You'll be rushing to create dishes from At My Table by Nigella Lawson »

Celebrating home cooking and food for family and friends, Nigella style

By Paula Wriedt
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Nigella at Castle Rock, Margaret River Gourmet Escape

Nigella at Castle Rock, Margaret River Gourmet Escape [©Margaret River Gourmet Escape]

<i>At My Table</i> by Nigella Lawson
Nigella Lawson

 

Nigella Lawson’s most recent cookbook At My Table picks up where some of her other world’s best selling titles left off.

Recipes are derived from all corners of the world and although many are simple, they certainly don’t lack the joyful flavour that be achieved when home cooked food is done well.

More than just a cookbook, like many of Nigella’s previous works the recipes are peppered with introductions about her connection to each particular dish, or such mouth-watering descriptions that make you just want to run to the kitchen and start cooking immediately.

It’s only fair that I declare that I have an absolute girl crush on Nigella, and always have done. There is something about her that resonates for me – but it’s not just her absolute passion for wonderful fresh produce and creating something from it. It’s probably more like the sheer delight that you can tell she takes in eating it!

Like 1,100 other excited Tasmanians I recently had the chance to see Nigella in person at our Federation Concert Hall. What was remarkable was she wasn’t there to cook. She was ‘in conversation’ with a local chef. We had all braved a chilly evening to be transfixed by this magnificent woman for nearly an hour as she described her hatred of food 'trends' but her love of food that was good for the soul.

At My Table continues where her previous 11 cookbooks have left off. There are no 'fad ingredients' in her recipes (think various insects that some high end restaurants have started serving under the guise of modern, sustainable food).

Although not partial to trends or hipster dishes, At My Table does offer a great deal of variety.

Nigella doesn’t shy away from creating various recipes with lesser-known ingredients, some of which could be difficult to find. Her dishes with pasta are one such example. But if you can’t buy gemelli (a shape of pasta in 'twins') for the Gemilli with Anchovies, Tomatoes and Mascarpone, or the radiatori (small squat pasta shaped like radiators) for the Radiatori with Sausage and Saffron, it’s easy enough to substitute for something that looks remotely similar. The outcome is bound to be just as delicious.

Some of Nigella’s harshest critics have claimed the book looks dull and old fashioned, but I couldn’t disagree more. The front cover depicts a beautiful black and white picture of Nigella tearing apart some crusty sourdough bread, obviously with great delight. The simplicity of this picture is set off with a contemporary rose gold embossed title. There’s nothing dull about that.

Once you open the cover you aren’t disappointed either. At My Table is one of those cookbooks you will want to sit down and read from cover to cover – but that’s if you can restrain yourself from taking it straight to the kitchen to start cooking.

Nigella’s style of writing continues to be as superb as we’ve come to expect from the former journalist. This is a book without chapters and even Nigella admits that some people may be put off by the lack of the structure that we have become accustomed to in most reference-type books.

Yet this lack of chapters is no barrier to understanding where to find what you might be looking for. It simply flows from the start with recipes that you might want to begin the day with – think breakfast and brunch – moving through to more substantial dishes and sides, and finishing with sweet treats and cocktails.

We all know from her television series that Nigella isn’t against the odd tipple or two, and in At My Table she shares some innovative cocktail recipes that alone would warrant buying this book.

In an era where we are told that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, the Turmeric and Ginger Vodka sounds almost medicinal. But as Nigella says in the Grapefruit Margarita recipe “one quick gulp of a cold, sharp margarita and I feel I’m on holiday”. And her take on this classic drink doesn’t disappoint.

I have to confess that after seeing Nigella in person I bought this book with the intention of having it signed. It turns out that I wasn’t as quick as the other enthusiastic fans there and by the time I had scrambled from possibly the last seat at the back of the Concert Hall, the queue for book signing was, at best guess, close to 1 ½ hours long.

Foregoing my much-anticipated autograph, I clutched the book excitedly to my chest and raced home, straight into the kitchen. If I couldn’t have her sign my book, I decided my homage to seeing Nigella in person (albeit from a long distance) would be to cook from her book then and there!

From the moment the Lemon Tendercake with Blueberry Compote was finished I just knew this book was going to become a staple in my kitchen. Much to my surprise this recipe is actually vegan and something I hadn’t noticed until I re-read the recipe after it was baking. Had I been served it in any café or restaurant I never would have guessed – such was the flavour of the dense but moist lemon-scented cake that was topped with coconut milk yoghurt and a generous, oozing blueberry compote.

What was even more rewarding was that the finished product proudly looked like the one in the book – a testament to the less stylized, honest type of photography we have come to expect of Nigella’s collections.

Much to the delight of my now adult son and his younger sister, I’ve been working my way through At My Table recently. Some of the recipes, such as the spectacularly flavoursome Indian-Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake are now on regular rotation. As Nigella points out, the chicken leftovers are fabulous with some mayonnaise mixed with mango chutney and put into a sandwich or wrap. Unfortunately we have yet to experience this, as it’s polished off in entirety by the hungry hoard each time.

Likewise the Hake with Bacon, Peas and Cider was a winner – especially when made with the freshest flake (shark) I have ever found. Once again a simple recipe, with just 8 ingredients (and that includes the oil, salt and pepper and parsley garnish), yet packed with flavour.

And you definitely have to make the Salt and Vinegar Potatoes – simple yes, but so delicious as a side dish for just about any protein. Perhaps even on their own with a few drinks when friends come around.

Of course being British, Nigella loves a good pudding and she doesn’t disappoint with the Queen of Puddings – a gorgeous old fashioned pudding perfect for a cold winter’s night. But if you want something even more exotic then try the Middle Eastern influenced Pear, Pistachio and Rose Cake that Nigella describes as being more like a delicately perfumed confection than a cake.

The biggest compliment I can give At My Table is that my copy’s pages are now generously splattered with evidence of having been made, many often repeatedly to satisfy the demands of my hungry young adults, along of course with my love of good home cooked food.

Do yourself a favour and add this book to your kitchen shelf and I promise you won't be disappointed.
 

At My Table  by Nigella Lawson is published by Chatto&Windus (London, United Kingdom, 2018, hc, Harper Collins Australia Pty Ltd (Sydney, Australia, 2017, sc, 288pp). RRP $45.00

About the reviewer: Paula Wriedt is a self-confessed foodie. Whilst she loves her job running the small charity Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania her real passion is food. She lives in Kingston with her two teenage children who have inherited her love of cooking so her house is always filled with the welcoming smells of delicious food.

As a former State Minister for Tourism Paula is passionate about Tasmanian produce and our beautiful island state. Travelling is high on her agenda but she enjoys returning to Tasmania and sharing with friends and family the many recipes she discovers on her travels.

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June 12th, 2018
 
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