Our Verdict – “Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food” by Nigella Lawson

Maureen: This has been the best month, by far, in 2015.

Kirstin: Absolutely. i’m so sad it’s coming to an end. It’s been an epic month.

Maureen: I think it’s funny that one of our readers has twigged that the more recipes we publish, the more we like the book.

Kirstin: Ah yes.

Maureen: This book was so great for so many reasons. I loved that there was a wide array of things to try, everything from breakfast to dessert. I loved how for the most part they were straightforward to prepare. I loved that they were just different enough to make them interesting, but not so different that the boys would refuse to eat it.

Kirstin: And the recipes are really tasty.

Maureen: Even Andrew commented on how much he loved the food from this month’s cookbook. I did so some recipes that were just okay, but I didn’t write those up and there weren’t that many of those anyway.

Kirstin: The winners were so good it evened out. It was a fantastic book.

Maureen: Mine’s already splattered and stained and all sorts. It already looks very well loved. That’s always a good sign.

Kirstin: Always.

“Simply Nigella”
Overall Grade (A- F): A+ (Kirstin) A+ (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Nutella Brownies and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pots. Maureen: In addition to those, the salted chocolate tart was unbelievably good.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A
Any disasters? Kirstin: Only when I didn’t read the recipe correctly. Maureen: There were no disasters, but there were definitely some recipes we didn’t absolutely love, so I didn’t write those up.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf, high rotation. Maureen: Same

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Our Verdict – “Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food” by Nigella Lawson

“Salmon, Avocado, Watercress and Pumpkin Seed Salad”

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Anna: I committed the schoolboy error of not reading the recipe properly before embarking on it. Well, truth be told I read it just in time. Frustratingly I had been working for over an hour, during which time the salmon could have been cooling (apparently this takes an hour after poaching and cooks the salmon through, according to Nigella). But having taken the recipe at face value I thought it was just an assembly of a few, easy to prepare, ingredients. Which is essentially what it is, apart from the salmon-cooling curve ball. So at 8.30pm I had to make a swift change of plan and postpone making this for a day. It was worth the wait. This is a proper bowlful of food. And by that I mean: it tastes good and healthy but is filling and delicious at the same time. We have had it twice in two weeks, and now I have read the recipe intro properly the cooling hour has been abandoned. Hurray!

“Salmon, Avocado, Watercress and Pumpkin Seed Salad”

“Chicken and Wild Rice”

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Anna: There is really only one thing I need to say about this recipe. That is: Isabella ate four plates of it. Four plates in one sitting. That is two plates for each year of her life. “Yum!”, “Yummy!”,  “Mmm, chicken!”…. “More please”. In the interest of balance I need to disclose that Louis reluctantly ate only one plate. Peter and I ate what little was left after Isabella had finished her chicken-and-riceathon (“Chicken and rice in my tummy!”) and it really was rather moreish. Not four plates worth, but perfect for a night in watching scary Scandi subtitled drama on the sofa.

“Chicken and Wild Rice”

“Pomegranate Muesli”

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Anna: We are Bircher muesli converts. On a weekly basis, on a day of his choosing, Peter constructs his Bircher and the next morning, like a little surprise, there’s a bowl of oaty, chia-seedy goodness waiting for me to take to work. So I had to try Nigella’s take for comparison, it would have been remiss of me not to. Cobbling together the ingredients was painless. Pomegranate seeds in a tub, and scissor-snipped dried apricots helped. You can always rely on Nigella for shortcuts. The verdict? A bit milky, but good. It filled me up. I’ll take that. Peter’s verdict? Incredulous despair at the seemingly small portion. He required a marmalade and toast chaser. Next time I’ll double the recipe.

“Pomegranate Muesli”

“Merguez Meatballs” from “Simply Nigella”

IMG_7885Andrew (16): What is this?

Maureen: It’s called Merguez Meatballs.

Andrew: Is this from this month’s cookbook?

Maureen: It is.

Andrew: It’s another winner then. This is really good. It’s been an excellent month!

Nicholas (12): I think so too.

Maureen: It reminds me of something we would eat at Leon, especially since we’re having couscous with it. It also immediately brings to mind her sausage meatballs, which she had in “Nigellissima,” which I’ve also made many times. 

Tim: I see what you mean. I think it could benefit from a bit more sauce.

Maureen: Maybe. But this is a classic Nigella recipe. Take a few ingredients, be clever in the preparation, add some spices, and bam! you’ve got something delicious.

Andrew: We should have this again.

Maureen: Indeed we should.

If you would like to make this yourself, the Mail Online has a copy of the recipe, which you can read by clicking through this link.

“Merguez Meatballs” from “Simply Nigella”

“Salted Chocolate Tart” from “Simply Nigella”

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We had a “Cookbook A Month” editorial meeting on Friday. I say “editorial meeting” but what I mean is the three of us met at Street Feast’s Hawker House for a night of good eating and drinking. While the men went off to try their luck at whiskey roulette, the conversation turned to cooking. Naturally.

We talked about this cookbook, obviously. No spoilers, but keen readers among you have noticed a direct correlation between the number of recipes we try to how much we like the cookbook. Given that we’ve posted something nearly every day, I’m sure you can draw your own conclusions.

The conversation then turned to times when you find a recipe you want to make, do all the shopping and preparation for it, salivate over the prospect of eating it, start making it and then near the end of the recipe read, “Now [insert cooking action here] for 24 hours.” We all decided that when this calamity happens, it’s best to just carry on as best you can.

I’ll be damned if this exact problem didn’t happen to me on Sunday afternoon while I was making this tart.

I had decided on this for our Sunday dinner dessert. I made a special trip to the supermarket to buy the ingredients. I made the crust. I made the filling. Then as I was two steps away from “slice modestly,” I read the fateful words: “Put back in the fridge overnight.”

Overnight? NO! I was hoping to eat this in four hours!

With the Friday conversation still fresh, I decided to consult some of my other cookbooks to see if I could get away with chilling it for just a few hours instead of overnight. The consensus seemed to suggest it would be OK, so I went for it. I like to live dangerously.

Was it any good? Readers, we LOVED it. It was fantastic, and as good as she said.

Curious what it would be like after being in the refrigerator overnight, as per the original instructions, I had another piece the next day. All in the interests of science, mind you. While the filling was definitely firmer the next day, it still was fine after only a few hours in the refrigerator.

The moral of the story is obvious. Listen to your friends when they say just carry on as best you can, in life and in cooking.

If you would like to make this yourself, Nigella has helpfully posted the recipe on her website. Click through this paragraph to see it and try it. You can thank me (and Nigella) later.

 

“Salted Chocolate Tart” from “Simply Nigella”

“Beef Chilli with Bourbon, Beer and Black Beans”

Anna: I’m sorry, but I couldn’t publish a picture with this post. This chilli, while very delicious, just doesn’t look appetising in a photograph. I tried. It looked terrible. Luckily it tasted miles better than it looked. In fact it was a hit. Easy to make and perfect to tuck into after getting back from the fireworks. The bourbon really comes through, surprisingly. My mother – a woman who has consumed many a chilli in her time – declared it a triumph. My daughter – eating her first proper chilli (rather than nursery’s version which doesn’t count) – declared it ‘Yummy!’ and ‘Brown’. Which sums it up pretty perfectly really!

“Beef Chilli with Bourbon, Beer and Black Beans”