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

1 comment:

  1. will def try the curry but your mum dislikes anything coconut what other rice would you recommend