"Part of the balance of life lies in understanding that different days require different ways of eating . . ."
Whatever the occasion, food-in the making and the eating-should always be pleasurable. Simply Nigella taps into the rhythms of our cooking lives with recipes that are uncomplicated and relaxed yet always satisfying.
From quick and calm workday dinners (Miso Salmon; Cauliflower & Cashew Nut Curry) to stress-free ideas when feeding a crowd (Chicken Traybake with Bitter Orange & Fennel) to the instant joy of bowlfood for cozy nights on the sofa (Thai Noodles with Cinnamon and Shrimp), here is food guaranteed to make everyone feel good.
Whether you need to create some breathing space at the end of a long week (Asian-Flavored Short Ribs), indulge in a sweet treat (Lemon Pavlova; Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pots), or wake up to a strength-giving breakfast (Toasty Olive Oil Granola), Nigella's new cookbook is filled with recipes destined to become firm favorites.
Simply Nigella is the perfect antidote to our busy lives: a calm and glad celebration of food to soothe and uplift.
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About the Author
Nigella Lawson has written numerous bestselling cookbooks, including the classics How to Eat and How to Be a Domestic Goddess. These books and her many television series such as Nigella Bites, Nigella Feasts, and Nigellissima have made her a household name around the world. She was a mentor on ABC's The Taste, and her books have sold more than eight million copies.
Date of Birth:January 6, 1960
Place of Birth:London, England
Education:Degree in Modern and Medieval Languages, Oxford University, 1979
Read an Excerpt
By Nigella Lawson, Keiko Oikawa
Flatiron BooksCopyright © 2015 Nigella Lawson
All rights reserved.
QUICK AND CALM
There is a tendency which I deplore among those of us who write about food, even as I sometimes am lured into its trap, to make nervous apologies for any activity in the kitchen. We stress how little effort a recipe demands, vaunting the scant amount of time we require you to be in the kitchen. And yes, the recipes in this chapter are simple, they are quick, they are reassuringly undemanding. And yet, I cannot apologize for time spent in the kitchen: it is where I want to be.
There are recipes elsewhere that feed larger groups of people, and for different sorts of occasions; here, my focus is on a quick supper, mostly for two (though you can scale up or down, as needed) and the dishes I've chosen are those that make me feel good at the end of a busy day. But I need to feel good not just when I'm at the table eating, and afterward, but also before, as I'm planted by my stove, decompressing and letting my mind go or, rather, letting it move from a fizzing brain, to my hands. I don't want to be cooking anything that challenges me, but I want to be cooking; if the recipe's right, the activity soothes rather than stresses.
Of course, none of us can truly say that cooking is always what we want to be doing at the end of a long day, but "much depends on dinner," and a day feels disconcertingly out of kilter to me if I haven't eaten well at the end of it. The recipes that follow are how I ensure a calm evening, a good dinner and make me feel that there is nowhere I would rather be than in the moment, and in my kitchen.
A riff on a Caesar salad
There are those who hold the view that a classic recipe is just that: a dish that's earned its status because it, enduringly, works, and to fiddle with it is an act of desecration. It's not a dishonorable stance, but I think it essentially flawed. The classics, in food as in literature, are the very forms that can withstand and, indeed, spawn a plethora of interpretations.
I have subverted the Caesar Salad before. In How To Eat, I replaced the traditional croutons with some mini-cubes of potatoes, roasted till crunchy, and tossed – still hot – into the salad, and often still make it thus. My new, heat-blasted version here is a greater deviation and, for me, it's the perfect supper after a long working day, or a fine lunch on a leisurely Saturday. For those missing the crouton element, I suggest a large croûte, in the form of a piece of toast, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil, to munch alongside.
1 romaine heart
2 tablespoons regular olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
4 anchovy fillets (the sort packed in oil), finely chopped
zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon, plus ½ lemon to serve
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Parmesan to shave over
* Preheat the oven to 425°F.
* Cut the romaine heart in half lengthways and lay both halves on a small baking or aluminum foil pan, cut-side up. Mix the olive oil, minced garlic, and chopped anchovies in a bowl, and spoon over the lettuce. Put the pan in the oven to cook for 10 minutes, then add the finely grated lemon zest and the juice and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes until wilted and slightly charred at the edges.
* In a small cast iron or heavy-based, non-stick frying pan that is just big enough to fry 2 eggs – I use an 8 inches in diameter one – pour in the vegetable oil. When hot, crack in 1 egg, followed by the other, and fry until the whites are cooked through but the yolks are still runny.
* Put a romaine half on each serving plate and top with a fried egg. Using a vegetable peeler, shave strips of Parmesan over each plate, adding ¼ lemon, too, in case more is needed to squeeze over.
I have borrowed the name – and inspiration for this recipe – from mon cher confrère, Ludo Lefebvre, and it is, as you've probably surmised, a broccolified guacamole (though his recipe contains no avocado). I don't feel too bad about pinching his title: it did, after all, come from his book Ludo Bites ...
While the recipe is an obvious contender for a chip-and-dip arrangement when friends are over, I make it mostly for a quiet sofa-side supper, to be spread on sourdough toast or dipped into with crudités, or both. I make no apology for not eating all meals at the table. Some days just call for a slob-out on the sofa, but for me the food needs to be something that pulls me out of shattered collapse. This is such a recipe.
While it makes a lot, it does keep well (strangely, considering it has avocado in it) and also gives you a fantastic packed lunch for the next day, either with some raw vegetables to dip into it, or used as a sauce for cold soba – or indeed any other – noodles, in which case I add some toasted pumpkin seeds and toss them through the dressed noodles.
MAKES APPROX. 2½ CUPS, SERVES 4–6, OR A DIP WITH DRINKS FOR 8
1 head broccoli (crown, not leggy broccolini)
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ripe avocado
2 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
small bunch cilantro
1 fresh green chile
juice of 2 limes
sea salt flakes or kosher salt, to taste
* Trim the florets from the head of broccoli, and cook them in a big saucepan of salted boiling water for about 3 minutes (until crisp-tender).
* Drain and plunge straight into ice-cold water. Once the broccoli is cold, drain very well and tip into a food processor, adding the oils as you process to a thick purée.
* Halve the avocado, remove the pit and then spoon the flesh into the processor. Add the scallions, too, along with most of the cilantro. If you don't want this too fiery, seed the chile, then roughly chop it and add, along with half of the lime juice, and purée again.
* Taste to see if you want more lime juice – I generally find 1½ limes optimal, but it depends on their juiciness – and add salt to taste.
* Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with the remaining cilantro, ready to be dipped into or spread onto toast.
Feta and avocado salad with red onions, pomegranate, and nigella seeds
My sister, Horatia, often puts hunks of feta on a plate, sprinkles with nigella seeds (family solidarity), douses in olive oil, and serves them alongside some flatbread with drinks. As you can, too. But I have parlayed this into a simple supper, as piquant as it is pretty. Since feta is the main ingredient here, it really does make a difference if you can get hold of chunky fresh feta from a deli or a Middle-Eastern store, but this still works with good-quality feta in packages. A bowl of baby spinach salad on the side is, along with puffy – rather than crisp – Turkish flatbread (or pide), my favorite accompaniment.
Steeping the onion in vinegar – an old trick of mine, which many of you may recognize – not only takes away the acrid rasp of raw onion, but also turns the red strips to a lambent crimson or, further, a positive puce if left to steep long enough. Two hours is optimum: longer is even better, and it does keep. If time is short, 20 minutes should be enough, in which case double the amount of vinegar, letting the onion drown rather than bathe in it.
Should nigella seeds (called kalonji in Indian cooking, where they are used a lot) elude you, and you have to leave them out, I promise I won't be offended. Black mustard seeds are a more-than-acceptable substitute here; or you can drop the spice element altogether. A good quality Greek extra-virgin olive oil is my anointing olive oil of choice, and it goes perfectly here, strong and true, despite the geo-political discordancy.
½ red onion, peeled
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
8 ounces feta cheese
½ teaspoon nigella or black mustard seeds
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
1–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (see Intro)
* Slice the red onion into fine half-moons and put this delicate tangle into a small, non-metallic bowl, pour the vinegar over this, and make sure all of the onion is submerged. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to steep (see Intro).
* When the vinegar's done its trick and the onion strips are lit up like shards of a stained-glass window designed by Schiaparelli, get on with the rest of the salad.
* Get out 2 plates, and divide the feta between them, breaking it up into uneven chunks. Sprinkle it with the nigella or black mustard seeds.
* Peel and remove the pit from the avocado, then cut the flesh into long, thin, gondola-shaped slices, and arrange around the feta. Scatter with pomegranate seeds and trickle with a green gleam of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with the onions, lifted from their steeping juice and draped over the plate.
Halloumi with quick sweet chili sauce
When I described halloumi once as "salt-flavored Polystyrene," people thought I was being derogatory. Nothing could have been further from the truth. There is something so compelling about this squeaky cheese, and my refrigerator is stocked with it at all times. Most regularly I treat it as vegetarian bacon, dry-fried in a hot pan then dolloped with a peeled, soft-boiled egg (I'd rather peel an egg, even when it's hurty-hot, than poach one). But the idea for this recipe came to me one evening when I felt the need to counter the siren call of the halloumi's saltiness with some sweet-and-heat.
I use a copper pixie-pan for the quick sauce – which takes all of 4 minutes – but if you don't have one, just make more and keep it afterward in a sealed jar, heating up what you need on further occasions.
SERVES 2 (THOUGH NO ONE WOULD BLAME YOU IF YOU EAT THE WHOLE LOT YOURSELF)
3 fresh red chiles
2 tablespoons honey
1 lime, halved
1 × 8-ounce block halloumi cheese
salad leaves of your choice
extra-virgin olive oil to taste
* Slice 2 of the chiles, leaving the seeds in, then seed the third and chop it into a fine dice (this is for full-on fieriness; you may seed more cautiously if you wish) and add to a small saucepan – ideally, the sort sold as a butter-melting pan – along with the honey, and squeeze in 1 teaspoon of lime juice from one half of the lime. Put the pan on the smallest ring on the stove and bring to a bubble, then turn the heat down low, and let it foam away for 4 minutes. Stir frequently and do not leave the pan unattended, otherwise it will foam over the stove. Remove from the heat.
* Before you turn to the halloumi, arrange a few salad leaves on 2 plates, and pour as much or as little oil over them as you want. Cut the un-juiced half of the lime into wedges, and put one on each plate if so wished.
* Slice the halloumi block into 8 pieces, and heat a cast iron skillet or heavy-based frying pan. When it's hot, add the slices and cook them – without any oil in the pan – for 30–60 seconds until they are tiger-striped underneath, then turn the slices over and cook until the underside is patchily bronzed, too.
* Remove the halloumi to the salad-lined plates and spoon the lipstick-red pieces of chile in their honeyed glaze over the cheese. Eat immediately. Not hard to do.
Roast radicchio with blue cheese
I have always held that what is true in the kitchen holds equally true out of the kitchen, but it occurs to me that there is one salient exception. In life, bitterness ("like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die" as I believe Carrie Fisher put it, though attribution is vexed) is to be avoided at all costs, but when it comes to eating, it is one of the greatest goods. As a mindset, I have never seen the allure of bitterness or been even momentarily tempted to succumb to it; in the kitchen, I am in its thrall. If you feel the same way, then you should definitely have the James Beard Award-winning Bitter by Jennifer McLagan in your library. Those of you who are yet to be convinced, try this recipe first. Consider it an entry-level introduction, and one of the easiest, most elegant suppers I know. A few steamed baby white potatoes bolster it perfectly, their waxy sweetness providing a creamy foil to the muted pungency of the bitter leaves and blue cheese, though I love it as it is, or with the bitterness-boost provided by a tangle of watercress.
My favorite radicchio is not the round sort from Chioggia but the ultra-bitter, less tender-leaved, zeppelin-shaped Treviso Precoce. But it has a much shorter season (more costly, too), and the round radicchio, in all its plump Episcopal splendor, is not to be disparaged.
1 large round radicchio or 2 Treviso Precoce, if possible
1 tablespoon regular olive oil
good grinding of pepper
1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 ounces Gorgonzola Piccante or other blue cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
watercress, to serve (optional)
* Preheat the oven to 425°F.
* If using the round radicchio, slice into quarters from bottom to tip (try to keep the quartered heads in whole pieces if you can). If you're using the long Treviso Precoce, then just halve them.
* Arrange them on a foil pan or a small, shallow baking pan lined with foil. Drizzle with the oil, grind some pepper over them, then sprinkle with the vinegar. Finally, crumble the cheese on top, or add blobs of it if the cheese is creamy, and then transfer to the hot oven to cook for 10 minutes.
* While the radicchio's in the oven, heat a small, heavy-based frying pan and toast the pine nuts by tossing them in the hot dry pan until they have colored. Remove to a cold plate.
* Transfer the wilted, no-longer-crimson, but bronze-tipped radicchio with its molten pockets of cheese to a couple of plates, lined with watercress if so desired. Scatter with the toasted pine nuts and the chopped fresh chives.
Cauliflower and cashew nut curry
You know I am never knowingly undercatered, and therefore are probably not surprised that I am suggesting turning a whole cauliflower into a curry for just 2 people. In my defense, I should say that I once made this for 4 people, and nearly hyperventilated as I saw the first 2 fill up their plates, and feared how meager the portions would be for the 2 of us remaining. Besides, you cannot in all seriousness suggest that a quarter of a cauliflower is really enough for one person's supper: this is not a vegetable accompaniment; it is the main event. Yes, I know that it would be enough from a nutritional point of view, but blame my atavistic refugee mentality: I just can't do it. I feel part of the security I derive from cooking is knowing that there will be leftovers for later.
My suggestion would be to serve this just as it is, but with some pillowy naan bread warmed up in the oven for dippage as you eat. But if you want to, by all means rustle up some rice or – let me be a middle-class cliché – quinoa. This is, anyway, what you could term a Multi-Culti Curry: it shamelessly fuses Thai and Indian flavors (and you could indeed use an Indian curry paste in place of the Thai one here) but with honorable intent, and to most pleasing effect. I am a Londoner, after all, and a clashingly cosmopolitan kitchen comes naturally to me. I trust it causes no consternation beyond.
1 medium-sized head cauliflower
2–3 teaspoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt, or to taste
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cold-pressed coconut oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
seeds from 3 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro stalks
¼ cup Thai red curry paste (see Intro)
1 × 14-ounce can coconut milk
2/3 cup cashew nuts
1 lime, halved
small handful chopped fresh cilantro
naan or flatbreads, to serve (optional)
* Put a saucepan of water on to boil for the cauliflower. Cut said cauliflower into florets. Once the pan's boiling, add 2 teaspoons of sea salt flakes and the bay leaves, and cook the florets for 4–5 minutes or until they're cooked, but only just.
* While the cauliflower is bubbling away, heat the coconut oil in a wok – or pan into which all the ingredients will fit – that comes with a lid, and then add the scallions, the chopped ginger, the cardamom and cumin seeds, and the finely chopped cilantro stalks. Stir over a medium heat for 1 minute or so.
* Add the curry paste, stirring again before adding the coconut milk. Stir well, and bring to a bubble.
Excerpted from Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson, Keiko Oikawa. Copyright © 2015 Nigella Lawson. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
QUICK AND CALM,
Also by Nigella Lawson,
About the Author,