I've waxed passionately about my unabashed love for Nigella Lawson. She is my role model. I don't know how she pulls off being smart and witty and approachable but she does. I've been remiss not to do a recap of one of her shows. She's had two shows, Nigella Bites and Forever Summer, which have been broadcast on the Style Network. Unfortunately, there are only about 10 episodes of each series and I have eight of them on my DVR. I've watched each of them like five gazillion times.
Nigella starts the episode setting the table in her dining room while recounting a story of a disastrous dinner party her friend threw. It seems like said friend had an ambitious dinner planned and said dinner was making her miserable. Nigella describes the meal as "more and more delicious courses and more and more hysteria." This sets up Nigella to tell us how to entertain without bursting into tears. And yes there have been times I broke into tears. Actually, when I did a Thanksgiving dinner during my study abroad year in Englad, I did end up smashing plates in frustration. I'd like to point out that like every other aspect of Nigella's life, her dining room is exactly the kind of dining room I want to have. Unpretentious and a little cluttersed with built-in bookscases on three sides.
Anyway her solution to sane dinner parties is to have the equivalent of a Middle Eastern mezze where there's "lots of lovely bowls of lots of lovely food all on th e table at once." This ensures that you actually get to enjoy the dinner with your friends. Her first dish is string beans wrapped in proscuitto. She apologizes for the 80's chi-chi impression that wrapping string beans in prosciutto can give but the assembly is easy and straightforward. She then gives us persmission to dress up bought items by adding Greek yogurt to bought hummas and deocrating with olive oil and toasted pine nuts. There's something about the conversational erudition of her speech that is at once casual and intellectual at the same time. She doesn't take this stuff seriously.
Her next dish is guacamole which she mashes with a fork. She uses six avacadoes, spring onions and a healthy amount of limes. Her tip is to dissolve the salt in the lime juice so that it is evenly distributed throughout the guacamole. She sprinkles chopped cilantro over the whole thing and then abashedly wipes down the sides of her serving bowl to make her guacamole look neater. She reminds the audience that she's normally fairly lazy about such things. In another bit of quirkiness, she informs the audience that salad is the only thing she is a purist about. It has to be either a green salad or a red salad (i.e. toMAHtoes).
This segues into the dinner scene where this actually appears to be a dinner party she's throwing as opposed to some contrived audience to coo over her cooking. She ducks out quickly to cook some tiger prawns with garlic and chili (a fairly ubiquitous ingredient in modern British cooking). Segue back to dinner and the jovial buzz of real conversation. There's some perfunctory thanking of Nigella for dinner but none of the contrived compliments you hear on other cooking shows (cough) Ina (cough).
She then talks about how the popularity of Caesar salad. Her twist is to add roast potatoes instead of croutons. She warms her eggs in boiling water with a match which supposedly keeps the egg from running everywhere if it cracks open. She learned it from her great aunt. In a wooden bowl she tears some Romaine lettuce, adds olive oil, Worchestershire sauce, lemon, the eggs and tosses with her hands. She then adds the potatoes and an ungodly amount of parmesan.
Her next dinner party starts with the preparation of a rhubarb "jelly" (the british term for jello). She poaches rhubarb in water and sugar in the oven. She pulls out her leaf gelatin which she poetically describes as a fairly tale princess's castle window. She softens them in cold water for five minutes. Then Nigella strains the rhubarb and recommends using the rhubarb for breakfast with Greek yogurt. She admires the luscious pink color of the juice and then pours a half bottle of muscat wine to make a liter of liquid. She heats the liquid in a small saucepan and turns off the heat. Making muaaah noises as if she's describing a creature from the deep, she squeezes the googly leaf gelatin and melts it in the heated liquid and then adds it to the rest of hte liquid. Nigella pours her liquid jelly into a proper (one with crevicies and crinolations) plastic mold.
Then there the requisite viewing of the contents of Nigella's freezer where she pulls out little baggies of wine she's frozen for cooking purposes. She defends this method by saying it works perfectly fine thank you very much. The main course of this dinner party is a loin of pork that she lays on top of sliced onions (with the skin). She slathers the loin of pork with a mixture of garlic infused olive oil, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt and then puts a little set of spare ribs next to the pork on the roasting pan. We get a view of Nieglla putting the pork in the oven from a pot hanging from her ceiling. Don't ask me why. It's arty.
She adds water and white wine to the pork juices on the bottom of the pan and then simmers it on the stovetop to reduce the juices. Taking the spare ribs as her cook's treat, she munches down on the ribs with aplomb. Inexplicably she makes a salad of flat leaf parsley, onions and capers with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. As I think parsley tastes like a new mown lawn, I think the salad vile. She goes on about how wonderful the salad is and that she finds reasons to make it time and again, although (in a quoteworthy statement), "pleasure is reason enough. WORD Nigella.
Nigella slices the pork, arranges it on a platter, and decorates the plate with bay leaves "in a Napoleonic flourish." she then serves it to a table rich with conversation. Back in the kitchen Nigella unmolds the "jelly" and serves it wobbling to the table to her Algonquin round table. We end the episode with the jelly being served and guests pouring double cream onto their plates of jelly. And a final note has Nigella raiding the fridge for leftover prawns. Just like me!!!! I LURVE Nigella.