Ingredients, recipes and stories
By Nigella Lawson
There was a lot of publicity around this book coming up to Christmas ’20. Nigella was all over TV, Social Media and print. Looking amazing, naturally. Not sure if she has great genes or a picture in the attic but I’d like some of whatever it is!
A copy arrived in my Christmas stocking and I dipped in and out during Christmas downtime.
Look and Feel
The book’s subtitle is ‘ingredients, recipes and stories’. The ‘stories’ are very focused on the provenance of the recipes and Nigella’s relationship with the ingredients. The inspiration for recipes, whether that’s an individual or a dining experience, are name checked here and there but a lot of the narrative is effusive praise for the food itself – a little stream of consciousness at times.
The images, from Jonathan Lovekin, are attractive, some dishes are represented twice at different stages of development, others not at all, it’s not one of those books where there’s an ‘aim-for-this’ picture for every recipe.
The layout is unusual. There are standard recipes for sure, but also lots of suggestions for dishes that are embedded within the ‘story’ text. There are also lots of tips on how to make the recipes vegan, veggie, dairy or gluten free, and lots of suggestions for recipe alterations. I would have preferred to see all those extras called out in side panels rather than embedded through the text. These dietary options, along with the narrative style, seemed to make the recipes longer and more difficult to follow than they need to be. There are also very, very specific instructions that are quite wordy; about 70 words are used in one recipe describing how to boil potatoes, which seems a bit over the top.
What sort of food is it?
As you’d expect with Nigella’s form, it is rich, palate pleasing food.
There’s a whole chapter devoted to the humble anchovy – enticing enough to make me want to chuck it into all sorts of things. There is also a chapter on rhubarb – with ten pages of text before the recipes start. To be fair, there are loads of embedded recipes and suggestions in those ten pages for anyone who wants to explore.
The Marzipan Loaf (p70) is delicious, my effort pictured left. If you live with someone who has a sweet tooth, as I do, you will know that your search for a slice of something sweet to have with a coffee will often find the cupboards already stripped bare. This Marzipan Loaf Cake is a bit too grown-up for the sweety brigade and will probably survive the sugar-raiding-party. The next time I make it I will definitely slice and freeze it, all for me!
Black Pudding Meatballs (p122) are deliciously moreish. The Brown Butter Colcannon (p212) is positively sinful. There are still loads of other recipes I want to try and those I have tried produce the promised results.
Obscure equipment needed?
I didn’t see any major equipment challenges.
The first chapter is called ‘what is a recipe’ and in it Nigella points out that she will tell you what size pan she uses for many of the recipes. This is not to demand that you use the same – you have what you have – but is a good guide to help you select from what is available.
Ingredients easily available?
Yes and no. There are definitely ingredients that will require access to specialised grocers but in most cases, where something is a bit off the beaten track, there is an alternative suggested.
Who is it for?
The title ‘Cook,eat, repeat’ describes the grind of producing meals day-in-day-out and the premise of the book suggests that the home cook can, using the flexibility embedded in many of the recipes, move to the next level.
I would say if you are someone who can cook, likes the process of cooking, and has time to spare you will find lots to love in this book. If you expect to grab it from the bookshelf and scan a recipe list to hit the jackpot for tonight’s dinner – well, that’s not really going to happen.
Great food and recipes that work, but the book itself is quite hard work. I am someone who is happy to sit reading a cookbook in the evening while others binge on the latest from Netflix. I like to learn about food, about other cuisines, or maybe about the life-food-journey of the author. This book has reams and reams of narrative but it doesn’t quite tick the box on any of those preferences. Having said that, I will cook lots more from this book and am very optimistic that I will love anything I cook.
Published by: Penguin Random House UK