Nigella Bites

Nigella Bites
Ah, Nigella Bites. If there was a moment this (and by this I mean the ludicrous acquisition of recipe books, the encyclopaedic knowledge of all terrestrial food TV, no matter how bad, and the cooking and photography of food for the very small and mostly anonymous little collective who follow this blog) all started, then it was the moment that I watched Nigella Lawson sandwich slices of mozzarella cheese in pieces of white, shop bought bread, fry it  and create something far far more than the sum of its parts, on TV. Mozzarella in Carozza, Nigella Bites, 2001.

Nigella divides, and although I am not as smitten with her as I once was, in those days, Nigella’s devotees were very devoted. I believe at this point, Nigella had already written two modern classics – How to Eat and How to be a Domestic Goddess, which were both tremendous critical and popular successes, and this was her first TV series and book to accompany. It is a well trodden path now, for Ms Lawson and her ilk – TV series, book, TV series, book, TV series, book, a perennial pension plan. This book though, despite being attached to a brilliant, and award-winning show, is no How to Eat.

There are 10 chapters in this book, each with a handful of recipes in each chapter:

  • All Day Breakfast
  • Comfort Food
  • TV Dinners
  • Party Girl
  • Rainy Days
  • Trashy
  • Legacy
  • Suppertime
  • Slow-cook Weekend
  • Temple Food

The recipes are all very tempting, with extremely easy to follow instructions and readily accessible ingredients. Highlights for me  include Ham in Coca-cola, Chocolate Cloud Cake, Salt & Pepper Squid, Bream with Anchovies and Thyme and Southern-Style Chicken. There is some beautiful, inspiring photography. Nigella makes you feel than nothing in this book is unachievable, if you can read of it and conceive of it, you can make it. And, as always with Nigella the real strength is in the writing – friendly, approachable, authoritative and understanding. Good company over the sticky toffee pudding.

But for an rrp of £20, what do I want? I know that hardback recipe books rarely sell at their list price – certainly not on amazon, but if I bought it there today at its price of £11 odd, it would still be quite a big investment. In truth, I am probably not smitten enough to believe this represents value for money and I am somebody that actually uses her recipe books. Yes, there are some lovely recipes – but there are recipes for mashed potato in here, there are a LOT of photographs, there are pages at the end of every chapter for your notes. Of course, all hardback food books are expensive these days, especially if they have a famous name attached so it’s all relative, really but I can’t help thinking there’s a fair bit of blank space here for my cash.

On balance, this is a fine book. Maybe it has its faults and maybe it shouldn’t be on any classics list (unlike the linked programme) but it is an enjoyable read and a reliable guide. Implied permission from an absolute fox to eat fried chicken and a trough of pasta, supplied free of charge.
Nigella Bites

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Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible (and HNY)

It feels like it’s been a while.  I am supposed to be studying but, meh, it’s the holidays right? I’ve been diagnosed with yeast intolerance. Have you any idea how many foods and drinks you just shouldn’t have if you’re yeast intolerant? It’s a lot. I’m a bit sniffy, normally, about people who are ‘intolerant’, in fact I am fairly intolerant of intolerants. So that will teach me. I’ve.. no, thats it. That’s my total news. Welcome back.

The point of this blog was never really my mundane life anyway. Here’s a recipe book review.

My favourite book of 2009 was Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible. It wasn’t cheap – the good ones rarely are -( but neither are Jamie Oliver’s., and plenty of people buy those) This was £25 and is currently on offer at £16.25 at Amazon. I know some of my readers well enough to know that some people will think £25 is too much. This one isn’t, it really is not.
The thing about Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes is that they always work, she explains them well, they’re easy, they’re healthy(ish) and they’re interesting. And ok, if all you really want to do is learn how to make a good Chicken Tikka Masala, or Lamb Bhuna, or Korma, because thats all you ever get from the curry house, she will teach you how to make a brilliant Bhuna, easily. And spend less time in the kitchen dealing with it than you would getting it delivered. Depending on how often you get take-aways, you could have saved yourself the cost of the book within a couple of months. But where this book is strongest, in my view, is teaching you how to cook the stuff that you don’t necessarily get at your local Al’s Tandoori.
The book is split into:
1. Introduction (beautifully illustrated history of curry)
2. Lamb, Pork, Beef, Veal and Goat
3. Fish and Seafood
4. Vegetables
5. Dals, Beans and Split Peas
6. Kebabs and Soups
7. Rice, Noodles and Breads
8. Relishes and Accompaniments
Special Ingredients and Techniques.
And the curries come from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, Kenya, Great Britain, Trinidad, Guyana, Japan & the US.
You will have to buy spices, but thats not difficult – there’s no recipe in this book that you can’t easily source the stuff for – and you will obviously be using the spices more than once. So far, I have made 12 recipes from this book, including the aforementioned (and well loved) Lamb Bhuna, some truly amazing Chicken Satays (with peanut sauce), a Biryiani, Naan Bread, Goan Prawn Curry and a Malaysian Korma. All of them made me so impressed with myself!
There are other curry books out there, sometimes I think I own most of them. There are even other Madhur Jaffrey curry books out there. But if you only have one, you should own this 342 pages of encyclopaedic lip smacking inspiration. Your local curry house probably won’t thank you for it, but what have they done for you lately?
Buy it here:Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible