Nigella’s new book provides my husband’s favourite home-cooked meal – ever!

Ah the bliss of the autumnal and pre-Christmas foodie book releases! This year is a particular treat: not only is there a new Nigel Slater, but Ottolenghi’s Sweet is just FAB and of course, Nigella Lawson has released At My Table.

My love for the one and only domestic goddess Nigella Lawson isn’t something I have hidden from this blog! From her first book How to Eat, I’ve admired her wit, knowledge and her ability to come up with an absolutely amazingly tasty family meal. I turn to her books more than those of any other famous chef / cook. Every time I have made her American breakfast pancakes from Domestic Goddess for anyone, they have requested the recipe. And that’s just one example.

Reviews of her new tome At My Table have been hugely positive, many fans harking that it marks a return to form. Personally, I have always tried to contextualise as far as the release of the books are concerned. Simply Nigella may not have been up there with her greatest hits, but she’d just been through something incredibly difficult in her personal life (again), and it smacked of someone’s search for something. And I understood the pink and green obsession.

Anyhow, enough of my armchair analysis. I would agree that At My Table is classic Nigella. I took it to bed, read it thoroughly, covered it in post-it notes, made my list of new bits I’d need (coconut milk yoghurt, black venus rice, aleppo pepper etc) and I had made 3 of its evening mains in the first week I owned it.

One in particular was a stunning hit! Having not previously given my Nigella seeds the attention they deserved, I thought we’d give the Indian-spiced chicken and potato traybake a go. Obviously any working parent loves the word traybake, implying as it does a minimum of mess and a minimum of fuss. Its blend of spices also included lots of things I already had there by the kitchen counter waiting for an opportunity to shine, including fennel seeds, mustard seeds and rapeseed oil – sad culinary dreamer that I am, I’d recently treated myself for my 40th birthday by buying a bottle of the gloriously golden Leckford Estate oil from Waitrose.

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Being Northern Irish, I always have potatoes in the house, so we were sorted on that score. We’re also budgeting hard at the moment, and chicken thighs, treated right, are tasty and affordable. We just needed a few limes and we were good to go.

When my husband returned from work, made delighted noises and swiftly wolfed it all down,  he declared that it was the best thing I had ever made for him. We’ve been together for 14 years and I’ve been cooking for him all of that time, so that’s quite the statement.

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It really was delicious, so full of flavour and so, so satisfying, yet so simple. I know already that it will become a regular fixture, as will the chicken and pea traybake (divine!) and the orzo and meatballs. I’m looking forward to tucking into them, and more from the book, as the autumn and winter progress. Nigella, you’re still – and you’ll always be – my queen of the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dad’s apple crumble

I grew up in a home where my dad did the bulk of the cooking. He got back from work first, so he’d have the family meal on the table by the time my mum arrived. It never struck me as unusual at all, and I learned quite a few tricks from him over the years.

Now I do all of the cooking in our house – I didn’t marry a man who took after my father in that respect! There are times when I think back to dad and all of his hard work, especially when I end up throwing together something in the kitchen that has come straight from his textbook.

One of his key puds is apple crumble. When we had rhubarb growing wild in our garden, the pinky batons were his favoured filling but now it’s apple all the way. I think he averages two a week, and my mother regularly requests a few to be given to her friends, fellow charity shop volunteers or just a stranger she meets – almost. Northern Ireland is THAT friendly.

The cooking apples which came my way recently did end up in my kitchen in a very Norn Iron fashion. Walking back from our local post office, I happened to smile at an older gentleman coming the opposite way, a habit I’ve almost grown out of after almost 13 years living in the semi-hostile standoffish south of England. Obviously deeming me worthy, he stopped abruptly and said, “Would you like some apples?”, gesturing to three plastic bags he was holding.

Offering him a pot of chutney or apple-related treat in return – which he refused – he then encouraged me to take a few apples from the bag, explaining that they’d come from his daughter’s garden. Off I trotted with my bounty, and, feeling too knackered to make anything elaborate / I’d have to think about, I set about putting together a basic crumble a la dad.

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A soupcon of apple carnage later, I put the cubed apples into a pan with a little water and caster sugar.

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After adding a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg and whipping up a batch of crumble topping – flour, butter, rolled oats, demerara sugar (added after you rub the butter into the flour, obviously) – off my two crumbles went into the oven for 40 minutes at 160 (fan).

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I ate a large portion afterwards with some custard made from Bird’s powder. It was a comfort on a rainy, rainy, autumn day – and definitely a taste of home sweet home.