non-authoritative, down to earth way.

Nigellissima (2012) is published by Chatto and Windus.

Have you read the book, or cooked from it? What did you think? What have you made?