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Nigella does it expressly....
Nigella Express - Nigella Lawson
Member Name: cerys82
Nigella Express - Nigella Lawson
Advantages: Some really great everyday recipes
Disadvantages: Some expensive ingredients used
Nigella Express is the book accompaniment to her 2007 BBC TV series of the same name. The book is in hardback with a loose leaf removable cover. As always I would recommend that you remove it to stop it getting damaged when cooking from it. The spine is of good quality considering that it is a book coming in at just under 400 pages, which means that it keeps pages open of its own accord when you cook from it. There is also a fabric bookmark to help you keep your page. The pages are glossy, making them a bit more resilient to the obligatory splashes and stains that inevitably occur when you are cooking from something.
Nigella's short introduction lays out the thesis of the book - essentially she wanted to put together recipes that that reinvent the term 'fast food' - making it a descriptor for tasty, accessible dishes that do not impinge too much on your personal time.
Each chapter has an introduction, as does each recipe in which Lawson sets out her explanation for including this recipe in the book. The recipe introductions also contain suggestions for simple variations on the described dish.
The first section is on 'Everyday easy' - essentially supper dishes - eg mustard pork chops, red prawn and mango curry, naan pizza, roast poussin and sweet potatoes (simpler than you would expect and just divine), caramel croissant pudding (just fantastic, but only for those not on a diet!)
The next chapter is 'workday winners'- an extension of the first chapter - focussing on afterwork dishes - eg brandied-bacony bacon (on my to-do list), potato and mushroom gratin, eton mess, flourless chocolate brownies ( a really great keeper recipe), chocolate mint cookies (just the best think for a mint chocolate fiend like me)
Next up is 'retro rapido' - as you would expect dishes that are meant to hark from an earlier era only perhaps with a slight twist - eg cheese fondue, crepes suzette, cherry cheesecake, pineapple upside down cake.
Following this - 'get up and go' - breakfast dishes - eg pancake recipes, breakfast bars (easy to pre-prepare and eat over a few days with a bit of aforethought), chocolate croissants, green eggs and ham (yes, really!), croquet monsieur bake (just indulgent and divine - but perhaps a little much for breakfast),
Then we come to 'quick, quick, slow' - a tribute to slow cooking with minimal preparation - eg coq au Riesling, a really great warm potato salad, Baileys tiramsu, no-churn pomegranate ice cream,
The next chapter is 'against the clock ' - what Nigella describes as her 'fast fallbacks' and can really be prepared in the minimum of time - eg flash fried steak with white bean mash , chicken schnitzel with bacon and white wine, scallops and chorizo, chickpeas with rocket and sherry, instant chocolate mousse - a really great standby dessert.
Next comes 'instant calmer' - the express approach to comfort food - noodle soup for needy people (!), butternut and sweet potato soup (a keeper in my household), rapid ragu, chicken, mushroom and bacon pie, a great cheddar cheese risotto and macaroni cheese, roly-poly pudding, a lethal doughnut French toast
We then come to 'razzle dazzle' where the dishes have the aim of being on the more impressive side for if you have guests over - eg green apple martini, potato cakes with smoked salmon, tarte fine aux pommes, white chocolate mint mousse, ginger passionfruit trifle ( there are no words),
As a fan of Mexican food, 'Speedy Gonzales' is my favourite section - of course, it does take liberties with traditional Mexican cooking but it has really good everyday ideas - eg Mexican scrambled eggs (perhaps my most repeated recipe from the book), sweetcorn chowder with toasted tortillas, quick chilli, quesadillas, Mexican hot chocolate
Next we come to 'on the run' - recipes that can be interpreted as packed lunch ideas for adults and children - eg a great pea and pesto soup, sesame peanut noodles, banana butterscotch muffins, mini meatloaves, Spanish omelette
Then comes 'hey presto' - inspired by Italian cookery - eg tuna and beans (also a great lunchbox recipe) , Italian sausages in hot tomato sauce and polenta, chocolate macaroons, amaretto syllabub
Next comes Holiday snaps - Christmas inspired recipes , particularly some great snacks and cocktails eg - snowballs, pomegranate bellini, martini olives and maple pepper pecans (both simple and absolute keepers for all year round), cocktail sausages, halloumi bites, broccoli and stilton soup, mincemeat parcels with bourbon butter
The final chapter is 'storecupboard SOS' - recipes largely based on ingredients that you will find in the average storecupboard, the introduction gives some great quick recipes for infused oils also - eg red pepper hummus, minestrone in minutes, curry in a hurry, mellow meatballs, clafoutis.
First off, this is a very good book. There are a number of recipes here which I have used again and again and as I have experienced previously with Lawson's book, if you follow them as she describes they will work. The colourful retro styling of the book is attractive and the photography of the dishes is well executed and inspiring.
However, I am not wholly convinced by the 'express' notion. As with other Nigella books she does tend to use some pretty pricey and 'out there' ingredients at times. I am a keen cook, even though I do so on a budget, and happen to believe that I keep a quite wide range of ingredients in. However, a lot of the more substantial dishes require pricier and more unusual ingredients that would require a little more aforethought when doing your weekly shop - therefore I would probably class them as 'weekend' meals rather than 'afterwork' ones . For this purpose I am more likely to refer to books such as those by Gill Holcombe, which I have previously reviewed. The most accessible recipes in the book are ones that I have brought out for particular attention in this review.
That said, this is a surprisingly substantial book with some great ideas. Not an everyday book perhaps but with elements of recipes that can be done again and again. As usual, Lawson's passionate -some may say overflowery - prose makes it enjoyable to browse through and find inspiration.
This is not the best of Nigella's books, but has credibility in its own right. Not an essential cookbook , certainly but a fun and enjoyable addition to your collection.
Summary: Not Nigella's best but a useful book
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