Few sights are as comforting for me with the TV schedules and bookstore shelves as that of seeing a new series and book from my favourite TV cook person Nigella Lawson on them. My love affair with all things Nigella started when I was a teenager and her first series, ‘Nigella Bites’ aired on Channel 4. Here finally, I thought, was a TV foodie with a genuine, poetic love of food, offering calming but casual advice, who wasn’t barking at you like Gordon Ramsey, or tutting at you like a particularly displeased mother in law like Delia Smith.
It’s been a love affair that’s continued on throughout the last 15 years. Her ‘How to Eat’ and ‘Nigella Express’ books were frequently used tomes of mine during my uni days for brushing up meals after long days in lectures and seminars, and made cooking become a really enjoyable past time of mine rather than a chore. In fact, when my mum brought me up some home cooked ham off the bone after a weekend where I couldn’t make it back for a family member’s birthday party, I promptly made the southern style eggs that she’d once made to accompany her own gammon in Coca-Cola and immediately thought of the world as a better place.
Of course, as most people will know the focus hasn’t necessarily been on Nigella’s kitchen based antics in the last few years, which I won’t go into here because it’s A) unnecessary and B) not why I’m writing this blog. ‘Simply Nigella’, the name of both her newest book and series, lives up to its title. Although some of the feted trademarks of her previous TV shows appear to have vanished somewhat – faceplanting a chocolate cake at 3am whilst the end credits roll, for instance – we find her rediscovering a love of food and cooking after some time away from public view, through simple ingredients and simple methods to make culinary bliss.
So much was made on Twitter of the fact her first recipe of the first episode was for avocado on toast. Even she admitted on screen it was hardly a recipe, but it’s the simplicity and easiness of it all that makes it appealing. A segway into a recipe for Thai noodles with cinammon and prawns also shedded light on what had bought her back to a love of cooking – namely, time spent visiting Thailand as she skipped nostalgically through a clutch of Polaroids. Though balking at a photo of her with an untamed, backpackers mane, she wittily observes that ‘happiness trumps good hair’.
This feeling of rediscovery and joy via the kitchen seeped throughout the first episode, in particular on her recipes for sticky lamb ribs and a gluten-free apricot and rosewater cake. Whilst I’m not the world’s greatest fan of fruit based cakes, even I had to admit it looked appealing, if not for her wonderfully alliterative reasoning behind why rosewater was such an essential part of her cake: ‘One drop is full of exotic promise. Too much, and it’s like your great aunt’s bubble bath.’
Future episodes to come this series promise more delights – among them, a new chocolate cake which is sure to be up there with her Cloud Cake from ‘Bites’ or her infamous ‘Girdlebuster Pie’ from her Christmas shows, as well as a DIY pork burger that would put most hog roast caterers to shame. Like a comfy pair of slippers or a warming mug of cocoa when you come in from a blustery, dark commute home, slipping back simply and easily into Nigella’s world has made our autumn evening’s viewing all that bit sweeter.
‘Simply Nigella’ continues at 8:30pm on Monday nights on BBC Two. The first episode is available to watch back now for UK viewers on BBC iPlayer. The accompanying book for the series is published by Chatto and Windus. www.nigella.com Twitter: @Nigella_Lawson