Friday, March 30, 2012

Cookbook Review ~ Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home - Nigella Lawson

It wasn't my intention to pick yet another 'home cooking' book, it just happened that way! I decided to pick Nigella's most recent cookbook as I received a copy of Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home from Mum and Dad for Christmas and Mum was coming out to stay so it seemed appropriate (and I thought it would be fun for us to cook from it together!). On top of that I did already have a copy of this book but due to the size and weight of it, it has had to stay in Scotland, however that just makes things even better as it means Mum can use it when she goes home and I have a copy for when I'm back home! Nothing like having 2 cookbook libraries!

I think pretty much everyone is familiar with who Nigella Lawson (aka 'The Domestic Goddess') is so I don't think there is any need to introduce her or her culinary background, however what you might not know is that this is her 8th book and just like the majority of them this is a huge book packed with almost 200 recipes (although it seemed like there were many more, but I wasn't about to start counting!). Being such a big book it didn't take me long to have bookmarked way more recipes than I could possibly try in a month but there are just so many recipes that I want to try which is always a good start to reviewing a book.

True to her usual style this book is full of recipes that are fuss-free, with zero stress but still delicious to eat. There are 2 sections to the book – Kitchen Quandaries (which is packed with recipes ideal for the reality of everyday home cooking) and Kitchen Comforts (full of more leisurely, relaxed recipes when you have more time to spend in the kitchen). One of the best parts of the book (in my opinion) however, is that with a lot of the recipes there are additional recipes and tips for using up any leftovers. To me that is fantastic idea as I know that is a common complaint for a lot of people. Finally, just when you thought you couldn't get any more out of this book, to make it even more user friendly for the every day cook, as well as the normal index, there is also a second index at the back of the book listing all of the recipes within the book that are 'express' recipes, in other words recipes that take 30 minutes or less to make and serve. So the practicalities of the book are great, the lay out is great, but what about the recipes?

Despite having bookmarked almost 40 recipes unfortunately so far I have only managed to test 4. The ones that made it onto our plates this month were:

  • Toffee Mocha Meringues
  • Chicken Teriyaki
  • Chicken with Greek Herb Sauce
  • Salmon and Sushi Rice with Hot, Sweet and Sour Asian Sauce

Up first were the Toffee Mocha Meringues which I made for dessert to follow a Sunday Roast. Obviously I'm a big fan of meringues (hence the 'Vanilla Clouds' in my blog!) as I think they make a great dessert since they are not only light but you can dress them up as much as you like or make lots of variations from a classic recipe, just as Nigella has done here. The recipe was straightforward and easy to follow and the results were amazing. Perfectly crisp on the outside but so delicate that the slightest pressure cracked them, revealing the most perfect soft and chewy center. The recipe suggests serving them with whipped cream but since it was a special occasion I couldn't resist using vanilla ice cream instead which was absolutely perfect, especially when drizzled with the accompanying toffee sauce. Sinfully delicious but a cinch to make, this recipe was a complete success.

Next up and I couldn't resist making the Chicken Teriyaki as the accompanying photograph was mouthwatering! I had to search high and low to find some Mirin (apparently it's not something that's easy to come by here) but eventually I found a bottle in a little Asian deli in a nearby town – that's dedication to a recipe for you! It was worth the effort though as once again the meal was a huge success! I may have let the sauce reduce a little too much as we all agreed we could have done with a little more but that's not something I could blame Nigella for, that was definitely all me! I made this on a Monday and it was the perfect midweek meal as it was quick and easy to prepare and make. In true Nigella style I even cut up my chicken using my kitchen scissors although I have to say I don't think it really made things any easier or faster. Despite that though, this was another definite recipe success and one bookmarked for recurring future use.

Recipe number 3 and it was another chicken recipe – Chicken with Greek Herb Sauce (using the rest of the chicken thighs from the Chicken Teriyaki. Nigella loves her Chicken Thighs but thankfully so do we!). To be honest this wasn't much of a recipe as it was so straightforward and simple but it got major thumbs up from everyone, including Wee One. The Greek Herb Sauce was very similar to a sauce I make to go with curries or other spicy food, just with a few more herbs in it. I halved the recipe as there were only 3 of us plus Wee One and even with the sauce halved we had way too much so in future if I was cooking this for 6 I would still half the recipe. It didn't go wrong though as we found plenty of other things to eat it with over the following days. I served it with a big salad and it was just perfect. I can see this being a quick and easy meal to make during the Summer as it would be perfect cooked on the barbecue (just perhaps reduce the olive oil so that you don't have an inferno!). It's so easy and stress-free this is the sort of meal you could make anywhere as long as you have something to cook the chicken on! Camping, staying in your holiday home by the beach or at the lake....anywhere. This is the sort of quick and easy meal that is great for a crowd and will disappear in a hurry (and has minimal dishes to wash up!).

So 3 major successes and unfortunately at the point of having to review this book I only had time for 1 more recipe. In the end I opted for the Salmon and Sushi Rice with Hot, Sweet and Sour Asian Sauce and I'm so glad I was hubby! Again it was another ridiculously easy recipe to make but with so much flavour. Hubby couldn't stop eating the dressing long after his salmon was finished, literally dipping anything into it he could find. It is a light and refreshing dish that was healthy and packed with so many aromatic, punchy flavours that leave your taste buds singing! Even better it uses Sake and Mirin, two of the ingredients from the Chicken Teriyaki that I had specifically bought so it was a great way to use them for a different recipe. I'm trying to add more fish to our diet and with this recipe I will have no problems at all. My only word of advice is to watch the amount of chilli that you add as it did have a lot of heat in it, which we thankfully love, but if you prefer things a little milder just tone it down or use a milder chilli than the one she suggests.

So there you have it 4 recipes tested and 4 complete successes! I am disappointed that I only managed to test 4 recipes during the course of the month but I can assure you I will be trying a lot more and will definitely keep this book close to the kitchen at all times! So far it is one of my favourite books that I have reviewed in terms of recipes that I will genuinely use over and over – especially during the week when we want something quick and easy but still full of great flavours. As I mentioned I literally bookmarked about 40 recipes in total so here are just some of the ones I intend to make as soon as possible:

  • Spaghetti with Marmite (not an original recipe but taken from one of Anna Del Conte's books, however I just have to try this...even though I haven't had Marmite for roughly 15 years as I always hated it – I'm that intrigued!!)
  • Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup
  • Frangelico Tiramisu
  • No-fuss Fruit Tart
  • Grasshopper Pie
  • Mixed Meat Pilaff
  • Maple Pecan Bundt Cake
  • Devil's Food Cake
  • Blackberry Vodka
  • Chicken with 40 cloves of Garlic
  • San Francisco Fish Stew
  • Risotto Bolognese
  • Patara Lamb Shanks
  • Conker-Shiny Spare Ribs with Pineapple and Molasses (I can't resist the beautiful name and the images it conjures up!)
  • Coconutty Crab Cakes
...And of course I will be making the 4 tested recipes over and over again.

The thing I really love about this book is that it really does make you want to get into your kitchen and cook. The recipes are first and foremost delicious but they are so straightforward to make without any hassle and leaving you with a sink full of dishes and exhausted. So really what more could you honestly want from a cookbook?! Nigella's desire for simplicity, no-nonsense and uncomplicated and quick cooking emulates throughout this book and while I wouldn't necessarily follow all of her shortcuts, a lot of them certainly do help in creating a fast meal that is full of flavour and guaranteed to keep the family happy. This book really does have a little bit of everything in it from mid-week meals when you are tired and need to get something on the table quickly, to more relaxed weekend cooking, baking and even entertaining without getting in a flap, so it really is a treasure trove for the kitchen.

Once again Nigella has outdone herself with this absolute necessity of a cookbook for any cook or person that wants to try cooking at home and enjoy their time in the kitchen. It gets 2 major thumbs up from me and will definitely be used a lot in this house. Result!

*Since posting this review I have also made Date Steak and Everyday Brownies. Just as with the 4 other recipes I tested they did not disappoint and were fantastic! Even hubby stated that he wasn't worried how the Brownies were going to turn out as he knew they would be great since "Nigella's good, she knows what she's doing!" Can't argue with that!!


  1. I have to say, toffee mocha meringues sound pretty amazing! Great review!

    1. Thanks Kiri! They were - completely amazing!! : )

  2. Nice review, I thought I had enough Nigella books but more?

    1. Definitely! I have all of them (surprise, surprise!) but I have to say I really love this one! It won't go wrong - I promise you : )

  3. Completely agree with you, I think Nigella's real strength is putting tonnes of flavour into very simple suppers, I've heard so many people complain that her baking recipes are dodgy (though I've not experienced any problems myself) but I've never done a savoury recipe of hers that didn't delight.

    1. Absolutely! I just made her 'Everyday Brownies' and they were also fantastic! From what I can tell with this book it's a real winner!

  4. I ordered that book after your review. I was about this and ?Nigellisima but decided to buy this one. Btw do u have any idea if Nigellisima worths??

    1. Fantastic! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I bought Nigellisima when I was home in Scotland over Christmas but I didn't have room for it in my suitcase, however my sister just brought it out to Canada for me so once I've had another proper look at it I'll let you know! I'm sure I'll do a review of it soon :)

    2. ty so much im planning to buy jamies 15 minutes meals... Saw ur review... Wondering also about Gordon Ramseys books... Any idea?

    3. Love Jamie's 15 Minute Meals! It's another great book and I don't think you will be disappointed. As for Gordon Ramsay....I have a lot of his books but I have never actually cooked from them. I'll try and look through them and let you know what I think then try and do a proper review in the next few months :)

    4. Ty once more hun... Voted also on ur fb poll for nigellisima bien sur... Lol


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