Flummoxed foodies: “How do you choose between olive oil, Amalfi lemons, San Daniele prosciutto and gorgonzola?”
“I was 17 when I decided to become Italian”. It’s the velvety voice of Nigella Lawson making this statement, which will be heard again on Monday on her visit to Milan as part of her international tour. And the occasion? The promotion of her latest book entitled Nigellissima (Luxury Books), a superlative title for her collection of Italian recipes. Food critic, journalist and now food writer, Nigella Lawson (born 1960) is the woman who at first disconcerted but then drew in millions of UK viewers as she sensually dipped her fingers into her dishes. Appearing on Channel Four, she was responsible for changing the style of TV cooking for good. This lady is from a good family, too, and has been well brought up; the daughter of politician Lord Nigel Lawson and heiress Vanessa Salmon, Nigella graduated from Oxford and only later decided to become a food writer. As her books were selling to the tune of three million copies, her popularity grew as a star of UK television and her food empire is now valued at around £10m. “Your country’s food has been always had a place in my life, long before I decided to write this book. It was not a conscious decision; I just felt drawn to Italy. I once lived in Florence, where I worked as a waitress in a hotel; I was living in a tiny house with a friend and when I was really strapped for cash, I would persuade my paternal grandmother to invite me round for dinner. If you ask me what my favourite Italian ingredient is, I’m truly flummoxed. How do you choose between olive oil, Amalfi lemons, San Daniele prosciutto and gorgonzola?” Nigella Lawson will be in Italy on 3 and 4 December - two exclusive opportunities to buy her latest book in advance, have it signed or ask for a personalised dedication. In Milan, on Monday 3rd, from 5pm to 7.30pm at the Arclinea Flagship Store, corso Monforte 28; in Florence, on Tuesday 4th, from 5pm to 7pm at the Feltrinelli bookshop on via Cerretani.
NO REPRODUCTION PERMITTED
"From North to the Centre and on to the South, Italy has many different ways of cooking; I hope that with my book London will be considered the fourth region of Italian cooking." An English lady teaching our housewives how to cook: no one’s shouting their outrage in the dining rooms of Italy because she is the adorable Nigella Lawson, writer, journalist and the television face of Gambero Rosso. "Nigellissima," her new book translated into the language of Dante, comes out on December 5 (Luxury Books, 288 pages, 32 Euros), a collection of “my recipes inspired by Italy," as the subtitle puts it. From quick Calabrian lasagne to lamb with anchovies and thyme, from green beans with pistachio pesto to Sambucca fritters, "Nigellissima" brings together 115 "quick" dishes in a journey that passes through all of the regions of the Bel Paese, with an English twist.
The daughter of politician Sir Nigel Lawson, married (her second) to advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson, 52, has always been in love with our country: "At 16 or 17 I decided to be Italian," she recalls. "At 19 I worked as a maid in a family-run pensione in Florence. It was there that I learned to cook, watching the family's nonna at the cooker." Today Lawson devotes herself to cooking mainly for her three children, whom she often mentions with a Mediterranean tenderness: "This is a classic for English and American children," she explains enthusiastically: "mini macaroni cheese Italian-style. A symbol of English comfort food: in short, it's pasta in a cheese sauce, baked in buttered ramekins."
Not being bound by tradition, as an outsider Lawson plays with the ingredients, crisscrossing between regions and countries. Here you'll find yellow spaghetti with saffron, accompanied by risotto alla milanese; Savoy cabbage with potatoes (“an Italian-Irish touch”); linguine with Marsala, pine nuts and mackerel ("a mainstay of English tables"). "My dishes don't claim to be Italian – a goodwill gesture – ; what is Italian is the inspiration, not the identity of the recipe, which is my own interpretation." There is no shortage of English dishes revisited in the Italian style, like baked creamed spinach, with ricotta in place of cream. "English cooking has forgotten its popular past because of a fast and massive industrial revolution," Lawson notes. "I admire Italian cooking, rooted in traditions and open to novelty, today also because of the Internet and TV."
"Nigellissima" devotes a chapter to festive dishes, where the Italian Christmas Cake is the wildest invention: panettone, mascarpone cream, chocolate, marrons glacés, pistachios, pomegranate, Tuaca or Marsala. "A mix of Italian ingredients. It seems like unbearable richness, but instead it's oddly elegant and evokes the fruity and liquor-filled taste of our traditional Christmas pudding."×
I remember falling in love with her one December some years back: I was in New York; it had just been snowing, and after a walk in Grammercy Park I took shelter in my tiny flat, under the duvet, with three pairs of socks, some popcorn and a heavy fleece. I turned on the TV and there she was. Nigella Lawson I was instantly hooked: with that wondrously glossy hair, those deep, deep eyes and most of all her charming smile, and all the butter she used in her recipes. Time passed, I was back in Malta, alone, at the airport, a year ago, and I found her book, Kitchen.
It was a special moment in my life, maybe a little sad, but opening that book up and leafing through it was such a comfort to me, the famous chicken soup for the soul. Although I was travelling with hand luggage, and despite the book being 300 pages, I immediately took it and went through every page avidly, curiously and admiringly, trying to imagine myself at the cooker, trying out those wonderful recipes.
And then: fast forward to yesterday. When I had the good fortune to meet her, over a green tea, for her tour to promote her new book, Nigellissima (published by Luxury Books), inspired by Italy. So there we were: me with my tattoos, my rock ‘n’ roll soul, and my unbiased love for butter, there I was in front of that lady with the generous smile, the scrumptious voice and alabaster skin. Talking about hearts and heartbeats. About recipes. About soul. About food made with love. There she was. For you, with great pride, from Otta love Muffin.
What do Milan and Italy mean for you?
I don’t know Milan very well, except for what I read, so it’s more an academic association. But for me Italy is heart. I have two answers for you. And the first is my own personal one. I came to Italy between secondary school and university, the formative period of life, and I owe a lot to Italy for the person I became. Before then, in England, I was very reserved and shy. I’m not saying that because of my Italian adventure I became loud, but the thing is, when you’re far from your whole family, from people who know you well, you have to start over, fresh. Plus when you’re speaking a language that’s not your native language, you feel different. For example, when I speak French I feel uneasy, but when I speak Italian I feel more open. Coming to Italy made me feel like someone else; it allowed me to something in Italian culture I found marvellous: the sense of freedom. Freedom to express your emotions, your feelings, speaking freely of food and making that a reason for pride.
When I think of you, three adjectives come to mind: Confident, Natural and Sensual
Thank you! What you see is what you get. And I’ve been helped in that a great deal by television, and my staff, who for me are now a family. We created a cosy, intimate, intense environment. That’s what I would like to come through from my work. As for being confident, I wasn't always like that. I’ve become more sure of myself with age. With time, you learn to appreciate yourself, to be indulgent, to love yourself and consequently become more secure, in terms of what you are. And what you want to convey. When I cook, I’m secure. Because I don’t worry, because even if I don’t achieve perfection, I’m doing something that will enrich my experience. For example, I’m no good at anything that requires a discussion, a conflict, a dispute. And in any case we have to be sure of our work, of what we’re doing. You know what you’re doing, you know all the commitment and discipline you put into it. For me, cooking is harmony, for example. And harmony comes from being at ease with yourself and with what you’re doing. But I don’t think being sure of yourself is part of being human. Sometimes when I’m taking my kids to school I think: “Oh, my God, if his mate’s mum sees me like this, with no makeup and in my everyday version, what will she think?”, but one should not live to please others; everyday life is made by us, by our being so natural, so fabulous, so...ourselves.
What is your favourite cooking ingredient, and your favourite comfort food?
My daughter always asks me for pasta in broth, and for her, that’s comfort food! My favourite ingredient is bacon. You can cook it so many ways, in salad, in pasta. And lemon. The whole lemon. The juice, the zest. I love the taste of lemon.
As for comfort food, mine is definitely risotto. And it’s more about comfort cooking: when I cook I am usually doing a thousand things: I take notes, I record, I talk on the phone. But when you’re making risotto, that’s all you can do: you have to keep tasting, every whiff that comes from the pan, and then you have to stir, and while you’re stirring it’s just you in front of the pan, and it’s fantastic. And when you eat it, it takes you back to your childhood, because it’s so easy to eat. Chicken is another comfort food…the way my mum cooks it: the stock, the vegetables, the smell, it’s so comforting.
Three songs you love
I’m a disco girl! Boney M with Daddy Cool, the Mavericks with Dance the night away and The Chemical Brothers’ Hey Girl, Hey Boy.
I don’t have a reference model, or a muse, to tell the truth. I know maybe I should, but I don’t. In fact I like to follow my instincts, without too much planning. There are people I admire a lot, of course, but they aren’t my muses for what I do.
Thank you, Nigella and thanks to Luxury Books for making all this possible.×
Creativity in the kitchen interpreted in an unusual, playful artistic way. A celebrity chef, a great photographer and many designers tell us their recipes. Our old friend imagination can still pull a few surprises out of the bag!
By Diana Sung texts Valentina Raggi
Although she looks very Mediterranean, Nigella Lawson is in fact English. A real star in her homeland thanks to her cookbooks and TV cooking programmes (with her famous How to be a domestic goddess, or Delizie Divine in the Italian edition) and known on the international scene for being the wife of art collector Charles Saatchi. But it's Italy that is the closest thing to Nigella’s heart, so much so that she is now publishing a book of typical recipes from the Bel Paese. But is an Englishwoman cooking an Italian meal not a match made in hell? Not for this beautiful food writer, who opens her book with the confession "I was sixteen or seventeen years old when I decided to be Italian" and talks about her many travels - and dishes – here in Italy and her passion for our country. The book includes over 100 everyday recipes, for a cuisine that is home-made and simple - from Calabrian lasagne to Venetian soup, from chocolate salami, Tuscan fries, tortellini minestrone. A collection of our dishes, from North to South, revisited with a contemporary and entirely personal approach - the by now well-known “Nigella style”. The book, the latest in her series of bestsellers, has been so successful that it has already become a TV programme on the BBC and we hope it will come to Italy too. In the meantime, you can follow the Domestic Goddess on Twitter (@Nigella_Lawson).×
Nigella Lucy Lawson is a star in the UK. Food critic, journalist and now food writer, she has been presenting highly popular shows for ten years, mixing charm and taste (broadcast in Italy on the Gambero Rosso Channel). But Nigella is first and foremost a cook and she arrives in Florence today, at the Feltrinelli bookstore, to launch her latest book, Nigellissima (Luxury Food, 288 pages, 32 euros) – a collection of recipes inspired by Italian tradition. The preface is written by Alessandro Borghese, another star of simple TV cooking.
It is less of a book and more of a declaration of love for Italy. And for its cuisine. Nigella has a degree in Italian and has lived in Italy, travelling the length of the country, from North to South. And she has eaten a bit of everything to satisfy her curiosity. At friends’ houses and restaurants, she gradually learned about our gastronomy. And she took notes. She has now transformed her holiday journal into a book, giving a twist to traditional dishes (a total of 115 recipes), from pasta to mains, from sides to sweets, with that personal touch, yet without sacrificing the flavours and ingredients. With one goal: to suggest simple recipes, suitable for cooking at home.
Overall, a candid and intriguing, even sensual, book, just like Nigella, who, having sold three million books, is one of the greats of modern home cooking. As well as a style icon in the kitchen. “Nigella style”, as they say in the UK. That’s what you’ll find in the pages of Nigellissima.
Libreria Feltrinelli, via de’ Cerretani 30/r today between 5pm and 7pm, free entry.×
The new book from the world’s sexiest food writer is out: inspired by Italy, with Italian recipes revisited Nigella-style. The author will be presenting her book on December 3 and 4 in Milan and Florence.
Nigella Lawson Italian Cuisine. For anyone familiar with her books and her background, this is not news, because a love of Italy and its food has always been part of her.
Nigellissima is, however, her first 100% Made in Italy work: the book all the English food writer’s fans have been waiting for – just to be able to bring Nigella’s style to the table every day.
A much-anticipated book, presented in preview in Milan and Florence on December 3 and 4.
Nigellissima, as the title says, is a superlative book that speaks Italian.
Because Nigella Lawson studied and speaks Italian and because she has long lived, worked and travelled in Italy, eating all the while.
A long love affair with the Bel Paese that began long before she was famous and influenced her tastes even before her career as an author. I was 16 or 17 when I decided to be Italian: that’s how she opens her book, with a real declaration of love for our cuisine, its ingredients and most of all the indefinable spirit of our way of living life and food.
She is very English with a very Italian soul, according to TV chef Alessandro Borghese, who wrote the book’s Introduction.
The diva of English cooking who has seduced even Italy: now women want to be sexy when they cook, not just clever.
Nigellissima brings together more than 100 recipes covering the peninsula from North to South, from pasta to main courses, from sides to desserts and sweets, with dishes she tasted on her travels, in restaurants and osterias, at home with friends or learned in the kitchen from an elderly Florentine woman. Plus a chapter devoted to the loveliest holiday of the year: Christmas.
Quick Calabrian lasagne, pasta with Sicilian almond pesto, green beans with pistachio pesto, lamb with anchovies and thyme, or panettone French toast and macaroni cheese (Italian-style): old recipes, others revisited, regional flavours and dishes of today’s Italy – which too often we have stopped cooking. Not the classic Italian cookbook, but a book of classics, now with a fresh and contemporary approach. Of course the recipes are not those of the Silver Spoon or Artusi; they are a bit more contemporary -- which we Italians will really like. Some of the recipes do not require much time or many ingredients, others are merely revisited with her zest and an English twist, with unique and fanciful combinations that create new flavours. To quote Borghese again.
Curious to see the recipes? The book comes out on December 6, a Christmas gift for 2012, but the author will be in Milan and Florence in person to sign advance copies of the book. On December 3 at the Arclinea show room, 5:00 p.m., at Corso Monforte 28 in Milan, and on December 4 in Florence, at Feltrinelli in Via de Cerretani, at the same time. If you can’t be there to get a copy autographed in person, you can reserve one online.×
A personal interview on why she loves Italian food so much to write an entire book about it, mind you from a sensual British home cook's point of view.
Nigella Lawson is doing her world tour exactly like a rock star. However she is not promoting her new cd, but her book of recipes called “Nigellissima Instant Italian Inspiration” , published in Italian by Luxury Books under the title "Nigellissima, Le Mie Ricette Ispirate all'Italia". Few people know that the famous British food writer, one of the most powerful in the world with ten million pounds to show for it – studied for a year in Florence while waitressing in an hotel, and not only, her subject at Oxford was Italian. She instanly fell in love with Italian cooking.
Her world tour included stops in Florence and Milan, we were able to catch up with her for an interview.
What’s new in this book? Why Italian kitchen in particular?
To an extent, I never do anything new in the sense that I only ever write about the food I cook, and Italian food has always been a huge influence. But what *is* new is that I have devoted a whole book to the subject. Though, actually, there are more Italian recipes in all of my other books than in this one. I have written about more straightforward, traditional Italian food before, but in this book I found myself writing about the influence Italy has had on my cooking, as an English cook. For me Italy - and Italian food - have both been the most enduring inspirations of my life, and my cooking.
How to write a cooking best-seller with many copies sold, without being a chef?
I am glad to say that the official figure of books I've sold globally is around 8 million! I think this is partly because I am NOT a chef: I cook much as my readers cook. I certainly feel a great rapport with my readers, and feel proud to represent them and all other home cooks.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
I think, ultimately, risotto has to be my favorite comfort food. There are many reasons: in the first instance, anything that can be eaten with a spoon and out of a bowl (even if the elegant approach involves a plate and a fork) is for me inherently comforting; plus, with a risotto, the whole point is that each forkful or spoonful is soothingly like another, and that repetitiveness is as comforting as the same bedtime story told nightly to a small child; I think any serious contender for comfort food accolade has to be carbohydrate-heavy, and risotto complies here, too. Also, making risotto is so comforting: standing by a stove, stirring slowly, ladling in hot stock, stirring again and so on is just the sort of mindless, repetitiveness activity that after a stressed day I find very comforting. I tend to be a fidgety person who is constantly multi-tasking and when I make risotto, I am forced to be calm and still and do one thing and one thing only: stir! But for me, comfort from food doesn't mean I want food that is just carb-heavy and stodgy and narcotic: the comfort of a risotto is matched by its uplifting elegance; it is an exquisite dish that makes me feel better about the world.
What do you think the current high level cuisine?
I am very much a home cook, and do not claim to be a haute-cuisine chef. But I am happy about this, not apologetic. I think the work of great chefs can be breathtaking and a form of edible art, and yet I do think for the ordinary home cook, their approach can be intimidating more than inspiring. Still, I love restaurants and I like the company of chefs, and their passion and feel privileged to eat the food of the great chefs. I am never going to try and emulate it in my own kitchen, however.
What’s your favorite Italian ingredient? What makes Italian food so inimitable, according to you?
Oh -so difficult to choose just one ingredient - how to choose the best extra virgin olive oil over Amalfi lemons or prosciutto di San Daniele for example? And then of course, there's pecorino and gorgonzola, and all the other Italian cheeses I wouldn't want to live without. For me, what makes Italian food so compelling is that it reflects the people, the regions, the structures of family and the commitment to treating food with respect and extracting maximum pleasure from it.
Your sexy-approach to food has betwitched English people, why do we think that is?
I don't see myself as espousing a sexy approach to food, but I certainly feel that the sensual pleasure that food engenders is one of the great joys of life; something that excites and soothes and makes all one's senses come alive.×
NIGELLA LAWSON, 52. THE TV CHEF WHO HATES DIETS, LOVES DESSERTS AND "GOOD" FATS (OIL AND AVOCADO). "THEY ARE MY SECRET TO PERFECT SKIN".
Nigella Lawson invites you round for New Year’s dinner – THE ENGLISH CHEF HAS CHOSEN AN APHRODISIAC MENU FROM HER NEW BOOK. ALL ITALIAN FROM THE FIRST COURSE TO DESSERT. “BECAUSE WHERE EROS IS CONCERNED, YOU ITALIANS ARE THE EXPERTS”.
By Cristiana Ceci – photos Petrina Tinslay
She turns up to meet her Italian readership at the launch of her latest book, Nigellissima (Luxury Books, pg. 288, €32), in 12 cm Louboutin stilettos and a black dress with a heart-shaped neck. She casually pulls off a delicious curvy look, with a poise that calls to mind a young Sophia Loren. Nigella Lawson is English but she would love to be Italian ("I’ve been trying to do that since I was 17, the age at which I fell hopelessly in love with your country", she says). And she's trying to be Italian in the kitchen too. In the TV programmes and books that have made her a star, she happily prepares 100 grams of pasta per person, garnishing it with full-bodied sauces. For this reason, in Great Britain her recipes have sold more copies in total than the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Her ideal New Year’s dinner? No doubts about it. “It has to be pure pleasure. Even in the kitchen. And, as usual, “Italians do it better”.
Where do you eat on your trips to Italy?
“At friends’ houses, in trattorias and bistrots. Haute cuisine and Michelin star cooking has something cold and international about it which puts me off”.
What do you eat to keep your skin so nice?
“Fats, because your skin needs them, despite all the taboos. Naturally I choose the good ones, from avocado to extra virgin olive oil. And I drink up to four litres of water a day, as well as some fantastic glasses of wine".
Weight loss diets?
“I hate being denied something at the table. If I’m told I can’t have something, I immediately want to binge on it. And if you are happy, you are also beautiful and sexy”.
Other than the ones you suggest here, what are the sexiest “Made in Italy” flavours in your opinion?
“Fresh prawns, Venetian crabs and fresh ricotta”.
TIME: 30 minutes, serves 8
PREPARATION: Line a loaf tin with clingfilm. Whip 300ml of cream until thick. Chop 30g of 70% cocoa dark chocolate into a pile of dark splinters, and fold into the cream, along with a tablespoon of coffee liqueur or rum. Crumble 100g of meringues and fold them into the cream. Pack this mixture into the prepared loaf tin, pressing it down with a spatula. Wrap the tin in clingfilm. Leave the cake in the freezer for 8 hours.
The final touch: a zig-zag of chocolate sauce
TIME: 30 minutes, serves 2
REPARATION: Put plentiful water on for the pasta and at the same time, put a 1/4 teaspoonful of saffron and 3 tablespoons of marsala in a small saucepan. When the marsala starts bubbling, take it off the heat and leave it to steep. When the pasta water comes to the boil, salt generously, then add 200g of spaghetti and cook it al dente. While the spaghetti is cooking, get on with the creamy sauce: whisk together 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons of grated parmesan and 2 tablespoons of double cream in a small bowl . Salt and pepper. Just before draining the spaghetti, remove a cupful of cooking liquid then return the pasta to its pan along with a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Toss at medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid to the saffron and marsala in the small saucepan, before pouring it over the pasta. Add the egg, cheese and cream mixture to the pasta. The final touch: a few ground cardamom seeds or coriander leaves.
TIME: 15 minutes, serves 2
PREPARATION: Arrange the rocket on 2 dinner plates. Using a sharp knife, cut the tuna into chunks and then chop finely with a mezzaluna. Zest 1 lemon over it and add 8 sliced spring onions, 3 tablespoons of capers, 3 teaspoons of salt and a coarse grinding of pepper. Mix with your hand, gently and briefly, and then carry it over to the waiting plates. Drizzle the olive oil over the rock and the tuna and squeeze half the lemon over the circling frame of rocket (don’t spritz the tuna yet or it will whiten). The final touch: at the end, grate half a root of ginger to perfume the tartare.×
By Gabriella Coronelli
The renowned culinary figure Nigella Lawson was in Milan to launch her new book of recipes inspired by Italian cooking, entitled Nigellissima and published by Luxury Books. A journey through her grandmother’s recipes and those of her childhood.
Even with the clouds rolling across a dull, greyish sky and on-and-off drizzle to greet us, as we arrive in Florence our eyes are intent on finding its beautiful side. And they are fully rewarded on arrival at the Hotel Bernini Palace in Piazza San Firenze, a cradle of treasures: the Palazzo della Signoria and the square itself, with the bell towers of the church of Badia Fiorentina and the Bargello that can be glimpsed as they enhance the skyline, and then this ancient noble palace, dating back to the 14th century, opens its doors to us and welcomes us into a warm hall, charmingly personalised with touches of colour and soft lighting effects: we are greeted by the General Manager, David Foschi and Sales Manager, Elena Antonini, along with their staff, and given an introduction to all of this, the history of which is intriguing and fascinating.
Here we find Nigella Lawson (pictured), who had been in Milan to launch her new book. At the press conference held there in the Arclinea concept store, she surprised us by announcing that the Italian version of her book Nigellissima, published by Luxury Books and written “for fun”, has sold more copies than the notorious and controversial Fifty Shades of Grey. We cannot fail to take pride in this revelation, as the subject matter is our own food, Italian cuisine, Nigella style.
Nigella is a perfect ambassador for Italian cooking: in addition to her very attractive, Mediterranean appearance, she loves Italy and its typical products, which she first fell in love with at an age when she and I, worlds apart, shared a passion for the Rotring pen with brown ink (I still have it). She was working as a chambermaid in a family-run pensione in Florence; she certainly could not afford to lead a life of luxury and so would often eat in the kitchen with the family’s grandmother. And this is where the magic started: the grandmother was unknowingly handing down to Nigella a precious cultural and practical heritage, full of charm: the style and know-how of Italian cooking. This jumps out of the pages of her book, from the photographs and from the words of Nigella herself. Describing detailed procedures, Nigella leaves nothing to chance, a perfect approach for those who have not been brought up on Italian cooking by their mother or grandmother but have had to learn it from books.
She uses a wide range of raw ingredients, with a preference for typical products that feature strongly in all of the recipes: “Figs with honey-cream and pistachios”, “Italian golden lentils”, “Savoy cabbage with potatoes, fennel seeds and taleggio”. Nigella’s personality shines out of this book: not only is she a housewife and family cook, she is also an expert connoisseur of our land and is capable of methodically conveying a culture, a style of eating and a clearly defined passion. She loves extra virgin olive oil, wine, gorgonzola, pizzoccheri, saffron rice and Treviso radicchio; she explores with curiosity and interest the provenance of the products and their nutritional value.
In order to show the authority with which Nigella presents her work, I quote a very simple recipe, “Roasted Red Onions with Basil”: “This is one of those recipes which, although not quick to cook, only take a few minutes to prepare. Also, as it is nicer served lukewarm, rather than hot, you can cook it before getting on with everything else; that way you will leave the oven free for later, should you need it. I know that peeling a kilo of onions might not sound like light work, but if you cut them into quarters first, the skin will come away almost by itself. And I’m not worried if a few bits end up in the pan. I prefer to use small onions, but if you can only find the large ones, cut them into eight pieces rather than quarters.
This recipe is ideal as part of a buffet for a party, but is also excellent as a side dish for a lunch or dinner … I also love it served with a nice plate of grilled halloumi (a cheese made from sheep’s and goat’s milk, typically from Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean countries). If you want to turn it into a main course, sprinkle some of your favourite cheese on top, crumbled or in chunks – savoury or fresh ricotta, gorgonzola, taleggio – as soon as it comes out of the oven, but before you add the heartening and fragrant splendour of basil.
Ingredients to serve 6-8 – as a side dish:
Heat the oven to 200°C. Place the onion quarters into a roasting pan, season with the olive oil, then sprinkle the fennel seeds on top and stir in with the onions so that they are evenly coated; then place the pan in the oven for 1 hour, after which the onion should be soft and nicely cooked. Remove from the oven, season with salt and a splash of balsamic vinegar, then stir gently and leave until the onions reach room temperature (1 hour max.), or if you prefer, you can also eat them hot. Just before serving, add the basil leaves with their stalks removed, stir again and season to taste. There is a lot of basil in this dish, but here it is more of a salad ingredient than just a garnish”.
We do not have a “kitchen at our desk”; ours is maybe the Italia model from Arclinea, nice and functional, so for the moment we experiment at home. I tried it last night, using the products I had bought when I was last in Maremma, in early November: onions from Tropea, from the La Selva di Orbetello organic farm, a wonderful initiative that has made a popular dream come true: healthy, organic produce at affordable prices; I bought the basil plants from the La Parrina nurseries in Albinia, which specialise in Mediterranean plants; they are still flourishing in their pots at home and this Cinnamon variety give dishes a slightly oriental flavour. Also from the La Parrina nurseries I bought the mixture of herbs to replace the fennel seeds that I had run out of. Fior di Sale from the salt pans of Cervia for cooking. The unusual thing about this “Nigellissima” recipe is that the basil is used as a salad leaf, rather than just a herb; the preparation is very special, satisfying even the most discerning palate as it offers multiple sensations. We served it with boiled basmati rice dressed with extra virgin olive oil from the Podere Forte estate in Castiglione d'Orcia, Siena, an intense, fruity oil with a herbaceous finish, slightly spicy, turning the boiled rice into a true delight. For cooking the onions we seasoned them with novello oil from the Frantoio Redoro, an extra virgin, slightly fruity olive oil from Garda, with a pleasant herbaceous finish and notes of sweet almond on the back palate. This was a working dinner, as we are in the post-production phase of Nigella’s video interview … the result will be surprising, just as surprising as Nigella has turned out to be with her Nigellissima recipes...×
A Londoner born and bred and proud of not being a chef: “I love recipes created in home cooking,”
A Londoner born and bred and proud of not being a chef: “I love recipes created in home cooking,”×
The inspiration? 3 top chefs let us in on their tastes and tips
A one-to-one with the sexy goddess of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson
She’s the diva of food par excellence: English, in love with Italy, but most of all with style and good taste when it comes to the table. Her latest book “Nigellissima” has just been published: practical recipes inspired by the cuisine of “casa nostra”. CasaFacile interviewed her for you and discovered the winning combination which makes her stand out: British fair play and Mediterranean radiance.
Nigella, what is your style at the table?
I particularly like conviviality. My table is simply laid and I love the idea of guests serving themselves. My style is informal, colourful and laid back: cutlery left loose on the table or bunched together in a colourful pitcher, big platters. Essentially, a table which gives a sense of joy and appetite.
And what about your kitchen?
It’s my lounge, the first room that guests are welcomed into. Colourful with a modern touch, practical and functional. It couldn’t be shabby chic because sometimes I'm a bit messy and that might make the room seem constantly untidy. But it couldn’t be cold and hi-tech either. I like to mix different styles. I wanted to add a touch of warmth and colour to the modern details in steel by adding objects that I collect and that I have gathered on my travels.
So you like to have everything openly displayed?
Yes. It makes me feel like I’m surrounded by things that I love and which speak to me: cups and pitchers scattered over shelves, a bunch of tomatoes lording it on a cake-stand, the clock that I taught my children to tell the time with and then the magnetic bar where I keep all my knives. In my opinion, a kitchen should tell a story, its own story, and it’s easier for me to cook with everything I need on hand.
Which of your utensils could you never do without?
The mezzaluna. I really like to chop vegetables and anything else that happens to come my way finely. And so I collect little chopping boards in all shapes and materials.
Finally, Nigella, which recipe from your latest book would you recommend?
There isn’t one in particular – it depends on the time and your mood. They are all tasty and simple to make. I can only recommend my favourite - risotto with spelt. It really reminds me of my adventures in Tuscany.×
A TV star but also a real housewife: Nigella Lawson has cooked up three Italian-inspired desserts for us, taken from her latest book, which is entirely dedicated to recipes from the Bel Paese
INTERVIEW BY ANNA PRANDONI PORTRAIT BY RICCARDO LETTIERI
Passionate and maternal, housewife and seductress: Nigella Lawson is a true star, but could quite easily be your next door neighbour. We met her in Milan for the launch of her new book Nigellissima, a declaration of love for our country and our cuisine.
Why a book about Italian cuisine?
Ancient Rome was once the most influential power in the world. Today Italian cooking is the gastronomical equivalent of that power: all over the world, people want to eat Italian food. Your cuisine is simple, honest and frank. It has a universal appeal which no other cuisine has ever managed to achieve. You can lie all you want, but not when you’re cooking because appetite is sincere. And your food never lies.
What ties you to Italy?
I was a shy child and I always had difficulty communicating when I spoke. When I arrived in Florence for the first time, to study, I had to learn Italian but even more than that I had to learn how to communicate using words. When I learned to speak Italian, I became a person. I love your cuisine but I am especially tied to this country on an emotional level, because it helped me be reborn and let me discover the pleasure of talking.
Do you remember your biggest kitchen disaster?
Cooking is like life: there is no life without errors and you can’t cook without ever making a mistake. The difference is in what you do to put it right! One day, I wanted to cook a dessert using rhubarb: my newborn daughter hadn’t let me get any sleep the entire night and I was really tired so I forgot the rhubarb infusion and the result was a soggy mush. But I didn’t want to throw away food (I never do that) so I added egg, sugar and milk to the mush and cooked it in bain-marie in the oven. Magically it turned out to be an even better dessert than the one I had planned!
Do you prefer eating or cooking?
For me, cooking is like writing and eating is like reading. One doesn’t exist without the other. If I am too busy travelling for work, the thing I miss most is my kitchen at home. And I always rush back there as soon as I can, because without cooking I don’t feel truly alive.
(Inset: Nigella Lawson, internationally renowned TV star, has written many cookbooks and presents cookery shows on the BBC. Her passion for Italy was born in Florence where, as a young student, she worked as a waitress. And her book Nigellissima is dedicated to Italian food, published in Italy by Luxury Books).
Time: 30 minutes, plus 4 hours to cool
Break the biscuits into the bowl of a food processor, add the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella, then blitz until the mixture starts to clump. Add 25g of the toasted nuts and continue to pulse until you have a damp, sandy mixture. Tip this into your springform tin (22-23cm) and press it into the base, using either your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill while you get on with the filling. Beat together the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth and soft, then mix in the rest of the Nutella (mixture). Take the springform tin out of the fridge. Carefully stir and smooth the Nutella mixture over the biscuit base and scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top to cover. Place the tin in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results: unspringing the cake from the tin just before eating it, still on its base. To cut it, dip a knife in cold water, wiping it and dipping again between each cut. Nigella says that you mustn’t worry if the cheesecake seems disappointingly flat when whole but when sliced, its dark depths are revealed.
Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Butter a tart tin (25cm), getting into all the crevices. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, continuing the beat the mixture, then beat in the lemon zest. Mix together the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder and fold these dry ingredients into the mixture. Pour the batter into the tart tin and spread it with a silicone spatula to make an even layer, pushing the batter into the sides. Then, using a smaller metal spatula or the back of a spoon, make a shallow circular indentation in the middle of your batter (for the jam), leaving a thicker raised border about 3cm wide all around it. Measure the jam into a bowl and whisk to make it looser, squeezing in some lemon juice to your taste, if you want to offset the sweetness. Spread the jam into the indentation in the middle of the tart base, leaving the raised edge clear all around. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the sponge around the edges is risen and golden-brown and firm to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the edge. Remove with care from the oven. Let it cool in its tin on a wire rack for about 15 minutes or so, then very carefully ease the tart out of the fluted sides, still on its base. If you leave it to get too cold, it will be harder to get out of the tin. Do not even attempt to get it off the base. Slip a cake slicer between the bottom of the crostata and the tin base to loosen it, then slice it still on the base and eat it warm with ice cream, whipped cream or mascarpone, as pudding, or cold with a cup of tea or coffee.
Time: 30 minutes
In a dish that will take half the panettone pieces easily – I use a 24cm square glass dish - , whisk the eggs together with the mascarpone and milk; you will have to be a bit patient to smooth out the mascarpone – not that a normal person would register this but my impatience colours my judgement. Dunk 4 of the panettone slices in the egg mixture and leave to soak for 1 minute. Put 25g butter and ½ teaspoon oil in a large frying pan and set over a low heat to melt. Turn the panettone slices in the egg mixture and soak the other side for another minute, by which time the bread should have soaked up enough to soften it and the butter should have melted in the pan. Turn up the heat, then add the soaked slices to the frying pan and cook for 1 minute each side, so that their egg-soaked surfaces are golden, and browned in part. Meanwhile, soak the remaining 4 slices in the egg mixture for their 1 minute a side. Remove the first batch of the Panettone French Toast from the pan to a large plate, add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and cook the second batch as you did the first. When all the pieces are cooked and on the platter, scatter with pomegranate seeds, Then dust thickly with the icing sugar pressed through a tea strainer, letting the “snow” fall mostly on the golden sweet-bread slices rather than on the fruit.×
Flummoxed foodies: “How do you choose between olive oil, Amalfi lemons, San Daniele prosciutto and gorgonzola?”
“I was 17 when I decided to become Italian”. It’s the velvety voice of Nigella Lawson making this statement, which will be heard again on Monday on her visit to Milan as part of her international tour. And the occasion? The promotion of her latest book entitled Nigellissima (Luxury Books), a superlative title for her collection of Italian recipes. Food critic, journalist and now food writer, Nigella Lawson (born 1960) is the woman who at first disconcerted but then drew in millions of UK viewers as she sensually dipped her fingers into her dishes. Appearing on Channel Four, she was responsible for changing the style of TV cooking for good. This lady is from a good family, too, and has been well brought up; the daughter of politician Lord Nigel Lawson and heiress Vanessa Salmon, Nigella graduated from Oxford and only later decided to become a food writer. As her books were selling to the tune of three million copies, her popularity grew as a star of UK television and her food empire is now valued at around £10m. “Your country’s food has been always had a place in my life, long before I decided to write this book. It was not a conscious decision; I just felt drawn to Italy. I once lived in Florence, where I worked as a waitress in a hotel; I was living in a tiny house with a friend and when I was really strapped for cash, I would persuade my paternal grandmother to invite me round for dinner. If you ask me what my favourite Italian ingredient is, I’m truly flummoxed. How do you choose between olive oil, Amalfi lemons, San Daniele prosciutto and gorgonzola?” Nigella Lawson will be in Italy on 3 and 4 December - two exclusive opportunities to buy her latest book in advance, have it signed or ask for a personalised dedication. In Milan, on Monday 3rd, from 5pm to 7.30pm at the Arclinea Flagship Store, corso Monforte 28; in Florence, on Tuesday 4th, from 5pm to 7pm at the Feltrinelli bookshop on via Cerretani.×
Look who was in Milan: Nigella Lawson! Not by accident, of course; she was here for “Nigellissima,” her new book of Italian-style recipes, which came out on November 6. We had a pleasant chat at the Westin Palace, in the lounge next to the big Christmas tree decked out in white; I’d never met her before but I was left with a very nice impression.
Nigella is not just naturally charming and aristocratic, she is direct and cooperative, a TV star who shares the problems of all working women who have children (she has two), and her face lights up when she talks about recipes. She is very feminine and genuinely in love with the tastes and aromas of Italy (“I was 16 or 17 when I decided to be Italian,” is how she begins her book), and, of course, with our cuisine, although, while she likes some of our sweets, in all honesty she told me that she preferred British sweets. “Anyone from a cold country like Great Britain,” she explained, “is looking for energy and warmth in food, a need that isn’t felt in Italy, where tradition has it that you have coffee or a sweet wine with a slice of pie or cake, perhaps a dry one like a crostata. I’m not accustomed to drinking anything with dessert, so I look for moist sweets. Our history is made of puddings, crumbles, pies… we had the Victorian era with its fantastic sweets like the Queen of Puddings, covered in meringue, which for me is true comfort food.”
And pasta? “When my kids were little, we made it together; with their little hands they managed to make small, perfect shapes! I think it’s very important to cook with your children, it’s good to play and make biscuits and cakes for fun, but as they grow up it’s especially important that they see and learn how to prepare a complete meal.”
Last but not least, before saying good-bye, I asked Nigella what she recommended after all the indulgence of the coming festive season. “A fantastic and very simple dish my mum used to make: cabbage sautéed with caraway seeds, with that very unique taste of anise and liquorice. And in Scotland and England we have curly kale, a type of cabbage with long, very crinkly leaves: drizzled with oil and baked in the oven, it becomes as tasty and crispy as chips!”
I haven’t told you everything; you’ll find the rest of my interview in January’s Myself.
Nigellissima – my recipes inspired by Italy – the new book by Nigella Lawson (published in Italy by Luxury Books, € 32.00) with more than 100 recipes, each one described by Nigella as if she were right there with you!×
Nigella Lawson, the English cooking star, has loved Italy since she was a child. Here are six recipes with a twist of her talent and taste, taken from the book “Nigellissima". A tribute to the Bel Paese and Italian tradition.
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 5 minutes
Warm the oil in a wok then add the chopped chilli and lemon zest and mix. Now grate in the garlic along with about a third of the chopped parsley and marjoram and stir. Add the squid and prawns. Stir fry in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of the lemon and the remaining herbs and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds. Turn the seafood out onto a platter, scattering it with the last remaining bits of chopped parsley and marjoram, and serve.
ONE MORE TIP
To make it a unique dish, serve with boiled black rice.
THE BEST MATCHED WINE
White like Chardonnay Altkirch 2011 Doc, Az. Colterenzio (Alto Adige), to serve at 10 degrees.
For 2 people
Heat water in a pan for the pasta, salting it when it comes to the boil and cook it al dente. Before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of pasta-cooking liquid. Drain the past, then tip it back into the pan with two tablespoonfuls of the liquid, the crumbled gorgonzola, baby spinach and the coarse black pepper. Leave to stand for two minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid, turn the heat back on low and stir together, adding as much cooking liquid as you need. Take off the heat and toss with the pistachios. Serve immediately.
ONE MORE TIP
If you cannot find trottole, you can substitute these with fusilli.
THE BEST MATCHED WINE
Red like Amarona della Valpolicella, Az. Tommasi (Venoto), to be served at 18 degrees.
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 15-20 minutes
Warm the oil in a heavy-based pan that will take all the ingredients. Cook the pancetta until it becomes crisp, then add the peas and stir for a minute. Add the pasta, pour in the boiling water and the salt. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer for 10 minutes, checking on it a couple of times and giving it a stir. When it’s ready, the water should be absorbed. Beat the butter and parmesan into the pan, check the seasoning and serve immediately.
ONE MORE TIP
It’s better to use a heavy-based pan – an enamel-coated cast iron casserole dish is ideal.
THE BEST WINE MATCH
White like Soave Classico, Az. Tommasi (Veneto), to be served at 10 degrees.
“The sausages must be 100% meat and loosely packed; they cook much faster this way"
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking 30 minutes
Heat the garlic oil in a casserole and brown the sausages. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the red vermouth, then put it back on the heat and let the vermouth bubble up a bit, before adding the beans, peppers and tomatoes. Pour in a glass of water, before adding salt and pepper and the bay leaves. Bring to a bubble, then turn down the heat to low, clamp on a lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, turn up the heat a bit and let it cook for a further 5 minutes. Now, take off the heat altogether, then remove the sausages to a chopping board and cut them into slices. Return the sausages to the pan and serve with thick hunks of bread.
ONE MORE TIP
You can use any kind of canned bean and the cherry tomatoes can be substituted with normal tomatoes.
THE BEST WINE MATCH
Red like Lagrein Sigis Mundus, Az. Colterenzio (Alto Adige), to be served at 18 degrees.
Makes 18 kisses
“Soft and light like doughnuts, they are made of sweet air rather than batter. With a surprise touch of sambuca”
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes
Put the egg and ricotta into a bowl and beat together until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, sambuca, sugar and orange zest, mixing well. Pour about 2cm of oil into a frying pan, oil a teaspoon measure and drop teaspoons of the batter into the pan. The little kisses will puff up slightly, so flip them over carefully. Once they are golden all over, lift them out with a slotted spoon and place them on kitchen roll. Once the kisses have cooled a bit, push the icing sugar through a sieve and serve.
ONE MORE TIP
If you are not eating them straight away, leave them in the oven at 150 degrees on a grill to keep them warm (maximum 1 hour).
HE BEST WINE MATCH
White like Spumante dolce, Az. Florio (Sicily), to be served at 6-8 degrees.
Preparation: 20 minutes and time to stand
Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave. Pour the condensed milk and 250ml of the double cream into a bowl, add the salt and whisk till thickened. Stir about a third of the whipped cream into the chocolate, then fold the chocolate mixture back into the rest of the cream, then add the liqueur and orange juice. When all is combined, place the mixture into the glasses. Leave the mousses in the fridge for 1 hour. At the same time, whip 250ml double cream and put this in the fridge too. On serving, distribute the cream equally between the glasses and garnish with the orange zest.
ONE MORE TIP
The liqueur can be Aperol, Triple Sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier.
THE BEST WINE MATCH
Dessert like Moscato rosa Rosalum 2009, Az. Colterenzio (Alto Adige), to be served at 10 degrees.
She has adored Italy since her student days, when she learned Italian in the streets of Florence. Nigella Lawson, the British TV cooking diva, presents her latest book “Nigelissima”. A tribute to pasta.
by ANITA SCIACCA
She was seventeen years old when she decided to be “Italian”, an unstoppable attraction which began with an Italian language course followed by a gap year in Florence. Now that she lives in her homeland, England, Nigella Lawson is bringing Italy into the kitchen. Her book Nigellissima (Luxury Books) contains all the traditional recipes, re-invented with her special touch. For example, the “meatzza” – a mystic union of meat and pizza.
“I started to be interested in the world of cooking when I was thirty, as a journalist. I was attracted by the language, the possibility of using words to tell and describe something so physical and sensual as food”. After her first book as a food writer, she decided to devote herself to publishing, then started to present TV cookery shows. An immediate hit: her cooking slots are broadcast today on the Gambero Rosso channel in Italy.
Right from the start, she knew that she would be paying homage to Italy. And so, when the time came, she gathered all the dishes that she normally cooked at home and created Nigellissima, with dishes freely inspired by those that she tasted during her time in Italy, without claiming that she was proposing true, traditional cuisine. “It is a marriage between England and Italy. It's all due to my instinct, I don't plan anything: my books take shape between the oven at home and the office, between a lunch and a dinner". As well as her recipes, Nigella also reveals a few tricks that will make them easier and quicker. One of the best is to use vermouth, either red or white, when preparing recipes where wine is required: the advantage is that it keeps longer and you don't have to open a new bottle of wine every time. She also recommends black rice - very chic and easy to prepare.
“I love making cakes, right from preparing the batter until I take the baking tin out of the oven: there’s something amazing there – a magic, alchemic process. Cooking is something that comes naturally to me: I open the fridge, see what’s inside and start from there. Some of my best recipes were created right there in front of the fridge”. In the Lawson house, the passion for Italy must be hereditary because her children, too, love pasta – a staple dish along with her ever-present roast chicken. “For me, this is the essential dish to eat as a family but I always change the herbs that I use so that it never gets boring".
Nigella's dream is a book of "stolen" family recipes, passed down on yellowed, stained pieces of paper from grandmothers, in-laws and mothers. If she had to choose a "dish for life", it would be pasta carbonara, one of her classics (recipe on www.nigella.com). How does she make it her own? Cream and wine. Why not try it?×
“When I was 16, your country became an obsession for me. I signed up for an intensive Italian language course and, before I knew it, I had applied to study it at university”. A few years later, Nigella Lawson has dedicated her new book, Nigellissima (Luxury Books, €32) to our cuisine. Her favourite dish? "Carbonara. And risotto, which is so relaxing to make after a day of emails, work, phone calls and children to pick up from school. Standing there stirring and stirring makes you feel so good".
(Inset: 52 years old, married to art collector Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson is the star of English cooking. She has 300,000 followers on Twitter).×