Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nigella, erm, Express

I belong to a community of Nigella followers, we also worship Nigel (Slater), some of us like Jamie (Oliver), we drool at Bill(Granger) and so forth. Well, it so happens that a few days ago, Nigella, concomittently as Jamie, published a new book. You won't have escaped it, especially if you live in the UK, where it accompanies a BBC series where the voluptuous Nigella explains at length that she is über-busy, always rushing from one black cab to the next in her workaholic schedule of Hausfrau and TV chef/author. She still finds five minutes to drop by Waitrose, her supermarket of choice, the high-end of food stores, to buy everything she needs to cook up express delights for her children and millionaire husband.

I know I sound mean and unsupportive, but I've heard echoes about the first shows that weren't entirely to her advantage. The food sounded rich in saturated fat and Nigella herself quite ill-at-ease (check out the Times video clips, you'll know what I mean). In spite of all this, I can't wait to see it, goes without saying.

The book, which I have decided to order anyway, after hearing from forum friends that it was really good, hasn't disappointed. It is a chunky book with retro illustrations and plenty of pictures, all carefully styled and photographed. The recipes are split into different chapters, from breakfast to impressive dinner party dishes, comfort food, Italian or Mexican recipes...

Either they are quick to whip up on a weekday night, at least as quick as phoning in a pizza or some Chinese or heating up ready-meals, or they are assembled in under ten minutes and are slowly simmered to be eaten later.

So far, I have really enjoyed reading the book and selecting recipes to try, and perhaps because they're rather fast food, I have managed to cook from the book all weekend, and have even been going on, just to try new things and use my book, but also because the bonus of Nigella Express is that, quite often, the lists of ingredients are kept to a minimum, which does make life easier when shopping and chopping.

So, without further blah blah, let me show you what I've made so far...
Quick chilli. This is one recipe I'd normally turn my nose up at, not being a fan of ready-made products, even basic tomato sauce, but the point of such a book is to try and use shortcuts where you need to, and even if Nigella does have a penchant for trashy recipes, they seem to work well. So what the hell, instead of subsisting on bread and cheese on lazy days, why not make a quick chilli? It uses tomato sauce out of a jar (I used Barilla Napolitana, which seemed basic enough and trustable) as well as sweet chilli sauce (from the Chinese aisle or shop-Yeo's -nobody pays me to tell you that, it's just for the nosey ones out there!), something I'm not otherwise particularly fond of. Well, it was truly delicious, the best chilli I've ever made, and I made up a few in my time, as this used to be my party staple as a young'un.
Mustard pork chops with gnocchi -this is a really bad picture I'm afraid.
It was quite quick to whip up, and despite the gnocchi is really evocative of Normandy (cider, grain mustard-mine comes from Rheims, but anyway). I must say, though, I think one tablespoon of mustard is TOO MUCH! It was quite vinegary, so much so that the skin over my upper lip was tingling, perhaps you know that sensation too. I would do it again but with only one teaspoonful.
"Go get'em smoothie" ie frozen banana, ovaltine, milk, honey and coffee extract (or something similar-which I subbed, as suggested, with peanut butter). You've got to love the name of the smoothie, and if you make it, you'll love it too. It's really rich and creamy although it is good for you. At least it's lower in fat than most ice-creams...

Coq au riesling became dinde au riesling since I used turkey meat from what is sold as turkey osso bucco - sliced leg pieces. There can't be much difference in matters of taste to using chicken thigh meat. As suggested, I made this one day in advance for the stew to stew on and develop nice flavours. I even stuck to Riesling, using a Luxembourg version, which was lovely fruity and fresh. Like many stews, it isn't very photogenic, but was rewarding in terms of taste and texture, the meat really tender and the sauce a pale creamy colour.

On Sunday night, I made the butternut and sweet potato soup, using Hokkaido squash, which has a nice chestnut flavour. It wasn't so express as Nigella said, because frozen bags of butternut and sweet potato cubes don't exist here, as Waitrose have yet to discover the potential of the Luxembourg clientele, but it was quick enough.

Testerday, I've made the lazy loaf of bread but can't decide whether I like it or not. It is very dense, chewy and "moist", bringing back memories of the unedible Norwegian Mountain Loaf from Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

And for dinner, I made broccoli and stilton soup using not Stilton but Fourme d'Ambert, a lesser known blue cheese. I loved it, because, of course, I like broccoli and I like blue cheese even more.

Seven recipes from a new book in three days is a record for me. I guess you can now appreciate the full meaning of the name of this blog, ha ha.


Anna said...

Wow! Julie, an amazing start to your cooking from 'NE'.
I am looking forward to trying the chilli too, and the 'Coq au Reisling'.
the smoothie IS delicious!

Kelly-Jane said...

Looking great!

I made the pork chops almost first out of the book, and I noticed you and Anna (I think!) said about the vinigar-yness.

I made it again yesterday, and took care to watch what I was doing because I didn't remember mine to taste like that. I bubbled the cider over a high heat (to burn off the alchohol) and added a scant tablespoon of mustard. I did this because I hoped little one would go for this and she did, result! SO I think less mustard would be the key :)


Sandy said...

Hi Julie, I'm so glad you are blogging in english! And I can't believe you have tried so many NE recipes already....I have my book preordered.

It all looks so good, and I am soooo hungry!

Ms O said...

Hi Julie,

Everything you've made looks fantastic! I can't wait to try that smoothie...

We don't have the book yet, but the show starts in the states on Oct 7th. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm so glad you're blogging in English!

Lea x

julie said...

Thank you, ladies! Glad you like it!

numsi said...

Hi, I stumbled across your blog and thought you might be interested to know that my family and I are set to cook our way through this book (with some other Nigella recipes thrown in for good measure) this year. Last year we did the same with Rachael Ray ( and so far this year we are delighted to be following Nigella. We have had the porkchops and the chilli so far, plus the potato cakes with smoked salmon and the smoked cod and cannellini- in the first four days. So far I am very impressed. Check out the year's adventures at