by Alexandra Hedges
“I like three things: I like cooking, I like eating, and I like writing about food.” These are the attractively candid opening words of Nigella Lawson as she stands up to promote her new book, Nigella Express, at Blackwell’s on Broad Street. She strides in, looking polished and serene, yet her tone is humble and honest. Nigella is not ashamed of her love of food. In a pleasantly self-deprecating manner she admits that she would rather spend her money on out-of-season plums than a new haircut. She rejects the fashion in top restaurants for creating ‘small but stylish’ portions; with hands proudly placed on her womanly hips, she announces, “miniature things depress me!” When asked what her ‘Last Supper’ would comprise, she launches with ease into a lengthy list, requesting “roast potatoes, mash and chips!”
Nigella advocates simple but well-prepared dishes, admitting that she rarely eats out because she dislikes “fussy food”. It is a family joke that the menu always includes roast chicken when guests are expected. When asked whether she has a favourite eating-place, she hesitates, before alighting on a cheap Chinese restaurant she frequented as a student at Oxford, where she enjoyed a plate of salty spare ribs between lectures. Nigella believes that good food does not need to be expensive; She remembers preparing an excellent onion soup in her college kitchen, using ingredients from the local Co-op. She is a fount of useful money-saving tips, recommending lining a cheap pan with ‘Bacofoil’ instead of buying costly non-stick equipment and suggests ordering utensils off eBay.
Nigella believes strongly that everyone is capable of preparing a high quality dinner on a daily basis. She openly admits to having no formal culinary training; she has developed all her skills through experimentation and by watching others. Her new book demonstrates that even a busy career-woman can be a domestic goddess with very little extra effort. Nigella Express is full of recipes for quick but delicious dishes. Whatever your work routine and whatever your tastes, her book offers a solution, from a roast duck which can be popped in the oven in the morning to be ready and waiting when you arrive home, to a five-minute Mexican dish, amusingly called ‘Speedy Gonzales’.
Nigella’s passionate enthusiasm for cooking is endearing. She genuinely believes that a minute’s manual labour in the kitchen is more therapeutic than an hour of yoga. She feels she has found her vocation, and for her, nothing could be more fulfilling than sharing with thousands of others the pleasurable experience of good food.