There’s a lot to love about Nigella Lawson’s latest TV programme – Nigellissima (BBC2) and there’s a little to despise which makes it compulsory viewing if you’re about to partake in a foodie gathering anytime soon. Even if you’re not bothered on forming an opinion you’ll watch it to admire, scoff, loath, eye-roll and covet. Yes covet, you will covet firstly perhaps her flawless skin, next of all her amazing kitchen and don’t even dream of stepping outside into the garden as you’ll trip up with exotic plant envy.
Then there’s the larder. No wonkily hinged cupboard doors here I can tell you and no fear of being knocked out by an unbalanced sugar bag teetering dangerously close to the edge of the top shelf. This is no ordinary pull-out larder this is a Nigella Lawson walk-in larder (whispered coquettishly in M&S ad dulcet voice). There are pasta sections, copious assortments of grains and even a trunk of compartmentalised liquorice – cue eye rolling. The recipes sway from the accessible e.g. Italian Roast Chicken to the less so e.g. Saffron Orzotto and inspired as they are by her love of Italy they have come in for heavy criticism from the purists.
My peeve with the programme is not in the food but in the over-scripting. Words are beautiful things and Nigella has a poetic craft of them on paper which in my opinion does not translate to the spoken word. No matter how posh or well-educated I can’t imagine that anyone anywhere has ever had cause to use a phrase such as ‘venerable volumes’ in what’s supposed to be a casual welcoming chat with you the viewer through the camera. If you’ve watched the show I’d love to know what you think.
I tweeted this link recently which if you’ve seen the programme may amaze you as it shows how the set for Nigellisima is a studio built replica of Nigella’s own kitchen and plants were kept alive without natural light.
Here’s Nigella’s Italian Roast Chicken recipe accompanied by my own Rustic Potatoes and Gravy.
Nigella served her chicken with the juices in the pan but I found that there wasn’t enough and gravy was called for, I also found that the olives charred and this may have been because my tin wasn’t large enough to ensure they were coated in oil and cooking juices.
Serves 4-6. Italian Roast Chicken: You will need:
1 large chicken
4 springs rosemary
2 red peppers1 yellow pepper (Nigella uses an orange one as well – I thought 3 plenty and couldn’t find orange one!)
100g olives (pitted) (Nigella specifies black, I used a mixture)
4 tbsp olive oil (I used rapeseed oil)
salt & pepper Method:
Preheat the fan oven to 180C/Gas Mark 6.
Remove any trussing string from the chicken so the legs are loose and you can stuff the cavity with the lemon cut into two halves and two of the rosemary sprigs.
Place chicken in the centre of a large roasting tin.
Wash and chop the leeks into three chunks and slice lengthways. Deseed the peppers and slice into strips.
Place the leeks and peppers in the roasting tin around the chicken. Scatter in the olives and drizzle the 4 tbsp olive oil over everything, tossing in the remaining rosemary sprigs and then seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cook the chicken according to it’s weight, a 1.5kg will take approximately 1 and a half hours. If you are cooking the rustic potatoes (below) put them in the oven a half an hour before the end of the chicken’s cooking time. When cooked place the chicken to rest on a carving board and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Now would be a good time to make the gravy (below) if desired.
Once rested break the chicken up into portion sizes and serve on a large platter with the roasted vegetables. Rustic Potatoes You will need:
8 medium sized potatoes
2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
sprig of rosemary or half teaspoon dried Method:
Chop the washed potatoes with skin left on into small cubes.
Scatter onto a large baking tray and drizzle over with the oil and picked or dried rosemary leaves.
Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes. Gravy:
2 tbsp flour
400ml chicken or vegetable stock Method:
With the chicken and vegetables removed from the roasting tin place it on a medium heat on the hob. Add in the flour and use a wooden spoon to mix it with the juices in the pan scraping up any flavoursome pieces from the bottom. Stir to cook the flour for 2 minutes.
Gradually add in the stock, whisking steadily and briskly as you do to avoid lumps. Raise the heat to high, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
‘Til next time, Sheila.
We’re back to school and slowly adjusting to the madness that follows. The calendar is being filled up by after-school activities with the expected clashes and impossibility of dividing oneself and one’s time to be in two places at once. Aaaaaagh! Ode to Summer
Season of sumptuous sleeps,
Evenings of ever extending twilight,
Staying just long enough to become habitual,
Departing with a gift of frenetic chaos.
In order to cope with the madness, midweek meals will have to be planned and be as simple as possible. However I do like to cook new things so over the course of September I’ll be trying out new recipes that fit the following spec; tasty, easy, budget friendly & with minimum prep. Luckily I’ve plenty of resources to draw from – I’ll be pulling from food magazines such as BBC GoodFood, Ireland’s Food & Wine and Kevin Dundon recipes which are free at my local SuperValu along with numerous others to be found on my fellow Irish Food Bloggers’ sites via Irish Food Bloggers Association. It never ceases to amaze me how the creative geniuses of the food world can keep coming up with new things. For more inspiration I’ll be tuning into Masterchef (the Irish version) and Kitchen Hero and watching out for local cookery demonstrations over the coming months.
The recipe here is based on a SuperValu freebie recipe flyer compiled by Kevin Dundon – it has 7 recipes in total and I’ve chosen the ‘Thai Scented Pork Steak with Carrot & Coriander Puree.’ Kevin suggests serving this with boiled baby potatoes however as the oven is on anyway I decided to chop up some sweet potatoes and roast them in the oven drizzled in some olive oil. The carrot and coriander puree was simply boiled carrots mashed with dried coriander leaf and a pinch of ground coriander but if that sounds like too much work fling on some broccoli instead. The pork is roasted in the oven in some chicken stock which renders it moist but it is the flavour of the marinade that is the winner in this dish. Amazing. You could simply slice the pork and serve with the vegetables and the jus from the pan poured over the top but when I saw how little there was I knew it would never satisfy my lot, especially The Gravy Man. As the pork rested I added some flour to the juices in the pan and then made a gravy with the strained carrot cooking water. The quantities given were for 4 people but I think this can easily stretch to 6, especially if you are serving children, remember your portion of meat is supposed to be no more than the size of the palm of your hand.
WARNING: There is a marinade involved so you will need to plan ahead – either pop it in the fridge the night before or in the morning before you go to work (yes, I know there is no time in the morning but it takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and this is your reason/excuse why the kids need to make their own school lunch.)
Serves 4-6 Thai Scented Pork Steak. You will need:
1 red chilli
1 or two spring onions
1 lime (zest & juice)
3 tbsp olive/rapeseed oil (2 for marinade, 1 for cooking)
500 to 60og pork fillet steak (see note below)*
400mls chicken stock
250ml vegetable stock or cooking water from vegetables Method:
Roughly chop the de-seeded red chilli and spring onion and combine with the lime zest and juice in a food processor or mini-chopper with 2 tbsp of oil to make a marinade.
Coat the pork steak all over with the marinade and leave in the fridge overnight or for at least an hour before cooking.
Pre-heat the fan oven to 180C / Gas Mark 6.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a hob-proof roasting tin on the hob and sear the pork steak on all sides for 2 minutes.
Pour in the chicken stock scraping up any marinade residue and place the roasting tin in the oven to cook for 20 – 30 minutes. (Check that it is cooked through to the middle and that juices run clear).
Remove the pork from the roasting tin and leave to rest on a board while you make the gravy.
Add 2 tbsp flour to the meat juices/marinade and cook over a medium heat stirring well for a minute or two.
Turn the heat up and gradually add in the vegetable stock or cooking water stirring briskly as it cooks to make a smooth gravy, reduce the heat to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Serve slices of the Thai Scented Pork Steak with the gravy on a bed of carrot and coriander puree with roasted sweet potato or baby potatoes.
Til next time, Sheila.
*Note: If you are unfamiliar with pork fillet steak it is sold in a long strip. Click on the link to see a picture of a pork steak at James Whelan Butchers