Okay, first up, up until about 5 seconds ago I had no idea what I was going to call this bloggy series.
Given that it’s a kitchen diary of sorts I was thinking of “The Nigella Diaries” but figured that could attract readers for a very different reason. Then I thought of “How To Cook How To Eat” because that’s what the challenge is – cooking my way through Nigella’s mammoth How To Eat, but that title is way too much of a mouthful (pun intended). “Nothing Like Nigella” or “Not Even Close To Nigella” also crossed my mind but both of these are too similar to another blog – Not Quite Nigella.
What am I talking about? My Nigella Challenge. Or rather, number 100 in my 101 things to do in 1001 days list – to cook (and blog) my way through Nigella’s How To Eat.
I understand that this is probably a strange thing to see on a list like this, but I was inspired to add it to my list because:
- I’d re-watched Julie and Julia – the movie where New Yorker Julie Powell embarks on a project to prepare all 524 recipes in Julia Childs’ landmark cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” – and wondered to myself “how hard could it be?”
- I reorganised my cookbook shelves and began re-reading my Nigella collection – that’s the thing about a Nigella cookbook, sometimes you get so caught up in the words that you forget it’s a cookbook
- I’d decided to name the dog in the Christmas novel that I intend to write this year Nigella. The other dog will be named Nigel after my other favourite food writer, Nigel Slater. Hopefully, they’ll never know. I’m toying with naming my character Delia, but that could be too much of a cliche.
So, now it’s on the list I have to do it – and what sounded like a cinch when I was contemplating it has grown into something much bigger. In answer to my “how hard could it be?” question, the answer is “actually, pretty tough.”
The biggest challenge though was how to tackle the, well, challenge.
The book is humungous – and a modern classic. First published back in 2008 there are over 300 listed recipes in the book, but many more wound through the words that are more ideas than prescriptive recipes – and that’s what I love about it.
Another thing I love about this cookbook – there are no pictures. That’s right, not one. Even though Nigella is absolutely one who photographs everything she eats, this book was published before the Instagram revolution. It’s unashamedly home cooking and by virtue of that many of the recipes would be a nightmare to style.
Rather than falling into analysis paralysis, I’ve decided to approach this in a very Nigella way:
- From the beginning – a very good place to start… The first chapter, appropriately titled Basics is about the foundations. Nigella says that confidence comes from competence and it’s only through mastery of foundations that you can be a tad creative. In this chapter, we’ll learn about custards and pastry, ice cream and sauces. Many of these basics are used in later recipes, so that’s what I’ll do too. Sure, I’m an experienced cook, but believe it or not, I’ve never made things like mayonnaise and hollandaise and bearnaise from scratch. Where it is something that I’ve cooked repeatedly I’ll let you know how I do it too.
- If I don’t like it I’m not going to cook it. That’s also a Nigella thing – life’s too short to eat something you don’t like. How to Eatis about pleasure – and that, for me, is what cooking should be. If I choose not to cook something, I will, however, tell you why. Like the liver recipes. I won’t be cooking the liver.
- Some ingredients are tough to get out here. When we get to game birds such as grouse and pheasants you’ll probably read me prattling on about cooking something other than that.
- If I adjust anything – as I tend to do – I’ll tell you what and why.
- If it needs equipment I don’t have I won’t cook it. Again, I’ll tell you why.
- I won’t photograph everything. Some food has, to quote Nigella, “a face that only a mother could love.” Besides, this is a cooking challenge – not a food styling one.
- I won’t post each week – or I might. I might also stray into other of her cookbooks from time to time – usually to illustrate something from How To Eat.
So, that’s the challenge.
The first recipe in How To Eat is roast chicken. Nigella prefaces it with these words: “You could probably get through life without knowing how to roast a chicken, but the question is, would you want to?”
And that is why this series will be called About Roast Chicken…and why my first post in the series will be about that – roast chicken.
This post also appears on my other website andanyways…