The freedom to improvise is one of the things Nigella Lawson loves about home cooking. Photo: Supplied The freedom to improvise is one of the things Nigella Lawson loves about home cooking. Photo: Supplied
She’s sold more than three million cookbooks worldwide and fronted a string of successful television cooking shows. But Nigella Lawson doesn’t claim to be a chef, much less a celebrity chef. She grew up in a food-mad family – the sort that sat around the table talking about what they ate yesterday, what they were eating now and what their next meal would be – but says it was the “disgusting” meals at boarding school that switched interest to obsession. Living in London gives Lawson access to a cosmopolitan array of ingredients, something reflected in her latest cookbook and accompanying television series, Simply Nigella, which scoop up inspiration from around the world.
My pantry: I have amassed such a lot of culinary clutter that it would be hard to itemise everything I keep in the pantry. But there is definitely always good bread, a hefty fudgy sourdough and some sesame-seeded flatbreads. I also always have unwaxed lemons, and a huge stash of nuts and seeds. I have a huge array of mustards: several pots of Colman’s English mustard (and tubes of it for when I’m travelling) as well as Dijon, wholegrain and tarragon mustards. I must have various chilli sauces, notably harissa and the Korean gochujang. I have a whole carb cupboard for pasta, rice and noodles, and although I keep all sorts of rice, the one I cannot live without is short grain brown rice. Good salt is essential, and by this I mean Maldon. Vegemite is a must and, on the sweet front, good dark chocolate, Nutella, chestnut puree, Lyle’s golden syrup, condensed milk (to make my no-churn ice-creams) and maple syrup. I have a real thing these days for RAW Health unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and I panic if I don’t have a good supply of Cretan Gold organic extra virgin olive oil, though I also need to have Farrington’s Mellow Yellow cold-pressed rapeseed oil, and a tub of unrefined coconut oil (and coconut butter) to hand. And I always have an absolute army of avocados!
My fridge: I always keep a couple of heads of cauliflower, which I spice with cumin, paprika and a pinch of cinnamon and roast with chickpeas; leggy broccoli, which I boil briefly and douse with soy and sprinkle with sesame seeds; kale and cavolo nero, which I boil and eat with my Cretan Liquid Gold extra virgin olive oil and Maldon salt, and perhaps a sprinkle of chilli flakes. I always have radishes, which I eat raw, as well as pickling them, roasting them, and adding them to be quickly poached in soup with ramen. Ginger is a must, as I eat an awful lot of it, as well as sweet potatoes, butternut pumpkin, beetroot, fennel (to be eaten raw in salads or braised in the oven), onions, garlic and banana shallots. The herbs I always keep in the fridge are flat-leaf parsley and coriander; thyme, rosemary and bay leaf grow in the garden.
I seem to keep a lot of milk in the house – full fat and semi-skimmed dairy milk as well as unsweetened almond and oat milks (great for matcha lattes and for making my oat pancakes). Haloumi and feta are always in my fridge, and occasionally comte and a really whiffy blue cheese. And I keep both salted and unsalted butters as well as double and clotted creams.
As for the freezer, I don’t have a very big one, but along with bread, I keep frozen broccoli florets, spinach, petits pois and edamame, filo pastry, berries, home-made ice-cream, and I always have a stash of cooked chickpeas and black beans and chicken stock, as well as many tubs and bags of leftovers.
I can’t honestly say I have a secret vice, but I can often be found crunching my way through a bag of blue corn chips. And I have a big box filled with all things liquorice.
Last night’s dinner
Last night’s dinner was one of my regular fallbacks: warm roast cauliflower and chickpea salad with parsley and pomegranate seeds.
I chain-drink tea (Typhoo non-stop, interspersed with the odd rooibos) and am a complete aquaholic – I get through at least three litres of Evian a day. I’ve got a huge drinks cupboard, but often use these liqueurs more for cooking with than drinking, and although I do keep vodka in the freezer (I am rather partial to Tito’s at the moment) it’s only on rare occasions I drink it – as a vodka martini, straight up with a twist, mixed in my Mason cocktail shaker.
A mezzaluna – that half-moon-shaped knife with a handle at either end, which I use for chopping herbs (as well as chocolate). A Freestanding Kitchen-Aid as well as a Kenwood stick blender (both in bright pink). Le Creuset enamelled cast-iron casseroles, as well as some cast-iron skillets and a Netherton slow-cooker, which comes with a removable cast-iron bowl so that you can start things off on the stove first. I also am very attached to my old Zojirushi rice cooker and I wouldn’t want to be without my Microplane fine grater.
I don’t need anything added to my kitchen to make me want to cook in it: it fills me with pleasure every time I’m in it (which is most of the time). But if there’s anything about that makes it a particularly inspiring place, it’s the light; the great uplifting luxury of light.
I have a collection of old, burnt wooden spoons from my mother and my sister Thomasina’s kitchens, both of whom died young.
Most unforgettable meal
All meals are unforgettable for me: I seem to remember everything I eat. But whenever I think of the perfect evening out, it’s of eating at Icebergs, at Bondi Beach, with the waves splashing savagely outside.
My chicken tray-bake with bitter orange and fennel – it was the first thing I cooked in my new kitchen, and I have cooked it more than anything else since. It makes any evening utterly effortless and fragrantly delicious.
A more recent addition to my pantry is matcha powder, which I use for cakes, ice-cream and matcha lattes. It is pretty costly, so having baked with it, I made sure to find many other ways of using up the packet, and now have to keep it in the house.