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It's no secret that I am a devotee of Nigella and her writing. I do have every single one of her books, but even I will admit that some are better than others.
This is one of Nigellas earlier books, but for me it is a good one. I like the fact that it has a theme (summer) because all of the recipes are just the sort of thing that you want to be eating when it's warming up and you are feeling in a summery mood! Some people however may be put off by the fact that there isn't a photo for every recipe. However the layout of the book is easy to follow.
Nigella has split this book up into chapters representing courses (first course, second course, puddings, drinks) and I quite like this because it means that you can easily flick to a chapter for inspiration if for example you are looking for a main meal idea. However a further idea that is quite good is that within the chapters there are further sub chapters - for example the main courses are split into meat, fish, poultry etc and there is also a 'sides' section which is really handy! Picnic fried chicken (think kfc) is lovely and a great picnic idea and the slow roasted garlic and lemon chicken is also particularly good.
Nigella of course always comes in to her own when it comes to baking and sweet things and the puddings chapter is no exception. The anglo-italian trifle is lovely (featuring fresh blackberries, amaretti biscuits and limoncello) and I found it hard to resist the rhubarb fool - but my waistline did not thank me! There is also an ice cream subsection which i'm yet to try, but i have the dime bar ice cream ear marked for the next pudding idea!
Nigella always has a lovely writing style, often describing the food and the reason it came about in such a way that you really feel that you can immerse yourself in the recipe and book and her writing is unpretentious with an un-snobby attitude to food. Personally I really don't like snobby celebrity chefs who bring out books of food that consist of puree's, jus's and reductions - who cares! Give us Nigella, give us real food!
Nigella Lawson - successful food critic and TV chef. But are her recipes actually any good? A few years ago I bought 'Forever Summer' to find out. Today, I am a dedicated Nigella fan.
Forever Summer contains a selection of 'summer' themed recipes - food ideal for consuming on a hot summer day. Recipes range from starters, soups, salads, fish dishes, meat dishes, vegetable side dishes, puddings, ice creams and drinks. Salads tend to feature quite heavily, due to the summer themed nature of the book.
The problem I find with most recipe books is the ratio of recipes included to ones I would actually want to make. However, for me, the measure of a good recipe book is one which contains at least 5 really outstanding recipes I would want to cook again and again. This I believe warrants the purchase of the book. There is nothing worse than having a recipe book stuck on your shelf where you don't actually make anything in them (easy trap to fall into!). 'Forever Summer' meets these requirements for me; I shall outline a few of my personal successes.
The curries in the book are outstanding. The Green Bean and Cashew Nut Chicken Curry is a personal favourite; one my old housemates labelled my "signature dish". All of Nigella's currys are made from scratch, blending herbs and spices together, combining them with onions, and then adding meat/water/cream as appropriate. The combination of green beans and cashews is divine with the thigh meat of the chicken - although boning chicken thighs takes a little extra time, it is definitely worth it for the depth of flavour you get. The meat is tender, the curry flavours creamy and hot simultaneously.
Similarly, I found the Mauritian Prawn Curry a real success. Hotter than the previous curry described, and with a tomato base instead. Hot, spicy, and fresh - works brilliantly with prawns. Great for introducing guests to seafood, without scaring them with an overally "fishy" dish.
Each time I have made these dishes I have cooked for 3-5 people (hungry boys) and the results speak for themselves; clean plates and people hankering in the kitchen trying to find seconds.
There are other success stories from this book; a delicious courgette and rice based soup, entitled 'Happiness Soup'. This recipe contains tumeric and lemon, which really sets off the flavours of the courgettes and rice. Each recipe works in a similar fashion - ingredients are selected carefully in order to bring out the flavours of others.
Ingredients wise, at a first glance you might gawp at the length of the lists. She uses a lot of herbs and spices. All for a good reason though. What you notice after cooking her recipes for a while, is a lot of these herbs overlap. It gets to the point where you find your cupboard stocked up with all the basic herbs, so when you go to the supermarket you only need to buy the fresh stuff, such as meat and dairy products. So what may seem expensive to begin with, actually pays off in the long run.
Quantities are listed in metric and imperial I believe, and despite some ridiculing in the past, you can find pretty much everything in your average supermarket. Recipes are easy to follow, although I would always recommend reading each recipe through before you start - so you know what to expect in advance. Quantity wise, Nigella usually specifies that recipes serve 6 - however, I find one batch usually serves 4 hungry people with not a lot left over!
The book is beautifully illustrated throughout - photos that really make your mouth water. Great for showing people, if they want to know more!
On the downside, there aren't too many faults to be found - as I mentioned before, the book is a bit top heavy on salads, and a lot of these don't look anything special. For me, Nigella's strenghs lie in her fantastic main courses.
To conclude - for the large handful of really good recipes in this book, it is worth purchasing. The dishes will impress anyone you cook for, and the flavours are divine.
Following on from my love of "Domestic Goddess" I was more than happy to receive another Nigella book as a gift. "Forever Summer" looks as enticing as "Domestic Goddess" - will it prove its weight?
"Forever Summer" was a book to accompany Nigella's TV series of the same name. It contains recipes from the show and many more besides. I don't know about you but I'm always a little skeptical of spin-offs. More often than not I find that the dumb down the natural cooking skills of the authors in favour of mass-market acceptability. I found "Domestic Goddess" refreshing in its yesteryear style and hoped, very much, that the homely feel would not be lost here.
The jacket describes the recipes and ethos of "Forever Summer" as "Easy Cooking, Easy Eating" and says "the keynote is simplicity, freshness, enjoyment". I'm hoping that it does, indeed, live up to these claims.
In fact, summer is just an inspiration and most of the recipes would be suited to all year round eating. Nigella, in common with us, is under no illusions that the balmy days of summer entrenched in Famous Five novels are just not an everyday (or indeed every year) occurrence and that the modern family will be pushed for time in such a way that, even if the sun should shine, we might not be there to enjoy it. Instead, Nigella seems to seek to put the old fashioned, lazy summer back into a summerless world.
"Forever Summer" does, if you so chose, provide the complete meal solution. Starters: Soups, Pastas, Salads; Mains: Fish, Meat, Poultry and Sides and Desserts and Drinks are all covered. Nigella is, to my mind, a goddess when it comes to desserts but I rarely rate her other recipes. This book, unfortunately, is no exception.
Beautiful illustrations accompany around 60% of the recipes. Ideally I'd like this percentage to be higher as presentation and an idea of what you are trying to create is all important to me. As with her other books, Nigella precedes each recipe with some words about the dish - whether that be how she came upon the idea or where it originated. These little bits make the book quite readable although some of the humour and homeliness of "Domestic Goddess" is lost. In keeping with her other offerings she explains what more unusual ingredients are and offers alternatives in case you can't get hold of certain items. There are a fair few "unusual ingredients in the book and, for that reason, some will be put off trying the recipes.
The mix of recipes should suit most cooks with some dishes ideal for entertaining, some for lazy picnics and some for everyday eating. Vegetarians will be disappointed in the main.
The recipes that I've tried have been easy to recreate and portion sizes have been accurate. I do however have a few issues with some of the taste combinations and flavours of the resulting plates of food. Certain "easy" dishes such as slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken were deeply disappointing with unbalanced flavours from following the recipe. Tweeks produced a better result (and I acknowledge that tweeks are often necessary) but rarely is something as far out as I thought this was.
Overall I think this is a book that remains consigned to my bookshelf with good reason. It's a good, visual book, but not a cook's book and, unfortunately, falls into that TV spin-off trap that I was so worried about. If you like Nigella's stuff then get this book out of the library, see what takes your fancy and then copy the recipes out. I wouldn't give it shelf space in my rather full kitchen.
Nigella Lawson - you either love her or loathe her. The problem with strong television personalities is that they can be their own worst enemies and the persona we associate with them can distract us from what they're trying to do. Every TV impressionism show now features a spoof on Nigella and the resulting caricature is either a nymphomaniac chocoholic or a "jolly hockey sticks" public schoolgirl who thinks the whole nation lives on a diet of caviare and foie gras.
Certainly, Nigella gives the impression she's not like us - slaving over a hot stove but stil looking gorgeous with her raven hair cascading over her shoulders, cooking for the President of the United States (did she cook or did she just supervise?) - the woman is unreal, to quote from the title of one of her other books, she truly is "a domestic goddess".
In the end, most of todays cookery programmes are merely a vehicle for the more lucrative task of selling books. Of course, the chef has to convince the viewer to part with their hard earned cash and the more attractive a lifestyle they can project, so much the better. It's not enough simply to suggest that the dishes are tasty and easy to prepare.
We are subjected to the sight of Jamie Oliver posing as he zips around London on his trendy scooter, socialising with the in-crowd and living in the coolest pad in London on his show "The Naked Chef". Similarly, Nigella is shown in her pristine home with a spotless kitchen (doesn't look like much cooking has been done in there!) or outside drinking cocktails with her chums.
What really matters is whether the book carries a selection of useful and practical recipes for which the average person can obtain the ingredients, or whether it is really a coffee-table book - lots of beautiful photographs but nothing you'd ever cook yourself. There's nothing wrong with owning lovely food books just for looking, but the blurb on this book makes several claims and it's worth looking at them to judge what kind of book thi is.
The jacket blurb describes the recipes and ethos of "Forever Summer" as "Easy Cooking, Easy Eating" and says that "the keynote is simplicity, freshness, enjoyment". Is this an accurate precis?
The basic premise of the collection is "how to prolong that lazy, warm summer feeling through the darker days of winter". This automatically made me think that preparing some of these recipes could be an expensive undertaking unless of course you cheat and prepare the dishes in summer when the ingredients are in season and therefore cheaper.
We should not confuse, though, the concept of summer food with summer produce. Nigella is quite clear in the introduction that she uses the idea of summer only to inspire - to make you think about the simplicity of summer food and is not advocating the creation of "some overblown idyll of perpetual Provencal summer".
"Forever Summer" is divided in to chapters as follows
- Introduction (see remarks above)
- First Course
This is subdivided into
- Miscellaneous starters - includes recipes for "Griddled aubergine with feta, mint and chilli", "Salt Cod fritters" (for this you need to start soaking the salt cod 24 hours in advance) and "Ginger cured salmon" (for this one you need to prepare the salmon and leave to refrigerate for 3 to 5 days).
Soups - includes recipes for "chilled pea and mint soup", "Summer minestrone" and "Happiness soup" (you'll need yellow courgettes for this one as it's meant to be a lovely golden colour).
Pasta - includes recipes for "Linguine with mussels" and "Parpadelle with crab, chilli and watercress".
Salads - includes "Raw beetroot, dill and mustard-seed salad (contains and ingredient called "sumac" - I read a lot of food books and have never come across it - Nigella describes it thus - "a dark red berry, ground to make a powder of aromatic, citrussy intensity". I still don't really know what I'd be looking for...), "Watermelon, feta and black olive salad" and "the ultimate Greek salad".
- Second Course
Divided as follows -
- Fish - includes recipes for "Prawn and black rice salad with Vietnamese dressing" (this recipe calls for "Nanking Black Rice" which Nigella says she can get without any trouble from the supermarket -I've not even seen this one in the local oriental food store), "Mauritian Prawn Curry" (sensational, I've tried this one), "Salmon kebabs with pomegranate molasses and honey" and "Sardines with lemon salsa" (very easy and delicious - another one I've tried).
Meat - includes recipes for "Moroccan roast lamb", "Spare ribs", Nigella's take on "gammon and pineapple" and "Black and Blue Beef".
Poultry - includes "Spatchcock chicken with lemon and parsley", and "Gingery duck with red onion an orange salad".
Sides and More - a variety of side and vegetable dishes including "Hasselback Potatoes" (look great and very easy to do), courgette fritters (fabulous)and green vegetable curry.
Divided into two sections. One is a general section and features a wide variety of items such as "caramelised pineapple with hot chocolate sauce", "gooseberry fool" and lemon cupcakes. The second section is devoted to ice cream. Nigella explains that although she uses an ice cream making machine herself, it is not vital and that the recipes featured can be done without a machine. These include "apple ice cream", "white chocolate ice cream with hot blackberry sauce" and one I have tried "Margerita
ice cream" - which I made without a machine and it was great!
- Drinks - there is a nice section on drinks with a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks perfect for sipping in the garden on hot summer days. While they would make you think of summer, you might not necesarily think of having them in the winter but I can't see any reason why not. Some are cocktail classics, others such have been invented by Nigella.
As with her other books, Nigella precedes each recipe with some words about the dish - where it originated or how she realised this particular combination of ingredients tasted good together. She explains what more unusual ingredients are and she sometimes offers alternatives in case you can't get hold of certain items.
There is an excellent selection of recipes here and there is not too much emphasis on any one food type, although vegetarians would only really find side dishes here. I think there is a fair mix betwen dinner party dishes which might require beginning preparations some days in advance and quick dishes which would be ideal for throwing together if guests arrived unexpectedly or simply if you don't want to spend long preparing supper.
A word must go to the stylist Helen Trent and the photographer Petrina Tinslay - the recipes are accompanied by exquisite photographs and the food is beautifully presented. Much consideration has gone into the choice of plates, etc for each picture and it shows.
As I mentioned, I have tried some of the recipes and I found them easy to follow (I consider myself a keen amateur, not hugely skilled). Most of the ingredients should be easy to find, although here in Newcastle I often struggle to get the fish I want when I want it. I usually have to see what's there and work around that.
The recipes are evocative of summer but possible to make all year round but I would say that they are not dishes you would make regularly all year round. This is a beautiful book but not one I think would be used time after time.
ISBN - 0-701-17381-5 (Chatto and Windus)
20 Pounds RRP but widely available more cheaply through internet stores and discount bookshops.
I am a keen cook after having lived in countries in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the UK and been a member of cooking groups. I also read cookbook reviews and was intrigued at one that claimed that Nigella's recipes didn't work. Never the less, she is popular and the food looks delicious, so today I tried to make Nigella's "Slow roasted garlic and lemon chicken" from her "Forever Summer" book and the result was not good. 2 lemons is too much for only one chichen. The recipe lacked taste (no salt in the dish, only black pepper) but it did look very pretty. As an experienced cook I will try some of the other recipes - doctoring the flavourings as required - but food has to both look and TASTE good.
Fresh, innovative, versatile and delicious, it's summer all year round and from around the world with Nigella.