Saturday, 10 November 2007

Nigella Express

In October the anticipation of Nigella's new book, Nigella Express, got to me and I bought it from

I love so many recipes in this book!! I've only made a few, though.

Hokey Pokey

I was seduced by her description of it: "It's wonderful eaten in golden shards or crumbled into the best vanilla ice cream" and that it can be used a substitute for a Crunchie bar in another recipe. I love Crunchies.

I don't think I spread thin enough, as mine remained quite chewy. It tasted very good though, but I could only eat the smallest bit before it just got too chewy and gooey and I started being scared for my teeth, and I disposed of the rest.

Chocolate Macaroons

I had bought an expensive 1kg bag of almond meal for another recipe and had much left over, so I thought I'd give these a try. They are really easy, just mix 2 egg whites with 200g ground almonds and 30g cocoa powder and 175g icing sugar and bake in a 200 degree oven.

I don't think I cooked mine long enough though, as when they came out of the oven they were still pretty squishy, and they didn't harden up like Nigella says they should. I tried one, it was like eating the raw dough, so I ended up throwing these out.

Maybe I'll try again another day.

Other failures

Now, when I say failures I really mean more of a less-successful venture.

I also tried making Breakfast Bars from the Get Up and Go chapter and Moonblush Tomatoes from the Quick Quick Slow chapter. I'm not sure what happened to the breakfast bars, they were wonderfully tasting before I cooked them, but they seemed to lose their appeal once they came out of the oven. The Moonblush Tomatoes failed on cooking. These are tomatoes roasted very slowly at a very low heat by preheating the oven and then turning it off and leaving the tomatoes in the switched off oven overnight. It turns out that my oven doesn't hold its heat like Nigella's does. I woke up the next morning to a dish of very very uncooked tomatoes.

Just in case you want to try to make and these, I'll post the recipe at the end of the post.

Some successes

Rapid Ragu

I love a savoury mince dish - love love love!!!! - so I really wanted to try this. It's a simple one bowl affair of garlic oil, cubed pancetta, lamb mince, caramalized onions (I didn't have any, so mine left this out), marsala, a can of chopped tomatoes, some green lentils and water. You brown the pancetta and lamb and then put everything in a simmer for 20 minutes and serve topped with cheese.

It was wonderful, lovely and tasty. My only problem was that the lentils were still hard inside, and it made it a little bit harder to eat. When I repeat this dish, I'm not quite sure what I'll do, but I'll work something out to make sure the lentils are cooked properly.

Festive Fusilli

This turned out great, but I substituted a couple of the key ingredients for something else, I can only imagine how good it would be if I made it as written.

It is supposed to be cooked pasta tossed with marscarpone cheese and then mixed with a sauce of semi-dried tomatoes, vodka, Maldon salt and sugar and topped with some chopped flat leaf parsley.

I didn't have semi-dried tomatoes, so I used a can of diced tomatoes. I didn't have vodka, so I went to my little book of substitutions and it suggested using rum instead. I didn't have rum, but I did have rum essence, so I used that. After the sauce had steeped for a while, I felt it was very sweet, so I added a tablespoon of tomato paste.

It was really good. Everyone loved it. The flavours were amazing. Very very good.

Pollo alla Cacciatora

This is in the Hey Presto chapter. It's another one pot dish and it was so easy.

Fry some pancetta cubes, sliced spring onions and chopped rosemary in some garlic oil, add some cubed chicken pieces (I used breast, Nigella says thigh) and celery salt, and brown. Add some wine, bubble off the alcohol, then add some tinned tomatoes, bay leaves and sugar and simmer.

While it was doing it's thing, I made some rice. Nigella says to add cannelini beans, but I'm not a big fan and DD hates them, so I left them out.

It was great, hearty and flavourful. We loved it.

Moonblush Tomatoes
from 'Nigella Express' by Nigella Lawson

500g (about 24) on-the-vine cherry or other baby tomatoes
2 tsp Maldon salt or 1 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
2 x 15ml tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celcius

Cut the tomatoes in half and sit them cut side up in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar, thyme and olive oil.

Put them in the oven, and immediately turn it off. Leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight or for a day without opening the door.

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