Monday, March 19, 2007

Comfort Takes Many Forms

Nigella Bites - Nigella Lawson
Comfort Food

Mashed Potatoes
Lemon Risotto
Double Potato and Halloumi Bake
Chicken Soup
Chocolate Fudge Cake

To get the recipes:
Click here

Oh, Nigella, you have such a turn of phrase: "WHAT I'm doing here is seeking to offer protection from life - solely through the means of potato, butter and cream." Say that in an oh-so-frightfully upper-crust British accent with your bosom heaving and you have Nigella Lawson of Nigella Bites. Do you think anyone told her that in America that means "Nigella Sucks" and not "Nigella TAKES A Bite Of Something"?

These potatoes are, it seems to me, just a socially acceptable way for her to shovel as much butter and cream into her mouth as she can manage. I'm all for that. Nice easy-to-follow recipe, but one day, when we know each other better, I'll share my secret recipe for mashed potatoes which will change your life. I'll give you a hint, mine don't have any nutmeg, like Nigella's. An ingredient "which in large quantities is an hallucinogen, and in small quantities produces a wonderful feeling of well-being - the object of the exercise."

Nigella gives us a really good reason to make Risotto. She doesn't think it's comfort food just to EAT it, she thinks it's comforting to MAKE it as well - all that repetitive stirring and standing in place has an almost meditative quality. I've never thought of it like that before.

"Chop your shallots as finely as you've got patience for." Cook in butter and oil. Keep the heat low and the shallot pale. Sprinkle in a bit of salt, which will prevent it from browning. EXCELLENT TIP: ANY time you saute onions, add salt and they will release their liquid and soften before they turn brown. They'll be sweet and translucent. Weighs her rice (300 g). Luckily, the website recipe has been amended for us Yankees. She stirs in the rice and coats it well. She begins adding the stock ladle by ladle, stirring constantly at first and then being a bit more casual about it.

I'm watching her stir, and I'm understanding what she's saying about it being a meditative activity. I'm getting lulled in and getting unusually calm and more peaceful. Stir. Om. Stir. Om. Suddenly...THAT music, her Nigella Bites music, startles me and we're off to a break. Now THAT bites.

We're back. Rosemary gets chopped, a lemon gets zested and added. An egg yolk is stirred in off the heat. Wait, I've never added an egg yolk to my risotto. Interesting. Cream (which must be her middle name) and Parmesan in "pale curls" are the last entrants with some reamed lemon juice. "I quite like the sort of ritual disemboweling of the lemon." Ooh, Nigella. You animal. In theory, this recipe feeds 2 people; in practice, it's enough for one Nigella seeking comfort.

Her potato bake is not a dish I would have thought of to have as a singleton, in other words for you North Americans, when I was alone. Cut the white potatoes a bit smaller than the sweet ones, so they cook at the same time. Coat with olive oil and pepper. No salt this time, because YOU DON'T WANT them to release their juices and braise. Slice Halloumi (that's just a gorgeous cheese - aren't I sounding more Nigella-esque by the minute?) and put it in the oven for a bit until melted and "blistered and brown". Very tasty dish...the vegetables too.

Kneidlach is next. I'm impressed, she's talking about schmaltz. Oh wait, now she's fudging a bit and I have no idea if she actually added the schmaltz (she told us was the kneidlachs' hallmark) or butter, which she DID note was not the Jewish way to go. Hang on, why is she making these matzoh balls anyway? Oh yeah, comfort food. Simmer for 20 minutes in salted water. Now look, no self-respecting Jewish housewife with a big dinner to make and many mouths to feed is going to cook the matzoh balls in a separate pot. I guess she is because she doesn't want the soup to get cloudy. But do not worry, my readers, just cook them in the soup and ENJOY. EAT. You'll like them, you really will. (A visit to the recipe confirms my suspicion that she will go to extreme lengths to keep her soup clear, including dirtying a big pot.)

Back from another break and we're seeing all sorts of ingredients falling from the sky. Oh, it's an extremely tight shot of them going into the bowl for a chocolate cake. Tsk! Why did she have to make a chocolate cake? I'm still revelling in the afterglow of Ina's. Tant pis. Actually, they seem rather similar. NL dispenses sour cream rather than Ina's buttermilk. Ina's will definitely have more flavor, though, because, instead of a cup of strong hot coffee, Nigella uses water. AND for some reason she cooks hers for an hour. THAT seems way too long. Back to the recipe itself. IT says 45 minutes to 50 minutes. That's more like it. Cake comes out. It looks good, how could it not with all the porn shots (of the FOOD, that's all I'm talking about) that they use on this show.

"A river of chocolate" goes into the icing with confectioners sugar, butter and vanilla. She murmurs, "If you've been chucked, this is the cake you want to eat. All of it." That sounds a bit cryptic, at least to those of us on this side of the Atlantic. I guess it doesn't much matter what it means. It just matters that it looks like a darned fine cake.

Lights out. Nigella sneaks back into the kitchen in jammies to cut a slice, a really big slice too. Comes back for another. I guess she was chucked pretty good...I hope the kids were asleep.

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