Although Forever Summer is one of Nigella's older books (first published in 2003), I pull it off the bookshelf ever year at the first sign of Summer, so this year I thought it was the perfect time to review it and really put the recipes to the test.
To be fair although this is a book full of bright Summery recipes it's sole intention is not just to be cooked from in those balmy Summer months, but rather year-round to remind you in the darkest, coldest days of Winter about those blue skies that seem at that point like a distant memory. In all honesty however, I don't think I have ever cooked from it in Winter as the majority of ingredients are Summer based and although I'm not a super strict follower of using what's in season I do try my best so it's extremely unlikely that you would ever find me making her recipe for Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad in the middle of our Winter (unless of course I was sunning myself in a hot tropical location!).
The book is divided up into 'First Course', 'Second Course', 'Dessert' and 'Drinks' but within each main chapter are plenty more categories such as Starters, Salad, Pasta, Fish and so on, so every area is covered. Having bookmarked lots of recipes in the end 5 recipes were put to the test....
Shrimp and Black Rice Salad with Vietnamese Dressing
Watermelon, Feta & Black Olive Salad
Za'atar Chicken with Fattoush
Chicken and Cashew Nut Curry
The first recipe I tried was the Shrimp and Black Rice Salad with Vietnamese Dressing. I knew it would be good because the dressing was similar to other dressings I have tried of hers in different books, and also because it was so incredibly easy to make. Although the dressing wasn't suitable for Wee One (too much spice) hubby and I loved it and I can understand why she uses the dressing on lots of other things. This was a nice, quick and easy recipe which I will definitely make again. The only issue I can see with this recipe is being able to get the Black Rice but if you can definitely try this recipe.
Next up was the Watermelon, Feta & Black Olive Salad. This wasn't a new concept/recipe for me as I have made my own version before but since my version was inspired by this recipe I thought it was time to try it again. Also since Wee One loves Watermelon, Feta and Black Olives I knew he would be delighted with it which he was. The perfect refreshing Summer Salad which ticks all the taste bud boxes and since I always have Feta and Black Olives in the fridge I know we'll enjoy this all Summer long.
The third recipe to be put to the test was her mood enhancing Happiness Soup. The recipe itself was incredibly easy and other than the chopping of the yellow zucchini/courgette there wasn't much more effort required. I would make a couple of changes in future by reducing the amount of olive oil and halving the amount of turmeric as it just seemed to make the soup fluorescent yellow and didn't do much flavour wise but otherwise it was a lovely summery soup. If you are interested to see what Happiness Soup is then you can check out the recipe here.
Next up and for a family meal I made the Za'atar Chicken with Fattoush. Since I already had Za'atar in my spice drawer it was an incredibly easy recipe to make with minimal ingredients. I did deviate slightly from the recipe by using all thighs instead of a whole chicken which had been jointed, but taste wise it didn't change things. The salad was also easy and straightforward and very refreshing. Even my Dad who isn't a fan of cucumbers seemed to enjoy it despite the large amount of cucumber! All in all it was an easy and delicious mid-week meal.
The final recipe to be put to the test was the Chicken and Cashew Nut Curry, and to really put it to the test my Auntie cooked this dish while over visiting. Her opinion of the recipe was that it was easy to follow, however you had to cook it for a lot longer than the cooking time suggested as it was just too watery and thin. The final flavour was very nice but definitely not what any of us would call a curry! I did think it unusual with the spices she used and so next time to boost the flavour a bit I would add a teaspoon or two of actual curry powder as well as the suggested spices. Other than that though it was a real success and even Wee One loved it.
I had hoped to try out a few more recipes, including some sweeter dishes but with my family over to visit for a holiday and being out and about so much I ran out of time, however here are some of the recipes that I bookmarked for future use:
Risi E Bisi
Summer Minestrone Alla Genovese
Mauritian Shrimp Curry
Coconut and Chilli Salmon Kebabs
Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice
Crispy Lamb Chops
Moroccan Roast Lamb
Golden Jubilee Chicken
Slow-Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken
Arabian Pancakes with Orange-Flower Syrup
Baci Ice Cream
Skor Bar Ice Cream
Frozen Chocolate Truffles
White Chocolate Ice Cream with Hot Blackberry Sauce
Fresh Green Gimlet
By chance I just happened to have some black rice that I bought a while ago from a specialty store so I'm not sure how easily I would be able to find that from my local supermarkets. Also the Za'atar was another spice that I bought a while ago while home in Scotland so if you live there you can easily pick it up however I think it would be much harder to find in Canada other than at a specialist shop or online.
Learn anything new?
No, but I did use my Za'atar for the first time which is a bonus.
One of the biggest problems I have with cooking in the Summer is deciding what to have. Some days it is just too hot to really want to eat and other days you are hungry but the last thing you want to do is spend a long time in a hot kitchen cooking over an even hotter oven!! The book certainly does inspire with it's fresh and straightforward recipes and has a real mix of cold and warm dishes for those days when you need something more than just a salad. The book has so much influence from other countries which I love as there is a real variety of recipes and adds a lovely “holiday” feel to it which is what after all, Summer is all about!
My least favourite chapter funnily enough was the chapter on Pasta which seems crazy considering how much I love pasta but for some reasons the recipe just didn't inspire. That being said there were plenty of other recipes from the other chapters that I wanted to try (as you can see from the bookmarked list of recipes) especially the chapters on Fish and Desserts. As per true Nigella style the recipes are uncomplicated and don't require a huge list of ingredients but there is a good variety of recipes that are super fast or require a bit more time to prepare or cook.
This book will definitely get you through the Summer months with plenty of inspiration so if your budget doesn't allow you to fly to far-off places you can at least pretend by making some dishes that are inspired by sunnier climates and lazy days. Although this book is meant for year-round cooking I have to say once Summer and Autumn are passed it will probably be returned to the book shelf for another year but I can guarantee it will be taken off at the first sign of Summer next year.
Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson gets the Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops stamp of approval.
(The book I tested these recipes from was my Canadian/American copy.)