Monday, July 14, 2014

Nigella Express - A Busy Cook's Best Friend

Nigella Express: Good Food Fast by Nigella Lawson
I'm a bit of a cookbook fanatic and this has been going on ever since I bought my first cookbook about 5 years ago in the Cayman Islands which was the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I chose that one because it was the one I recognized in the bookshop, having seen it's earlier renditions in the kitchens of my parents, aunts & uncles and grandparents back home. Unfortunately, I don't have that book or any of the cookbooks I bought in the Cayman Islands anymore, but I committed my favorite recipes to memory and since moving to England I've been re-building my collection. I have about 40 or so and most of them are in heavy rotation, if not for recipes then for the tips & tricks that can be found within. These books offer a wealth of knowledge because every cook is different and has different ways of doing things. I love working out which methods work well, mixing up different recipes, altering them or completely ignoring them all-together. My cookbooks are among my favorite possessions.

About a year or so ago I discovered the joy of actually sitting down and reading a cookbook cover to cover, the first one being Notes From My Kitchen Table by Gwyneth Paltrow. Cooking a recipe is one thing, but reading about the author's experience with the food, why they love it, why it's important to them and what, if anything inspired it can really get you excited about getting into the kitchen and putting something special on the table. I've learned from Nigella to grate garlic when I'm lazy or in a hurry, from Gwyneth Paltrow about how to scrub a chicken with rock salt before cooking it and from Mary Berry that the easiest way to start gratin potatoes is to slice them in the food processor. Generally I can polish off a good cookbook in no more than a weekend and I try to cook a few of the recipes while I'm reading it to get the whole experience. I feel like a student when I'm with my beautiful foodie books, soaking up as much as I can like an eager sponge.

Over the weekend I finally sat down to read Nigella Express, a book I bought early this year and have been cooking with for months. I picked this up out of necessity - time has been short for most of this year with a bustling work schedule, trying to fit in workouts, blogging, traveling and normal household chores… Sometimes it's a lot, but I didn't and don't want to ever give up cooking altogether. It's fun, a form of stress relief and it's important to me to make as much of the food we eat myself so I know what's in it. It's also much more rewarding to eat and watch others enjoy something you made yourself. Nigella Express promises "Good Food Fast" and I'm happy to say it delivers! Filled with quick & easy recipes, recommendations of store cupboard items to keep on hand, tips for how to speed up the process of something that normally takes too long and anecdotes about Nigella's own busy, hectic life, this book does what it says on the cover. 

Nigella Express does a great job of offering a wide variety of options from old school British staples to an entire chapter of Mexican-inspired speedy dishes. Some of the recipes that are sure to become regular mealtime staples at the Pink Julep dinner table are Steak Slice With Lemon & Thyme, Smoked Cod & Cannellini, Haloumi Bites, Quick Chilli, Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon & White Wine and Mustard Pork Chops with Gnocchi.

Nigella Express is divided into chapters that identify the dishes as what they are, from Workday Winners which features easy meals to put together after a hard day's work to Holiday Snaps, a chapter dedicated to making Christmas parties much more manageable when you have zero time & effort. Though infused with her undying enthusiasm for food on every page, Nigella makes no bones about being honest when it comes to cooking and what's expected of the person in a home who prepares the meals… You must shop, you must stock your cupboards and nothing is possible without a little effort and planning, however there are times when you can get away with picking up just one item from the shop or taking shortcuts that make last minute jobs a bit easier. That said, some of the recipes in Nigella Express shouldn't even be possible - they're that simple. The positive cook that she is, Nigella Lawson's enthusiasm is infectious and she refuses to let time limit her to substandard meals, providing 13 deliciously packed chapters that ensure you won't have to either. 

No one is going to like every recipe in any book, certainly not me, but I can say that most of the dishes I've selected to cook from Nigella Express were delicious, satisfying, straightforward, time-saving and the ingredients were easily sourced for the most part. I look forward to cooking with this book more often and incorporating more of these delicious recipes into my menu rotation! 

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1 comment

  1. You know, I've never looked at a cookbook as something you read cover to cover. I may just have to try this now! And those dishes look mouthwatering! :)

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