Reviewer says
Kitchen, Nigella Lawson | 2010 | UK

reviewed by Sarah

Kitchen: Recipe from the Heart of the Home
by Nigella Lawson
Publisher: Chatto & Windus, Country: UK
ISBN: 9780701184605, Year: 2010
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Nigella Lawson, queen of the celebrity chefs, is back. Kitchen is the culmination of Nigella’s life-long love affair with the kitchen. Comprising 190 recipes over 488 pages, Kitchen is a compendious tome, combining Nigella’s conversational writing style with lovely colour photographs by Lis Parsons. Its practical, delicious recipes and engaging writing make it destined to become sauce-splattered and well used in the kitchen, but also well-read and loved outside of it too.

Review

Broadly speaking, Nigella’s previous books tend to be either word-based (e.g. How to Eat) or picture-based (Nigella Express, Nigella Bites). In Kitchen, Nigella has successfully combined the two styles. Most recipes span two or three pages, with a long introduction, bullet-point instructions and a few photographs.

Kitchen is divided into the following sections:

Introduction

  • Kitchen Caboodle
  • Kitchen Confidential

Part I: Kitchen Quandaries

  • What’s for tea?
  • Hurry up, I’m hungry!
  • Easy does it
  • Cook it better
  • My sweet solution
  • Off the cuff

Part II: Kitchen Comforts

  • Chicken and its place in my kitchen
  • A dream of hearth and home
  • At my table
  • The solace of stirring
  • The bone collection
  • Kitchen pickings
  • The cook’s cure for Sunday-night-it is

The introductory chapters, Kitchen Caboodle and Kitchen Confidential, give tips and advice about kitchen equipment and ingredients in a chatty, relaxed style. This is the type of information you might expect to receive from a lovingly bossy aunt over a cup of tea: “Don’t make the mistake… of concentrating on the times you entertain, overlooking how much more often … you eat normally”. The information contained within is practical, and does make for interesting reading – her “Kitchen Gadget Hall of Shame” is particularly amusing – but advanced cooks will most likely find this redundant and skip straight to the recipes. In line with Nigella’s self-proclaimed status as a home cook, not a trained chef, the advice given is more a story of her own experiences in the kitchen than practical advice that can be applied universally.

Kitchen Quandaries focuses on quick (or “express”) cooking, whereas Kitchen Comforts contains longer, more involved recipes. The chapters within are organised by context rather than cooking technique, which adds to the conversational style of the book. For example, Cook it better contains recipes that use leftovers, whilst the Kitchen pickings chapter covers canapé-style dishes that could be passed around at a party. Helpfully, there is also an Express Index of “Recipes that take 30 minutes or under from first move to plate”.

Each chapter opens with a tempting collage of photographs of the recipes that follow, inviting the reader to get straight into the kitchen. This is particularly effective for the sweets and baking chapter, “A Dream of Hearth and Home”, which has 30 pictures ranging from maple pecan bundt cake, gooseberry and elderflower crumble, coffee toffee meringues, to Venetian carrot cake and more.

Overall, the recipes themselves are diverse, and there is no particular unifying theme. Recipes range from chocolate lime cake with margarita cream, to beer-braised pork knuckles, to Korean keema to blackberry vodka. What they all share, however, is Nigella’s sense of greedy enthusiasm, and her easy-to-follow instructions. Having made approximately 20 recipes so far, I am confident in their reliability and deliciousness. Despite the wordy introductions, the instructions themselves are clear, being laid out in bullet points.

Where Nigella was once insouciant about health and safety concerns, they play a much larger role in Kitchen. For example, in her first book, she suggested using the marinading liquid from raw lamb as a salad dressing, “if the idea doesn’t appal you”. Seven books later and she is reminding the reader: “Dishes containing raw or partially cooked eggs should not be served to those with weak or compromised immune systems”, “Never re-heat previously frozen or re-heated food”, and, “Always be sure to read a recipe right through before starting to cook”. Thankfully, these extra reminders don’t disrupt the flow of the recipes, as they are included outside of the recipes, in a preface or as an addendum.

As an aside, I have the UK edition of the book, which contains metric measurements only. Nigella’s books are habitually released in both a UK and US version, so readers who prefer US customary measurements will need to make sure they order the US version.

Nigella has retained the practical “Make Ahead” and “Freeze” recipe notes which first made their appearance in Nigella Christmas, and has also added “Making leftovers right” to some recipes. The ideas for leftovers range from mere suggestions, to full recipes in themselves. For example, a poached chicken dish becomes a chicken, bacon and avocado salad; Caribbean rice and peas becomes a coconutty rice soup; leftovers from roast dinners are re-used in her Pantry Paella. Anyone who has cooked Nigella recipes before will know how generously proportioned they are, and will appreciate this touch. As Nigella’s recipes tend to run to extravagance, this nod to thriftiness is definitely a welcome one.

This is not fancy “dinner party” food, made with overcomplicated or cheffy techniques. It is tasty, hearty food; the type of food Nigella wants to eat at home, and to share with her friends. With her lovely photographs, simple recipes and engaging prose, there is no doubt her readers will want to do the same.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 5. Highly recommended
Visual appeal: Beautiful
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
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Rating: 4.3/5 (4 votes cast)
Kitchen, Nigella Lawson | 2010 | UK, 4.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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One Comment

  1. Posted 08 Mar 2011 at 22:25 | Permalink

    Hi Sarah
    I loved your review. I loved the book as well. I got the US version and found myself making a lot of metric conversions. The results on the salty crunchy peanut bars though were spectacular!

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