I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this cookbook – even more so once I discovered there was going to be an entire chapter devoted to brown food. Thankfully Sarah was listening and bought me a copy for Christmas.
Anyways, let’s just say I’m not disappointed – far from it. In many ways, it’s a fitting sequel, almost, to her first book, How To Eat, published back in 1998. Yes, that long ago.
Like How To Eat there’s not a whole lot of photos (in fact, there are no photos in How To Eat), but there is a whole lot of words – and that’s where the true joy of this book lies. The subtitle says it all” Ingredients, recipes, and stories. To skim through the recipes would be to miss out on, well, the recipes, many of which are written into the stories. This is, arguably, Nigella’s most “writerly” book yet.
Take the Gochujang Pork Noodles, for example. Minced pork, gochujang (that fabulously hued spicy Korean paste which, I’m pleased to say, you can now buy in supermarkets), and noodles. There’s no recipe for this as such, but Nigella talks us through how to make it as she’s talking about gochujang and the many different uses for it (to add oomph and umami to chilli, shepherd’s pie, mayonnaise, soups and stews) in the introduction to her recipe for Wide Noodles With Lamb Shank In Aromatic Broth (high on my To Be Made list).
Don’t pick this book up expecting it to be divided into sections such as starters, mains, desserts, or seafood, meat, poultry. Instead, it’s A is for Anchovy, Pleasures, A Loving Defence of Brown Food, Rhubarb, Much Depends on Dinner, Christmas Comforts. Along the way she muses on what comprises a recipe, the very big different between comfort eating and eating for pleasure, and, indeed, her view on the term “guilty pleasure”:
No one should feel guilty about what they eat or the pleasure they get from eating; the only thing to feel guilty about (and even then, I don’t recommend it) is the failure to be grateful for that pleasure.Nigella lawson, cook eat repeat
She does, in fact, muse on a number of foodie related subjects – in the warm and witty way she does; and yes, there can be humour in a cookbook. It truly is a book written by someone who not only likes to eat, but who likes to feed people – and it shows.
This is a book for people who love to cook, who love to eat, and who love all the processes and possibilities associated with food – and who want to read about that. And, like all Nigella books, this one is beautifully written and reads as if she’s there having a conversation with you over a cup of tea. It truly is a delight. It’s also very much a book for now – and that’s partly because much of it was written in lockdown so chapters needed to change on the fly. I think it’s an even better book for that.
Choosing which recipe to feature is a toughie, so I’ve gone with the first one I made from this book – the beetroot and chickpea dip. Nigella say’s that it’s so far removed from hoummos that she can’t give it that title, but in our house, it’s now known as Beetroot Hoummos. Whatever you call it and however you spell it, here’s the recipe. If you’re after more recipes from the book, you can find them here or here.
Beetroot and Chickpea Dip
I’ve adapted the quantities slightly, but it worked brilliantly well. Besides, we can’t get chickpeas in a jar and I wasn’t organised enough to soak, cook and cool the tinned ones. Also, I cooked 2 beetroots, so I had another to slice and have with Christmas ham salad (although I confess, I also had it in a sandwich with cheese on – don’t judge me – white bread).
Nigella doesn’t recommend you use that cooked beetroot you buy in the plastic wrap at the supermarket, but if you don’t want to cook your own who am I to tell you otherwise. Just don’t use tinned beetroot.
What you need
- 1 medium beetroot – about 225g-250g
- 700g jar chickpeas or 300g dried chickpeas, soaked, cooked and cooled (I used a large tin)
- 2-3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and flattened with the back of a knife
- 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
- 2-3 tablespoons tahini (start with 2 and add an extra if it needs it)
- 2-3 lemons, juiced – you need about 60ml
- A few ice cubes for blending
What you do with it
- To cook the beetroot, preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan). Cut the tops and bottoms off the beetroot, wrap each in foil, and roast in the oven for 2 hours. They should be tender and, once they’re cool enough to handle, rub off the skins – you’ll need those CSI style gloves for this.
- Break the beetroot into pieces and drop into the bowl of a food processor. Add the chickpeas (if you’ve cooked them yourself, add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water).
- Add the garlic, tahini, salt and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice (you can add more later if you need it) and start processing. You might need to stop it and scrape down the sides with a spatula from time to time. Add a couple of ice cubes and process some more until you have a light, smooth and beautifully pink dip.