Firstly, let me introduce this self-inflicted project of mine. It was born out of a promise to buy fewer cookbooks. I made a deal with myself in December 2020 that I won’t buy a new one unless I’ve cooked at least 10 recipes from the one I bought before.
It is safe to say that I failed miserably by mid-January. January is tough as shit. And I cracked, I ended up with 3 new cookbooks. With a total of 5 recipes getting cooked from them.
But I can’t help myself, I love them. I love cookbooks, I love the recipe pre-ambles, I love the photography, learning about new cultures, discovering new ingredients, flavour pairings and new techniques. And most of all, falling in love with a recipe and it becoming ingrained into our regular menu rotation. And no, do not suggest I buy an e-copy of a cookbook. IT’S NOT THE SAME.
So I decided that I need to do better, try harder. Give all these books the justice they deserve. So I’m going to do a write up of the 10 recipes I cook from all the different books I own. There are just 130 cookbooks on my shelves. Not quite as impressive as Nigella’s library of cookbooks.
As soon as I realised that I had to write about my experience of cooking someone else’s recipes, it dawned on me that I am every recipe writer’s worst nightmare. I don’t follow recipes to a “T”, I swap and omit ingredients as I please. I adjust cooking times, rarely read the recipe in advance therefore underestimating how much time it’ll take, how many utensils it’ll need and finally that ingredients may need marinating/infusing and sautéing.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride, or hell maybe it’ll make me a better cook? Well, avid reader you can hold me accountable and laugh at my misfortunes.
Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella
Cook, Eat, Repeat was wildly anticipated and landed on our shelves in October 2020, shortly followed by the BBC series. Where we watched Nigella whip up a no-knead bread, show us how to butter a slice of toast and the controversial pronunciation of the word ‘microwave’. She divided the country not with her political views but with her liberal use of anchovies and liquorice. It’s a ‘yes’ for anchovies and a ‘no’ for liquorice in our house. Being the Nigella worshipper that I am, I pre-ordered the book and was eagerly awaiting its’ arrival. I dedicated a whole morning to the beautiful prose, the stories and winded introductions. And then I got cooking, so here are the 10 recipes I cooked from ‘Cook, Eat, Repeat’.
Fried Chicken Sandwich p.67
Go hard or go home. In this case, deep fry or go home (and then deep fry). I love chicken, I love fried chicken, I love fried chicken burgers. Nigella had me at “kimchi and crispy chilli oil”. So it was the very first thing I cooked from the book and I’ve probably cooked it another 10 times since.
This recipe does require marinating in advance and it uses chicken thighs (cheaper, juicier, more flavoursome). If you want to get the crispiness just right, do invest in a kitchen probe to get your oil to the right temperature. I don’t know what else to say except that I love fried chicken.
Chocolate, Tahini and Banana Two Ways p.80
Squidgy, fudgy, chocolatey goodness. According to Pete ‘your (my) best ever banana bread’. Easy to make, doesn’t require many bowls. The hardest part? Wrapping up the loaf in tin foil and leaving it to sit for a day. I can only assume that’s what makes it so squidgy and moist. Packed with chocolate chips and tahini, this is going to be our new favourite way to use up overripe bananas.
Spaghetti with Chard, Chilli and Anchovies p.18
If you don’t like anchovies, I don’t have a lot to say to you. The umami-rich saltiness of anchovies is unmatchable. Melted into butter or oil and swirled through some pasta, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself to replicate a hug from a friend. It’s Covid, you can’t hug friends. I didn’t have any chard, so subbed for spinach and it was beautiful. A perfect recipe for a mid-week dinner that doesn’t require any pre-prep or marinating.
Mine-and-Mine Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cookies p.84
IT’S A RECIPE THAT MAKES JUST TWO COOKIES. And it doesn’t need any eggs and it can be made vegan. I love cookies, I am also unable to stop myself when it comes to eating cookies. So this recipe is perfect for when the craving strikes, you don’t need to leave them to chill either. And the possibilities are endless, sub chocolate for nuts, half and half chocolate and nuts, skip cocoa and add more flour, add dry fruit, citrus zest. Whatever your heart desires.
One-pan Chicken with Apricot Harissa and Sweet Potatoes p.168
Yes, yes, yes, a million times, yes. Except I used boneless thighs, white potatoes (that I parboiled) to make up for the shorter cooking time needed for the boneless thighs. It was beautiful, simple and perfect for a midweek diner. Apricot Harissa is mild and gentle. You can get a jar from Belazu or make your own, Nigella very kindly provides the recipe.
Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce p.164
We had this last weekend and I am still not over how good it was. The Chicken needs a quick 30-minute marinade, after that it’s pretty straightforward. If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken, you’ll just need a very good knife and bravery. The chicken cooks in wine, resulting in tender and juicy meat with crispy skin on top. The recipe calls for softened butter, but of course, I didn’t get it out of the fridge in time so I just cut off slithers of butter and strategically placed them all over the chicken. The garlic sauce is literally cream, garlic, seasoning and fresh herbs. You can not go wrong. I’ll be making this again. And again. And again.
Pappardelle with Cavolo Nero and ‘Nduja p.177
Pasta, greens and spicy spreadable pig. You can’t go wrong (unless you’re not into spicy spreadable pigs). Another easy mid-week dinner and what a joy to discover that our Tesco does Cavolo Nero. I blame this recipe for my obsession with this beautiful ingredient.
Brown Butter Colcannon p.209
This is another recipe that I can’t wait to make again and again and again (see you on Tuesday, buddy). Mashed potatoes, kale, brown butter and spring onions. All of my favourite things. Except for next time, I will squeeze out all the water from the kale to prevent watery mash, and maybe use potato water instead of milk. This colcannon is going to be my go-to variation on mash for a few months I think.
Roast Cauliflower with Apricot Harissa and Spinach p.216
Picture a beautiful head of Romanesco covered in fluorescent orange paste, so intense in colour you’re worried about spilling it on light surfaces. Picture this same Romanesco 40 minutes later burnt to crisps by your hard-working Ninja. If you’re going to buy a kitchen gadget, at least learn how to use it, Anya. It’s probably a really good recipe, but I can’t comment.
Beetroot, Rhubarb and Ginger Soup p.152
Sour! The tang grows on you and lures you in with each mouthful. I didn’t strictly follow the recipe or measure my ingredients. I pre-roasted my beetroots, because how am I supposed to peel them otherwise? I can’t even peel a potato properly. I did love the little trick of squeezing the ginger juice through a piece of paper towel, genius. And don’t wear any light colours when making this - using a stick blender to puree beetroot is a bloody business.
I also cooked Chicken in a Pot with Lemon and Orzo, Tuscan Bean Soup, Ruby Spaghetti, Spiced Bulgur Wheat with Roasted Vegetables, Lamb Shank with Noodles and am eyeing up the Peanut Butter Cake, and the whole of the Christmas chapter.
One of the many reasons I love Nigella’s book is she makes it very obvious which ingredients she’s really enjoying at the time of writing. She uses them throughout the book, gives you helpful tips and suggestions so you’ll never get stuck with ingredients that you’ll just use once.
If this has made you decide to embrace Nigella, you can grab your copy of the book here.