I Cooked Like Nigella Lawson for a Week. Here’s What I Learned.

Nigella Lawson's cookbook is a celebration of food that's healthy, wholesome and delicious. Her recipes might change the way you cook!

It might be a cliche, but the kitchen is my happy place! It’s a spot for creativity, for indulging the senses, for (nearly) instant gratification. But with an increasingly busy schedule, my kitchen turned into a spot for heating up leftovers. When I picked up Nigella Lawson’s At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking, I expected to adopt a few recipes to try out on weekends.

What I found instead was a reminder that food is more than what we eat. It’s an act of love! Here’s everything I learned when I cooked like Nigella:

Keep Things Simple

I’m really into healthy food, and a lot of the recipes I find end up including countless ingredients to mimic the taste of “non-healthy” food. Nigella, however, knows that certain ingredients can pack a healthy dish with flavor (like adding cardamom and cumin to steamed rice). Not only does this simplify the grocery list, but it also pays homage to the food itself.

Each ingredient should be allowed to shine, and “gourmet” doesn’t have to mean “complicated.” Don’t miss more of Nigella’s best advice plus insight from other celebrity chefs.

Food Is Not Just Fuel

I love home-cooked foods—even on hectic nights, I still make sure I’m eating something I’ve made—but I can get lazy with what I pop in the oven. I treat dinner as another thing to check off my to-do list. I’m not sure Nigella would be pleased to hear that! Many of her dishes can be whipped together in a short period of time, meaning you can have a relaxing evening and a restaurant-worthy meal. You’ll appreciate each bite so much, you won’t be able to resist sharing it with family and friends. (Nigella’s Herbed Leg of Lamb was extraordinary. The recipe is below.)

Let Your Imagination Loose

Nigella encourages home cooks to add our personal touches. I read At My Table and remembered what I love about seeing pots, pans and cutting boards: the chance to fuse food and creativity.

When I cook for others, I often worry about reusing the same ol’ ingredients, but Nigella likes to make the most of certain flavors. Do whatever works! Finding fresh ways to use the ingredients gives us something to experiment with. Like she says, we’re all in the process of authoring our own unofficial cookbooks.

(I can only hope that my stuff will be as good as this collection of recipes from vintage church cookbooks!)

Celebrate the Home Cooks

Cooking is about bringing comfort food to the kitchen table. Nigella’s directions are easy to follow, delving into the nuance of a recipe so we know what to anticipate, and she shares tricks that bring a dish from good to “everyone wants seconds.”

The cookbook is sprinkled with her story, too. Each recipe is accompanied by a personal experience. Not only does this give you insight into an iconic chef, but it encourages us to create our own story. The nights we won’t forget often start around the table!

Nigella’s Best Recipes

These recipes are found in At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking by Nigella Lawson, published by Flatiron Books.

Herbed Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • Leg of lamb, bone-in, approximately 3 1/2 pounds
  • Oregano, leaves from a small bunch, to give 3/4 cup loosely packed
  • Rosemary, 1 tablespoon needles
  • Garlic, 4 fat cloves, peeled and halved
  • Lemon, 1, finely grated zest and 2 tablespoons of juice
  • Orange, 1, finely grated zest and 2 tablespoons of juice
  • Regular olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Sea salt flakes or kosher salt, 2 teaspoons

Directions

  1. Sit the lamb in a roasting pan, skin-side up, and make many plunging incisions all over the skin side with the tip of a sharp knife.
  2. With an immersion blender, blitz the oregano, rosemary, garlic, lemon and orange zest and juices, olive oil and salt to a herb-flecked runny paste. Pour or spoon this over the lamb and use your fingers to help get it into the meat where you’ve made your incisions. A lot of the paste will run off down into the pan: rub this into the sides, where the meat is exposed, and spoon over the top on the skin. Leave for 45 minutes or so until the lamb is at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Pour enough just-boiled water to come up about 1/4 inch in the pan, and roast for 1 hour 40 minutes, though take a look at it after an hour or so to make sure that the water hasn’t evaporated (if it has, add more) and the top isn’t burning—if it is, cover loosely with aluminum foil—though it should, by the end of its cooking time, be darkened in places. I have never found it to burn in my oven, but some ovens are fiercer than others.
  4. Before the time is quite up, remove from the oven and put your probe in, if you have one. Otherwise, pierce with a knife and peek in.
  5. Remove the cooked lamb from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 15-30 minutes, checking on it every now and again, before transferring to a board to carve.

Roast Loin of Salmon with Aleppo Pepper and Fennel Seeds

Ingredients

  • Regular olive oil, 1 tablespoon
  • Fillet of salmon, approximately 1 pound, skinless, cut from the top pound
  • Aleppo pepper/Turkish red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon
  • Sea salt flakes or kosher salt, to taste
  • Salad leaves of your choice, to serve

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Pour the oil into a small, shallow roasting pan, in which the salmon will fit fairly snugly (line it with aluminum foil if it isn’t nonstick), then turn the salmon in it, leaving it skinned-side up. Sprinkle half the spices over, then turn the salmon the other way around and sprinkle with the remaining spices, now leaving it skinned-side down.
  3. Cook in the hot oven for 8-10 minutes—just cut into it with the tip of a sharp knife to see if it’s cooked enough for you. Once it’s ready, sprinkle with salt and let it stand out of the oven for a minute or so, just so that the bold heat of the oven has left it, then break it roughly with a couple of forks into large pieces and arrange on a serving plate which you have lined first with the salad leaves of your choice.

You can find Nigella Lawson’s At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking on Amazon.

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