Now here’s something to make you realise how much time has elapsed. Did you know that Nigella Lawson has been part of foodies’ lives and cookbook shelves – including mine – for exactly two decades now? This month has seen the publication of a special 20th anniversary edition of her debut book, How To Eat, the first of her (so far) twelve books that have bought the pleasures and principles of good food – and eating it – to kitchen tables the world over.
And she’s also marking the occasion with her nationwide ‘An Evening With’ tour, talking in conversation to open audiences from Newcastle to Dublin. Nigella can always be relied on for her poetic, often witty and enjoyable descriptions of things to make even reading about good food enjoyable. And when I first lived away at uni, my mum aside, it was her style of cooking (and eating) I took after and looked up to. So in honour of this, I’ve bought together twenty classic quotes that best sum up her philosophy on all things food – perfect for those moments when one wonders (as I often have) ‘What would Nigella do?’
‘Now you might think that is it. And it is really, except for two whole packets of chocolate chips … And I don’t put a price on alleviating suffering.’ – Nigella on her recipe for triple chocolate chip cookies.
‘The thing about rose water is; one drop is a hint of exotic promise. Too much, and it’s your great aunt’s bubble bath.’ – Nigella on the use of rose water in a Middle Eastern inspired cake.
‘You take some of this, add a few scoops of vanilla ice cream, and you feel like you’re eating something off the pudding trolley of a provinicial 1950s seaside hotel.’ – Nigella on preserved stem ginger.
‘Trust me, I am not a doctor.’ – Nigella on the benefits of wearing rubber gloves to deseed chillies.
‘It’s not that I think you need a recipe for mashed potato. It’s just that I couldn’t contemplate [writing about] comfort food without it.’ – Nigella on the ultimate comfort food.
‘I like to add salt to the water the pasta’s going to be cooked in, as it brings it to the boil faster, but also, the Italians say that pasta water should be as salty as the Mediterranean, which is just a wonderfully poetic idea. Food, life and culture all in one.’ – Nigella on optimal cooking conditions for pasta.
‘I think there’s a lot to be said for frying them with bacon. Something about the tangy saltiness resonates with the hint of the far off sea. Although where salmon comes from is not from the sea; but then, I’m a city girl, I’m not expected to know these things.’ – Nigella on the ideal accompaniment for salmon fillets and her upmarket mushy peas.
‘Tension translates to your guests. They’ll have a much better time eating chilli and baked potatoes then they would if you did roast duck with a wild cherry sauce and then had to lie down and cry for a while.’ – Nigella on the perfect dinner party.
‘I know it seems like there is a lot of fat – and indeed, there is a lot of fat – but shallow frying abosrbs more fat, whereas deep frying this chicken absorbs less, so really it’s just healthy eating.’ – Nigella in argument for Southern fried chicken.
‘This comes from a wartime recipe, so remember that the scone dough has to be less than a centimetre thick. Remember you are making pigs in blankets, not pigs in duvets.’ – Nigella on perfect party food.
‘What I’m after is fast but satisfying, maximum pleasure with minimum fuss. For example a stir fry can take hardly any time to cook, but the endless preparation, peeling and chopping seems to take forever.’ – Nigella on cooking the express way.
‘When I’ve got guests coming over for a feast, and my fridge is bulging with food, I use my bath as a wine cooler. You know it makes sense.’ – Nigella on space saving tips for entertaining.
‘I always believe in a cook’s treat, so leave the bones in, as all their meaty juices will seep off into the roasting tray for a perfect gravy. Your very own spare ribs.’ – Nigella on thrifty use of a loin of pork.
‘If in doubt – stick a fried egg on top.’ – Nigella on the solution to any savoury dish query.
‘This has to be quite a firm base for this cheesecake, to support the hint of inner thigh wibble.’ – Nigella on the base for her peanut butter cheesecake.
‘You only really feel at home when you’ve got leftovers in the fridge.’ – Nigella on second helpings.
‘They did some scientific tests on it [chicken soup] recently, and found it did actually possess anti bacterial and anti inflammatory properties. However, the true culinary believers need no outside corroboration.’ – Nigella on chicken soup.
‘If you’re one of the resistent few who didn’t give into the fad for spirallizers, or who have one either sitting in a kitchen cupboard, or in a charity shop with a load of Dan Brown books, I have a use for them other than vegetables masquerading as pasta.’ – Nigella on fries made with a spirallizer.
‘Adding milk to this tomato sauce rather gives off an air of Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup. Although that’s never a bad thing.’ – Nigella on the sauce for her slow cook pasta and meatballs.
‘Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. I once wrote a recipe that called for 6kg of potatoes, when I really meant 2kg.’ – Nigella on getting it right in the kitchen.
‘How To Eat: The Anniversary Edition’ is out now, published by Vintage Classics. Nigella’s tour, ‘An Evening With Nigella Lawson’, continues at The Bridge Theatre in London on 4th November, finishing at the New Theatre in Oxford on 13th November – tickets and dates available here. Twitter: @Nigella_Lawson