WEEKEND WEB: Joining Nigella at her table

JPTP-22-09-12-001 P1 NIGELLISSIMA PIC 2

(BBC TWO, Monday 8.30pm)


Programme Name: Nigellissima - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Embargoed for publication until: n/a - Picture Shows:  Nigella Lawson - (C) Charles Birchmore - Photographer: Charles Birchmore
JPTP-22-09-12-001 P1 NIGELLISSIMA PIC 2 (BBC TWO, Monday 8.30pm) Programme Name: Nigellissima - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Embargoed for publication until: n/a - Picture Shows: Nigella Lawson - (C) Charles Birchmore - Photographer: Charles Birchmore
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

There’s always something at Christmas that I leave until the last minute. This year, it’s food shopping. I can’t decide what should grace our table on Christmas Day and, if I continue to dither, the family will be eating whatever’s in the freezer.

Seeking inspiration, I turned to the Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson, to see what she favours this year in her new TV series, At My Table.

Nigella decamped to the country for Christmas and arrived by car. How she drove in those suede boots, I’ll never know. And who put all those lights on? The kitchen was ablaze with decorative bulbs that were surely a fire hazard in an unoccupied house? What did Nigella do first after her long drive? Did she pop the kettle on and make herself a cup of tea? Open a bottle of wine? No, she mixed herself a cocktail. And she was still wearing her coat.

The bird of choice for Nigella was duck. She spent an eternity pricking the skin with a toothpick before its first roasting in the oven. I’m not sure about duck. I love cooking individual duck breasts but a whole one reminds me of the year I tried to cook goose and it was so overdone and dry, we ended up eating slices of ham instead. I did like Nigella’s red cabbage recipe, though I suspect her use of cranberries will cause a run on them: remember the Delia debacle? But if the supermarkets do have this one covered, they’ll be kicking themselves if they haven’t ordered enough jars of preserved lemons; Nigella’s favourite addition to a number of recipes this year.

I was also curious about her ‘forgotten cookies’. In our house that would mean stale Hobnobs left too long in a Quality Street tin. In Nigella-land they’re a magical mix of meringue, chocolate chips and edible disco glitter.

Devilled eggs re-emerged from the 1970s where they should have stayed, in my opinion. Our esteemed cook assured us that however many she makes, they are always eaten. I’d check your pot plants, Nigella.

Her dessert was awesome: a sticky toffee pud just like the one we ate at The Pudding Club in the Cotswolds recently. It was accompanied by brandy salted caramel ice cream. Just seeing it, served with black treacle sauce, was enough to hoik my cholesterol levels up to dangerous levels.

Despite the cold weather, guests were ushered into the adjoining barn and they all squeezed either side of a very long, narrow bench, lit with candles. Naked flames plus children passing round bowls of Brussels sprouts is a recipe for disaster, particularly in a wooden building.

True to tradition, Nigella returned to the kitchen after all her guests had left. You’d think she’d have had enough food for one day but no. Dressed this time in a slinky red satin robe, she feasted on ice cream, caramel sauce and a sprinkling of forgotten cookie. No wonder she’s smiling.

This was a wonderful watch, as always, but I’m still no further forward on my own culinary creations for Christmas. Let’s try Masterchef. Pea velouté anyone?