April’s Bibliobites group focused on the Italian-inspired cooking of Nigella Lawson. Lawson is homegrown chef with no formal training. She has worked as an English journalist, broadcaster, television personality, and food writer. She is known for her flirtatious way of presenting recipes and has affectionately been dubbed the “Queen of food porn.” Our group members had a chance to look at two of her cookbooks: Nigellissima and Nigella Kitchen
Of the two books Nigellissima was by far the favorite, as it was more conversational, the recipes were straightforward and the photographs were appealing. Yet those great full page photographs did not inspire us to immediately begin cooking. Many shared that if it hadn’t been for the book club they would have moved on to a different cookbook. When we did try a recipe though, we were often pleased. After our group shared their experiences, others were inspired to check the book out again to try new recipes. Nigella Lawson intentionally crafted simple recipes to accommodate a busy lifestyle. Her friendly writing style and her practical cooking hints empowered the cooks to adjust a recipe when needed or desired. Once we got cooking we found many recipes that were keepers.
Not as many tried cooking from Nigella Kitchen as it was a larger text-filled compendium of recipes without the great photographs. It was difficult to get inspired by this book.
Here are comments on the recipes we tried from Nigellissima:
Pork Loin with Parma ham & oregano – pg 62 Very good cold
Meatzza – pg 72 Nigella posted that this was the most requested recipe from the book and it was a favorite in our group also.
Roast chicken with bell peppers and olives – pg96 Excellent
Tagliata for two – pg 70 “This only took 15 minutes and was really, really good.”
Shortcut Sausage Meatballs pg. 75 – Simple but not inspiring. Tasted better on the second day.
Curly edged pasta with lamb ragu – pg 9 –Pasta was expensive but good. Well-Liked.
Farro risotto with mushrooms – pg 44-47 (2 tried) Very good – a lot easier to make than regular risotto. It does not require constant attention and the farro has a nice nutty flavor.
Gnocchi Gratin – pg 131 – Some felt it was heavy – others suggested gnocchi is best when it is fresh
Quick Calabrian lasagna – pg 16 Liked a lot – but it is an unusual lasagna – using the strained tomatoes gave it a fresher taste.
Mini macaroni & cheese All’Italiana – p.15 Made with a twist on the traditional roux- grated cheese is mixed with constarch and then whisked into chicken broth. A real time-saver.
Do not make ahead – as the pasta will absorb all the liquid – and you will have to reconstitute with scalded milk or cream…
Broccolini with parmesan & lemon – pg 123 – Simple but tasty
Green pasta with blue cheese – pg 10 Very good
Gorgonzola &cannellini dip with a tricolore flourish – pg. 200 – This was fine but not one that we would repeat.
Sicilian cauliflower salad – pg 124 (2 liked)
Spinach baked with ricotta and nutmeg pg 115 – Mixed reviews – one person liked it a lot and even ate leftovers cold ( like a quiche ) — another found it bland.
Roast red onions with basil pg. 112 – Onions were tasty but the amount of basil was overwhelming.
Parmesan shortbreads – pg. 204 – Very buttery with a nice bite of Parmesan – but heavy on the calories…
Chocolate olive cake – pg 186 – Two people brought this for sampling. Some thought it needed something else. Suggestions were: raspberry sauce, coffee in lieu of water in the recipe- and of course everything is better with ice cream. Others thought it was good as is – not too sweet and very satisfying chocolate ending.
Yogurt Carton Cake – pg 182 – Yum! A big hit. Good for children – it has a lovely texture, almost velvety because of the cornstarch – you can really taste the lemon zest. Would be a great base for strawberry shortcake.
Recipes tried from Nigella Kitchen were:
Butternut, arugula and pine nut salad. — Pg 94 —A nice side salad for a meat meal. Nigella suggests leaving the peel on – our recommendation is that it would have been better without.
Chicken with Greek herb sauce – pg 102. The chicken is a simple cut up roasted chicken. The Greek sauce (Tzatziki) is excellent and a recipe keeper.
Irish oaten rolls – pg 86. – Quick and easy – baked for 15 minutes. Froze well and makes a great snack on the go.
Swedish summer cake – pg 264
Places to find more about Nigella Lawson and her recipes on the web::
Pinterest pins: https://www.pinterest.com/nigellalawson/ you can access some of the recipes mentioned above by following links from Nigella Lawson’s Pinterest site.