Saturday, March 23, 2013
Everybody knows I love Nigella Lawson. I have her new book, Nigellissima, her tribute to Italian food. It's a great book - lots of flexible options and "inspired by"-type dishes.
I haven't read it quite cover to cover, but nearly. I sat on the sofa the other night with a huge glass of Shiraz, flipping through the recipes, and wishing I could make her macaroni and cheese without having to get up and walk into the kitchen. The book, like all her other ones, makes me feel languid and decadent.
Nigella's books are usually hefty, filled to the brim with delicious recipes and chatty notes. Nigellissima, however, is uncharacteristically slender and understated. Much like Nigella herself, if the internet is to be believed. I'm hoping she doesn't go whittling herself even further - she looks great, of course, but I don't trust thin cooks. The thing I've always loved about her was her sublime unconcern with her weight, and her perfect - neither defiant nor apologetic - acceptance of her luscious figure. "Bosomy and bottomy", to use her words. If her next book is a volume of slenderizing recipes involving things like flax and steamed skinless chicken breasts, she will get a strongly-worded letter from me.
I've made two dinners from this book so far. One was a finger-licking, chin-dribbling feast of "chicken under a brick" - or 'bricken', as I'm calling it. This was unbelievably, smoothly, voluptuously delicious (my fingers just typed "volumptuously" twice, and I liked it both times). It's a whole chicken, spatchchocked (cut through the backbone and laid flat on a baking sheet), marinated in various spices and unguents (I have a small jar of preserved, salted lemons that really came into its own here), and then roasted hot and fast under a foil-wrapped brick. Shockingly good: the only thing I had to complain about is that the damn brick put paid to the Bakelite handle on my saute pan, which I unthinkingly used to lift the whole shebang out of the oven. It was just a few pounds too much, I guess, although my husband pointed out that now, at least, the pan fits into the dishwasher a lot better.
The second meal was a true feast. It was a whole leg of lamb, deboned, butterflied, and dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, slivered garlic, sea salt, bay and rosemary (my addition). It, too, had a hot, fast roast (425 for about a half hour) and a fair bit of resting time. The only problem with THIS meal was that I didn't have enough people around my table to do justice to a whole leg of lamb. Mmm, delicious.
My favourite thing about the book is the way Nigella does NOT use a bunch of chi chi Italian names for the dishes. She uses good old English, which keeps the confusion to a minimum.
- LOTS of meat dishes in this book.
- And a LOT of seafood. Yerch. I am allergic to shellfish and I will end up cruising right on by huge sections
- Delicious-looking desserts
- Nigella's comfy, confidential food-writing turns up in spades and makes the whole thing worthwhile.
My score - 4 out of 5. And to be fair I'm only deducting a star because a) there is way too much shellfish, which is less Nigella's problem than Italy's problem; and b) Nigella has gone a bit diet-ey.