This week sees the return to our screens of the lovely Nigella Lawson.
Her new series, Nigella Kitchen, begins Monday 30th September at 8pm on BBC 2.
So to celebrate this happy event, I thought I would mark the occasion with a Nigella-flavoured blog post.
I recently got my hands on Nigella’s new companion book (also called Kitchen) and although I’m only on page 92 (I like to read her books cover-to-cover), it has already struck me with its helpfulness in answering one of life’s most challenging questions:
What’s for tea, mum?
Nigella is a mother. She is a veteran in the battlefield that feeding children can become. Her recipes for children’s teas are like her badges of honour. She has faced the demons in the trenches (empty fridge, exhaustion, sheer disinclination) and has discovered how to emerge unscathed. And thankfully for weary mums everywhere, she shares her secrets in her gorgeous books.
In Kitchen, there is a whole section devoted to the tricky business of feeding your little ones. Her depictions of tetchy tea-times are familiar, at least to me. They are also quite comforting – it’s always nice to know you’re not the only one who feels the strain of dishing up something acceptable to possibly the fussiest of eaters.
The recipes that follow are like gifts to the frazzled mum. Not only are they simple, (no fancy ingredients) and speedy (hungry children and a long wait are not a great recipe…), they offer the one thing you most need to keep you going: inspiration.
These mealtime ideas turn a chore or a bore into something fun and pleasurable. In fact, when I read the Pasta Alla Genovese, I couldn’t wait for my children to come home from school just so I could make it for them. Powerful stuff. (BTW that recipe calls for both pasta and potatoes, – any carb-loving child’s dream.)
So I am grateful to Nigella for this book, and her others in my collection (see below), which breathe life back into a task that can become joyless or exasperating. It’s true that nourishing and nurturing a family is simply part of the human condition, not to mention a privilege (for which I am duly thankful). But doing anything on a daily basis for years on end can understandably leave you a little jaded.
And for those days, a little Nigella magic is the perfect ingredient.
Also by Nigella Lawson:
Feast; Food That Celebrates Life: This is a great book to have on your shelf for those special occasions when you really want to make an effort and do something special. (It even makes me want to host Easter or Halloween parties for no other reason than to create (and eat) such scrumptious delights.) The Christmas section also comes into its own if you are responsible for The Biggest Meal Of The Year.
Nigella Express: My 10-year-old son has recently shown a keen interest in cooking and this is his favourite cookbook. His triumphs include; Naan Pizza, Green Eggs & Ham and Rocky Road Crunch Bars. (I did say he was 10…) His signature dish is Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon and White Wine, which is not only express, as promised, but is also very simple, easy to remember and, most importantly, a joy to eat.
How to Eat: This book is such a pleasure to read and such a masterclass in back-to-basics cooking, that it gets away with the complete lack of pictures. I find it a great reference tool for looking up such kitchen quandaries as the egg:sugar ratio for meringues and how best to cook a ham (ie, in Coca Cola. Mmmmm.)
Nigella Christmas: My copy of Nigella Christmas is missing from the photo above because it’s currently on loan to a friend. She borrowed it in August, which I think goes to prove the book’s year-round usefullness. In fact, I think it could be the most frequently referred-to edition in my entire Nigella Library. The recipe that enticed my friend was the Girdlebuster pie, which her son ate at my house and insisted his mum learn how to make. (Yes, it’s that good.)
Other favourites are Choc Chip Chilli and Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Soup with Blue Cheese Swirl. The tempting cocktail ideas (both hard and soft) also manage to add a little festive sparkle to the months between Decembers.
So, what are your top tips for kitchen inspiration?
Please share – frazzled mums everywhere need to hear them!
(You can read more of Nigella’s words of wisdom in this extract from Housework Blues.)