Nigella Lawson's fabulous cookbook, At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking, is giving us exactly the inspiration we needed to liven up our weeknight recipe repertoire. Packed with the kind of dishes Nigella would serve up if you were lucky enough to have a seat at her table, every recipe is about accessible but inspirational food that tastes fantastic, from comforting pasta dishes to indulgent sweet treats. We couldn't wait to assemble a team of hungry foodies from across Nigella's publishing team, don our aprons and try out some of the brilliant ideas at our own tables. Here's how we got on...
Who: Julia Pal, The Happy Foodie editor
What I made: Indian-Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake
What I thought: Nigella has taught me everything I know about cooking with chicken. My well-thumbed copy of Nigella Kitchen falls open at the start of the chicken section, where Nigella’s simple roast chicken recipe gives all the advice needed to produce a soft and succulent bird every time, while the Chicken Shawarma in Simply Nigella is a dish my children clamour for with comforting regularity. Nigella, perhaps because she loves chicken so much herself, seems to understand how to bring out the best in this most commonplace kitchen ingredient.
So, when I am lucky enough to get my hands on a new Nigella cookbook, the first thing I do is try out a chicken recipe. At My Table’s Indian-Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake jumped out at me immediately. Indian flavours are a big hit in my house and the no-fuss, one tin nature of the recipe appealed immediately to the tired working mother in me. The dish turned out to be as big a success as I had hoped. It took just a few minutes to prepare, before it was thrust in the oven and ignored for an hour. A quick chop of a red onion and a squeeze of lime was all it took to make the accompanying Quick Pickled Onions and then we were ready to eat. The dish looked and smelled divine when it came out of the oven, with a sprinkling of the onions and some fresh coriander giving it a delightful pop of bright colour. And the flavours? Well, they certainly lived up to my very high expectations. The chicken was soft and juicy and packed with the scent of Indian spices, while the potatoes had soaked up all the cooking juices from the meat, as well as the sweetness of the lime added to the tin. It was a joy. I’ll be making this one again and again, both as a midweek family meal and as an easy main course to serve guests throughout the winter.
Who: Sarah Thrift, Senior Marketing Executive, Audiences & Audio, Penguin Books
What I made: Lemon Tendercake
What I thought: I like bringing bakes into the office to make people smile, and a vegan cake means almost everyone can have a slice… and they did! I made the cake that morning, and it was delightfully easy to mix the batter, and prepare the icing. I left it in the oven for 35 minutes, and it could even have survived a couple more, as it becomes very moist when you add the yoghurt coating on top. It definitely works for elevenses, but could equally be served up for pudding. It disappeared in under an hour, and I’ll be making it again very soon. Another triumph from Nigella!
Who: Chloe Healy, Head of Marketing, Vintage Books
What I made: Brussels Sprouts with Preserved Lemons and Pomegranate
What I thought: It was still warm outside when I cooked this fresh, bright and zingy side dish and it couldn’t have been further from a soggy Christmas dinner accompaniment. The brussel sprouts had a good bit of bite and were delicious alongside the garlicky leeks. This was my first time cooking with preserved lemons and they have an amazing flavour, especially alongside a hint of cinnamon and the juicy pomegranate seeds. I served it alongside some sea bass and it worked very well and made a great dinner. I think it could also work really well as a cold salad and so will be trying that too!
Who: Charlotte Humphery, Assistant Editor, Vintage Books
What I made: Garlic Bread
What I thought: Of course I never overindulge on a Saturday night nor dread a Monday morning. I am a model citizen and employee, full of sober enthusiasm for each day. But if I were feeling stroppy and lightly hungover, the Chill Cheese Garlic Bread from At My Table would be an admirable medicine for Sunday night blues.
This is the garlic bread you remember from childhood birthday parties, burnt fingers and heady garlic. But this recipe isn’t oily and the chilli feels grown up (and I’m sure a good sourdough would have elevated it even further had my local Co-op been able to provide such delights). It’s gooey and stretchy and salty and moreish – a lovely, ridiculous treat.
I’m sure a slice or two would go beautifully with lasagne or a loaf would be roundly applauded by friends on a movie night but may I also recommend its mood-altering properties for a drizzly Sunday afternoon? I defy you not to feel cheered.
Who: Claire Davis, Senior Digital Marketing Executive, Audiences & Audio
What I made: Double Chocolate and Pumpkin Seed Cookies
What I thought: Nigella rarely lets us down when it comes to cookies - and these salty-sweet Double Chocolate and Pumpkin Seed Cookies were no exception! They're super easy to make and only take about twenty minutes (with ten minutes in the oven) so perfect if you need to whip up as a last-minute treat. I had some family coming over for lunch so thought they'd make a nice mid-afternoon snack with a pot of tea. Follow Nigella's instructions and they'll be delightfully crispy on the outside and gooey with chocolate on the inside, and the pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch missing from her other cookie recipes. Every now and then you'll get a snap of salt coming through the chocolate, which I adore, but you can of course add less salt if you're not a fan of the salted sweetness. I also made these even more indulgent and swapped the chocolate chips out for chunks of Bourneville, to make them even more chocolatey. No regrets!
Who: Polly Collier, Senior Production Controller, Vintage Books
What I made: Pork with Prunes, Olives and Capers and Chilli Cheese Garlic Bread
What I thought: With the week a whirlwind of jam sandwiches and fish fingers for my kids, and slightly more grown up but same-old pasta, stir-fry type weekday meals for my husband and me, I like to dedicate a slower pace to the weekend, including to my cooking. I like nothing more than poring over cookbooks, or the recipe section of the newspaper and planning a comforting meal, hopefully one we can all enjoy, so the new Nigella cookbook seemed the perfect place to start, and having seen it on the printing press back in the summer I was still salivating from the glorious pics! Secretly pleased that autumn is here and in need of some comfort, I went for the Pork with Prunes, Olives and Capers, and some gooey-looking Chilli Cheese Garlic Bread.
The pork recipe couldn’t be easier. Once I’d cut the meat up, everything else (wine, prunes, olives, capers, oregano, seasoning) went in with it in a big freezer bag to marinade overnight. You don’t even need to brown the meat, so on Sunday afternoon I just emptied the contents of the bag in a casserole pot, added the stock and bunged it in the oven to slowly cook for 2 hours while we watched a DVD and collected conkers. Half an hour before it was ready I put together the gooey mixture of mozzarella, butter, salt and chilli flakes, rubbed it in to the crevices of a sourdough baguette, and added that to the oven for 30 minutes, producing the melting delight which is Nigella’s chilli cheese garlic bread.
I was a bit worried I would struggle to get the prunes in the stew past the 3 boys in the family but in fact the dried fruit almost disintegrated and added a lovely, sweet richness to the gravy which was offset by the tang of the capers and olives (I used Kalamata). I also added some water halfway through the cooking, and towards the end to keep the gravy really juicy. I served with some tender-stem broccoli to balance out all of the above, which the kids obviously left, but made us feel a bit better about ourselves, and had a glass of the wine I’d used to marinade the meat because it would be silly not to, wouldn’t it? Delicious, easy, and with pork shoulder a pretty cheap cut, this was economical too.
Like the sound of these recipes? Click here to learn more about Nigella's heavenly At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking, or if you're itching to get your hands on your own copy, you can buy it here.