Cooking at Christmas with Nigella...

Nigella Lawson
Nigella Lawson
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By award-winning blogger Trish Burgess

“Christmas is all about the condiments.” I’m not sure that’s the top of my list, Nigella, but I’m taking note of your culinary advice to see if I can add a little magic to my own kitchen this festive season.

There is something annoyingly addictive about her seemingly effortless cooking and in Simply Nigella’s Christmas Special this was even more apparent. Of course she’s always beautifully made-up, well-lit and calm but what’s with all the smiling? I don’t remember Delia grinning like that when she caused a run on cranberries some years ago. And Fanny Craddock was downright angry most of the time. Mind you, Nigella doesn’t have to wash up and, as friends commented, they’d be smiling too if they were being paid to rustle up a few meals for the telly.

Of course some viewers aren’t watching the programme entirely for the recipes. It’s a wonder they haven’t moved her to after the watershed with all the innuendos. Better put the extractor fan on - it’s steamy!

“Pickles make good presents.” Is that so? I’m not convinced. In my mind the only things you should pickle are onions and Len Goodman’s walnuts. I’ll pass on the beetroot and carrots.

Parsnip and spinach soup is my kind of dish, though it did look startlingly green. I was rather puzzled when she wandered off with a bowl and sat on the stairs to eat it. Maybe she’d been banished to the naughty step?

I rather liked her slow-cooked black treacle ham, wrapped in a whole roll of tin foil. It resembled a very poorly armadillo after 24 hours in the oven but with extra dousing and some decorative cloves, it perked up impressively.

At the end of the programme we had the familiar sight of Nigella rooting around her candle-lit kitchen for a late-night snack. She used to do this in her dressing gown: now she wears a checked shirt - or are they pyjamas? Normal people might consider a snack at this hour to consist of a chunk of Cathedral City on a Jacob’s Cream Cracker. Not our Nigella. She mixed chopped pineapple with grated ginger and sprouts and stir-fried them with a bag of microwave rice.

That’s right: ready-made rice. And that’s when I started to love her again. In fact, watching a few of the other episodes, it’s reassuring to know that she cheats. A jar of lemon curd poured over a pavlova, a bag of salad to accompany grilled halloumi and a jar of roasted peppers stirred into cubed potatoes.

If anyone wonders what I would like for Christmas, forget condiments and pickles. I’d like a copy of her new book. It can sit on the shelf with the other two I have. I can’t promise to cook much from it but just having it there is bound to add a soupçon of sensuality to my usual offerings. When I’m chucking a handful of cheesy puffs into a bowl to serve as nibbles on Christmas Day, I will smile flirtatiously, toss my hair back and add another tea-light to the mantelpiece.

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