Saturday, 6 November 2010

Book Review

As promised, here's the review of Kitchen by Nigella Lawson:

The siren with a spatula is back with another abundant offering of inspired recipes mixed with her droll style of talking, and indeed, writing about her obsession with all things kitchen related. Nigella Lawson not only knows food but knows what to say about it. Kitchen is no exception.

In the Introduction, ‘Or what the kitchen means to me, and why I live in it’ Nigella mentions that this is the type of book she has wanted to write ‘for a very long time’ but that she didn’t feel ready to share details of her ‘love affair’ with her kitchen until she got to know it more herself; this is very much Nigella’s ethos. She revels in the whole experience of food from its preparation to the evocative powers it possesses; a simple roast chicken transports her to her mothers kitchen and the ‘ritual’ of cooking two chickens at a time: one to eat and one to pick at. Having read all of her previous offerings it is clear that Nigella would not be able to complete a book that was anything other than ‘memoirs with recipes’ a term she used to describe a fellow food writers’ book in her hugely successful ‘Nigella Bites’.

Being that this book is as much about the kitchen itself as it is about food there is a handy section entitled Kitchen Caboodle – this is not Nigella suggesting we need a ‘panic-inducing’ kit in order to appreciate our kitchens; quite the opposite in fact. She discourages buying anything that will gather dust; electric cheese graters and yogurt makers both feature in her tongue-in-cheek ‘ My Kitchen Gadget Hall of Shame’ section but still suggests that some items such as a mezza-luna (a half moon shaped double handled knife) are useful to those less dextrous when it comes to finely chopped herbs and vegetables. The ‘Kitchen Confidential’ section also provides useful hints and tips, such as how to remove tea stains from cups and how to stop your onions browning too much when frying them.

Being that, above all, people will part with their money in exchange for recipes and culinary-inspiration, it’s worth mentioning the food. The recipes are split into two parts each with their own sub-sections. The first, Kitchen Quandaries, looks at how to feed children without condescending their palettes but also speedily nourishing them from under your feet with offerings such as turkey meatballs in tomato sauce and chocolate chip bread pudding. A sub-section entitled ‘Off the Cuff’ also offers advice and recipes on how to rustle up a satisfying supper by having some simple store-cupboard essentials to hand.

Kitchen Comforts, the second part of the book, is true Nigella territory. Hassle free food that feeds the soul as well as your belly. An entire sub-section is dedicated to chicken and the place it has in not only Nigella’s culinary repertoire, but her heart; she writes, ‘I don’t really feel a kitchen is mine until I’ve cooked a chicken there’ recipes for said bird include Thai chicken noodle soup and ‘my mothers praised chicken’. In and amongst the traditional recipes, there are some inspired ideas such as spiced pumpkin chutney and no churn pina colada ice cream; sure to cause a stir in jaded rut-stuck home cooks. If you are a collector of her other books you may find some of the recipes repetitive – done before but with an added sauce or additional ingredient. This is no hardship though, really, they appear to have been revamped/improved and not simply recycled.

When reading this book you get the feeling Nigella is by and on your side as she encourages you to enter your kitchen both physically and emotionally – this may seem hokey to some but true foodies will relate to this entirely. Nigella is not out to intimidate but to reassure you that you should love your kitchen and all that you do in it whether it be cooking supper for 6, a bowl of something restorative for yourself or simply spending some time pottering about in a room Nigella describes as ‘part-hub, part-haven’.

Recipe - Tomato Curry by Nigella Lawson

(Serves 4)

2 tbl sp cold-pressed rapeseed oil or regular olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and chopped

1 tsp sea salt flakes or 1/2 tsp pouring salt

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1kg cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp English mustard powder

1 tsp hot chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

200g frozen peas


1. Heat the oil in a large pan, with a lid, and add the chopped onions sprinkling with salt. Stir frequently as they cook over a low-medium heat until softened (about 7 minutes).

2. Stir in the chopped garlic, then add the tomatoes before stirring in the spices and cook for about 20 minutes, with the lid on, over a low heat.

3. Cook the peas in another pan (as per pack instructions), drain and add to the curry for the last 5 minutes cooking time. By all means cook the peas directly in the curry but be prepared to sacrifice both the vivid red of the tomatoes and the bright green of the peas.


The curry can be made a day in advance and chilled. Do not add the peas, though, until you are ready to reheat and eat.

The curry can also be frozen. Cook and cool the tomatoes as above and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost over night in the fridge and reheat, adding the peas.

I used vegetable oil when frying the onions as I had some handy; any oil with a high burning point such as sunflower oil, groundnut oil etc will be fine. Do not use extra virgin olive oil though.

Coconut Rice by Nigella Lawson

1 tbl sp garlic oil

4 spring onions, finely sliced

2 tsp nigella seeds or black mustard seeds

300g thai or basmati rice

1 400ml can of coconut milk

600ml freshly boiled water

1 tsp sea salt flakes or 1/2 tsp pouring salt

juice of 1 lime, or to taste


1. Warm the oil in a heavy based pan that has a lid, add the spring onion and the nigella (or black mustard) seeds and cook for a minute or so, stirring with a wooden spoon.

2. Stir in the rice, letting it get slicked with oil and thoroughly mixed with the black-dotted green shreds.

3. Pour the coconut milk into a measuring jug and top it up to the 1 ltr mark with the boiling water. Add this to the rice, stirring it in with the salt.

4. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and put on the lid. Cook for 15 minutes, by which time the rice should be cooked and the liquid absorbed.

5. Fluff up with a fork as you pour in the lime juice, add to taste to see if you need either more salt or more lime.


I used nigella seeds as I had some stored away (along with za'atar, see previous posts for details) from my tears-of-joy inducing trip to Dean and Deluca in Soho, Manhattan - they are not as easy to get hold of this side of the pond though. Nigella seeds have an earthier taste than mustard seeds, however, mustard seeds would work as they go so well in many rice dishes used to accompany curries.


Glorious! So simple, not to mention pleasurable, to make. The mildly acidic/spicy curry dotted with sweet little peas was offset beautifully by the rich, sticky coconut rice that had depth of flavour from garlic oil and onions with the luxurious creaminess of coconut milk; the last minute spritz of lime lifted it out of and rice-pudding territory all together.

As always, I would recommend veggies and non-veggies try this. I guarantee it will be enjoyed alongside a few bottles of beer on a Saturday night. Try it guys and, if you do, please let me know your thoughts on it; I'm always happy to wax poetic about food and what it does to our kitchens, bodies and souls!

Bye x

Return of 'T.V.V'

Hey you!

I've been plagued with guilt for not posting on this here blog for a while and, to be honest, I am in no position to post what with Uni deadlines looming! That said, I started this blog to tell you about the life of a vegetarian foodie and food is still very much central in my lil' world so it is with that thought seared in my brain that I find myself tapping away this Saturday afternoon.

I enrolled at Uni with the view to nurturing my love of writing and getting intimate with the craft; I am currently working on an original short story along with various writing styles which are all well and good but leave little time for my true passion: food and all things linked to it. So, imagine my outright joy when one of my fabulous lecturers casually mentioned in one of the induction meetings that we would be focusing on food for one of the modules. Food writing, food in movies, reviews, a cookbook etc etc - to say I was chuffed is a shameful I was getting an education, furthering my writing AND indulging my love of food!!! To give you an idea of what classes entail: last lecture we watched Pulp Fiction and had to identify and discuss the food that appears in the gangster flick and why...bloody brilliant, pun intended.

So, sat in my flat last night I was mulling over the prospect of actually posting on my blog and giving you lovely people something to delicious to get your teeth into...but what to do?? I have deadlines, assignments, reading!! Then it hit me, why not post some of the assignments I am given in my food related class? EUREKA!!

So, here's one to start you off,I was recently given an assignment where I had to create a biography of a particular food item/recipe. I immediately went for arrabbiata as the debate surrounding this sauce is as famous as the sauce itself...exactly what is the authentic recipe? Well I go with the Roman's on this one as this is indeed a Roman dish so one would hope they'd know their stuff.

Here's the food bio along with my favourite recipe:

Arrabbiata Sauce

Arrabbiata, or ‘angry style’ in its direct translation, is a racy tomato sauce for pasta; typically penne due to its tubular shape and surface ridges allowing for maximum sauce cling. It is fiery and unapologetic, treasured by Italians who squabble over its authenticity, whatever it may be.

Routed in Rome, there are literally hundreds of recipe variations. Roman’s will tell you that olive oil, garlic, dried chilli, fresh tomatoes and parsley are the ONLY ingredients required. Websites referring to the recipe’s origin, such as and seem to obey the ‘rules’ whereas claims onions to be a principle ingredient and that some add a cup of parmesan before serving. If taken too seriously, it can become a minefield of accuracy insecurities.

Playfully described as ‘The Cantankerous Tomato Sauce’ by due to the heat from the chilli (and the fact that it evokes passion/preciousness/anger in its devotees), this recipe appears to be used to represent a person who knows their stuff, culinary speaking. An episode of I’m Alan Partridge shows Alan having lunch with a significantly more successful colleague. Alan, unsure of what to order, looks to his co-eater who asks for ‘penne all’arrabbiatta’ in a faux Italian accent with a side of superiority; ‘this guy knows where he’s going in life’ is supposed to spring to mind at this point.

It should be known, though, that the appeal of this dish does not lie cheaply in its sassy name or in its status among its groupies. It has a vibrant yet simple flavour: something Italians are serious about. Italians do not deal well with ‘fuss’ when it comes to food and instead put their faith in top quality ingredients simply brought together. This sauce is exemplary of this ethos…if you get it ‘right’!


(serves 3-4)

60ml extra virgin olive oil

3/4 clove of garlic, finely sliced

1tsp (or more, according to taste) crushed red chilli flakes

3 medium peeled tomatoes, chopped

2 tbl sp fresh parsley, finely chopped



Heat the oil in a large frying pan. When hot add the garlic and chilli flakes, cook until the garlic is golden brown (not too much or it will be bitter). Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes and a good pinch of salt. Cook uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

In the meantime cook pasta to packet instructions or until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, stir to fully coat. Serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of parsley on each one.

Next up will be the review I did of the new Nigella Lawson book, Kitchen. This afternoon I am attempting her tomato curry with coconut rice so I will include that also, along with my opinion on it..naturally!

Until then x