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Nigella Lawson goes baking
How to Be a Domestic Goddess - Nigella Lawson
Member Name: cerys82
How to Be a Domestic Goddess - Nigella Lawson
Advantages: Some really great 'keeper' recipes which you can do time and time again
Disadvantages: Some contain difficult to source/expensive ingredients, many recipes a little too unconventional
How To Be a Domestic Goddess was Nigella Lawson's second book after the success of 'How To Eat'. Originally published in 2000 it has gone on to be reprinted.
In the preface, Nigella explains that this is 'a book about baking, but not a baking book' in that she wants to encourage rather than instruct, and therefore make it a pleasure rather than a chore to try out these recipes. Each section has a short introduction by Nigella with her normal flowery prose where she talks emphatically about the type of food it refers to - there is nothing that you would really miss by skipping these bits.
Each section is split into subsections and each recipe has a short introduction where she refers to a particular memory or influence for its inclusion. She also provides a variation to some reciipes- a short set of instructions on how the standard recipe can be adjusted to incorporate different flavours. Unlike 'How To Eat' there are also a number of photographs that accompany the recipes.
First we have a 'cakes' chapter. The first subsection is on loaf and plain cakes and includes Madeira cake, almond cake, a great rosemary loaf cake and gateau Breton. Then onto filled and iced cakes which include Victoria sponge and more unusually courgette cake (?!). Next there are fruited cakes including cherry-almond loaf cake, banana bread (my absolute favourite in the book and and so easy to make), marzipan fruit cake, apple and walnut cake. Next she has a coupcake section, very timely but which completely pre-dated the current cupcake craze. Here she gives lots of examples about how they can be decorated also. Recipes included are burnt-butter brown-sugar cupcakes and carrot cupcakes with cream-cheese icing.
The next chapter is on biscuits. Recipes include rosebud madelines, macaroons, and savoury variations including Irish blue biscuits and hot disks ( a personal favourite which are described as a being a cross between tortilla chips and mini-poppadoms.). There are also scones, strawberry shortcakes, baklava muffins, welsh cakes and traditional American breakfast pancakes.
The next section is on pies. She begins the chapter by detailing how to prepare basic shortcrust and processor puff-pastry. Savoury pies include supper onion pie, pizza rustica(basically pizza in a pie), sausage and spinach pie (another favourite), steak and kidney pudding, Cornish pasties, lovely cheese,onion and potato pies. Sweet pies and tarts include Key Lime pie, rhubarb tart, baked summer fruit tart, double apple pie, peach cream pie.
Then onto puddings. Recipes include plum and pecan crumble, gin and tonic jelly (?!), steamed syrup pudding, custard, muscat rice pudding, calvados syllabub, profiteroles, a divine lemon-raspberry plate trifle (basically one that is served on a plate rather than a bowl) and various cheesecakes including New York cheesecake.
Next she takes us onto chocolate. These include a simply gorgeous dense chocolate loaf cake, store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake (the idea being that it is easy to make and you can largely find the ingredients in any kitchen cupboard - the orange coming from marmalade rather than fresh fruit), chocolate cheesecake, an unspeakably gorgeous chocolate mousse cake which I make on special occasions, chocolate-raspberry tarts, pain-au-chocolat pudding, brownies, and a number of chocolate based cupcakes.
The next chapter is 'children'; the idea being that these are recipes which can be cooked either with or for children (that said, do not imagine that this is a chapter that adults should ignore!). Recipes include buttermilk birthday cake, cut-out biscuits with icing, various fairy cakes, jam doughnut muffins, rocky road, amazing fudge and cinder toffee recipes, flapjacks,coca-cola cake and a favourite of mine - mint dominoes (basically chocolate mint creams). There is a subsection called 'cooking for the school fete' which features mini-cheesecakes, mini-pavlovas, millionaire shortbread and mini lime syrup sponges.
Following this we have a Christmas section. This includes a very detailed Christmas cake, also Christmas pudding, mince pies, mincemeat, Christmas cupcakes, mulled wine, baklava and Christmas-morning muffins. The savoury alternatives include a fantastic Boxing Day egg and bacon pie.
Next up we have a bread and yeast section. This includes 'essential' brown and white bread recipes, sourdough, bagels, flatbread, pizza dough, Norwegian cinnamon buns, processor Danish pastry and tarte tatin,
The last section is entitled "the domestic goddess's larder." These are essentially preserved condiments. Firstly she gives advice on how to effectively prepare and sterilise storage jars. Recipes include vanilla sugar (so simple and so useful in conventional baking), rhubarb schnapps, lime curd, various fruit jams and brown sauce.
I am a bit of a fan of Nigella and really enjoy digging this book out from time to time. She undoubtedly has great taste in recipes and has a keen eye for the truly indulgent. The recipes I have cooked form ths book have been surprisingly easy to follow given how complex some of them look. All have also come out really impressive, in-fact most of the cakes and desserts I cook time and time again come from this book. It is also a really nice book just to browse through from time to time.
That said, it does suffer from some of problems that other Nigella books have in that she does have a tendency to suggest key ingredients which are not necessarily easy to get hold off but are pricey in that they are not always likely to be components that you commonly put on the shopping list eg masala, Trex, 00 flour, Sauternes.
The photography as ever with Nigella books is fantastic and really shows the dishes off at their advertising best. Nigella's flowery voice is dominant throughout, so if you cannot stand the way she talks on her TV programmes - this is likely to irritate you here.
It is fair to say that she has picked a really good variety of recipes from a number of different sauces, some of which would actively encourage you to try different tastes and techniques if you are so inclined, but she does include a lot of traditional or twists-on-traditional dishes so as not to alienate a less confident reader.
For me, although I have my favourites which I will do time and time again I do feel that to a certain extent this book has been slightly succeeded by more conventional but no less impressive baking books, such as Rachel Allen's Bake (see my review), however this is still a solid, worthy, if non-essential addition to my cookbook collection.
Summary: A solid, but not earthshattering cookbook
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