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Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home - Nigella Lawson

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Author: Nigella Lawson / Hardcover / 512 Pages / Book is published 2010-09-02 by Chatto & Windus

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    6 Reviews
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      18.01.2014 23:09
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      A great cookbook!

      My mum is a big fan and has all of Nigella's cookbooks. When she requested Nigellisima from my dad for Christmas, he accidentally got her a copy of 'Kitchen' which she already had - I was only too happy to take the duplicate off her hands, and I must say I've gotten rather more use out of it than I'd expected to, given that it was a book I probably wouldn't have purchased myself.

      The first 20 pages or so are comprised of an introduction , a list of must have gadgets (and those that she has purchased but, having never really used, consigned to the gadget hall of shame) and a 'kitchen confidential' section which is a list of handy little shortcuts and tips, including the surprising information that as well as being an excellent all round cleaner, bicarbonate of soda is also the first thing you should take if you feel a bout of cystitis coming on! Then it's on to the recipes themselves, which are divided into six sections 'Whats for tea?', 'Hurry up, I'm hungry!', 'Easy Does It', 'Cook it Better', 'My Sweet Solution' and 'Off the Cuff' - all of which are fairly easy to decipher as to their purpose.

      The recipes all come with artfully staged colour photos, either of the meal in the process of being made, or the completed dish. They almost all come with a brief introduction (as in fact do all the chapters). This is quite interesting, with tales of Nigella's travels, the best places to source particular ingredients, whether her kids eat it - and helps to inject a bit of her own personality into the book. The recipes themselves are nicely laid out, with clear recommendations on how many people it serves, a straightforward list of ingredients, and easy to follow bullet pointed instructions.

      So, which ones have I tried? Well, I've actually tried quite a few, which really surprised me. Having glanced through my mums other Nigella books, a lot of the recipes seemed overly complex, contained difficult to find ingredients, or just weren't the sort of thing I would eat, whereas this book seemed more towards achievable every day meals with a bit of a twist. The Tomato Curry with coconut rice has been made a few times, and as well as being delicious is incredibly easy and cheap to make, freezes well (the curry, not the rice) and is suitable for serving up to my Vegan friends when they come round. The spaghetti with marmite and parmesan is a great quick kid friendly meal when the cupboards are otherwise a bit bare, and her tip for making tiny little roast potatoes out of a pocket of gnocchi is being trotted out every Sunday now, and earning me plenty of praise because it looks like something really complicated when in fact it's simply a matter of tossing in oil, seasoning, and roasting. It's less work than real roasties, and much faster,with the result that we'll occasionally even have them with a midweek meal.

      I've also found that some of the recipes, Spring Chicken and Chorizo and Chickpea Stew for example, are very adaptable to the slow cooker, allowing me to prep them and put them on in the morning, get on with my volunteer work, then come home to a satisfying cooked meal at the end of the day.

      I've really been amazed by how easy some of the recipes are - I'm something of a lazy cook, and easily put off with things with lots of different steps in, but I think the bullet pointed style has really made it much easier for me to follow a recipe well, and has encouraged me to try things I otherwise wouldn't. I also really like that she includes notes on which parts can be made ahead, and even gives tips on how to jazz up leftovers to make them into a new meal.

      As with every cookbook, there are a few recipes that just don't appeal due to my own personal preferences (I'm not a big fan of seafood, for example, so I'll avoid those kind of recipes) but overall almost all of them seem like something I can do, and I have already tried many of them. I'm surprised by how practical I've found this cookbook, compared to some of Nigella's other books, which seemed focused more on entertaining type meal than on practical and filling recipes.

      Although I would never have purchased this book myself, I'm glad I was given it. I love the recipes, love the layout, love the colourful photographs and handy tips, and really enjoyed reading the personal introductions that came with each recipe. And even better, my family are enjoying my renewed interest in cooking. 5 stars!

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        08.05.2013 09:18
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        Definitely recommend this book, its the most well-used cookbook in our house.

        Of all the cookery books we own, either those we have bought or those we have been given, Nigella Kitchen is the one we have cooked from the most. There is still the usual scattering of recipes you would never in a million years be trying (in our case, Korean Calamari, for instance) but in by far the biggest part of this book, Nigella seems to cook with a lot of our favourite ingredients, Italian and Meditteranean dishes featuring heavily. She also seems to plate and serve food in a way that we find really accessible and achievable - focussed more on sharing foods and enjoying more relaxed styles of eating rather than too much emphasis on fine dining.

        The book opens with two pre-recipes "chapters" - Kitchen Caboodle where she talks us through the gadgets and equipment of her kitchen (not riveting - we don't really need a talk through Nigella's food processor or mixer) and Kitchen Confidential which are some of her tips and shortcuts, quite a few of which are actually really useful (eg getting rid of tea stains from mugs - useful, but not necessarily why you bought the book!).

        The recipes in the book are in two parts:
        Part 1 goes by the name "Kitchen Quandaries" includes: "What's for tea" "Hurry up, I'm Hungry!" "Easy does it" "Cook it better" "My sweet solution" and "Off the cuff" aimed variously at meals which are easy to prepare, fit for a "rush-job", using pantry ingredients etc.

        Part 2 is entitled "Kitchen Comforts" and includes "Chicken and its place in my home" "A dream of hearth and home", "At my table", "The solace of stirring", "The bone collection", "Kitchen Pickings" and "the cook's cure for Sunday-nigh-in-it is". These include Sunday night suppers, meat recipes, risottos and stress-free dinner party dishes.

        With each recipe, Nigella includes a short narrative, explaining either her personal background to the dish or how she serves it or who to. If you enjoy Nigella on television, you will really enjoy this book, as you can really hear her almost chatting to you in the narrative - she writes exactly as she talks. "Don't let me down by using half-fat milk" etc. If you don't enjoy Nigella on tv, and I know a lot of people don't, then this book will probably get on your nerves! For us it adds a bit of fun to the cooking experience as we have a chuckle at Nigella delivering these lines to camera in her own inimitable fashion! Alongside some recipes are other tips, which she calls "making leftovers right" where she give hints about ensuring nothing goes to waste - how and how long dishes may be stored, or how they may be rehashed with a slightly different twist to make the following night's meal ... all very useful and accessible.

        At the back of the book there are two indeces - One overall index which lists all the recipes by main ingredients as well as by title, e.g "My mother's famous roast chicken" appears under "M" and also "C" for chicken. Our favourite "Spanish chicken with chorizo and potatoes" appears under "S", as well as twice under "C" and also "P" for potatoes - this is a good thing from my experience of cookbooks, it makes it really easy to find a recipe without wondering how it appears in the index! In addition, there's also an "Express index" which separates out the recipes in the book which take less than 30 minutes to get to the table. Again, this is an aspect of the book we have used and found really useful.

        Most of the recipes are geared towards cooking for 4-6, although some are even for 1, but again, there is some useful Nigella terminology "this recipe serves 6, or 4 really hungry teenagers". We really enjoy these little touches, but they are also actually really practical and help you to make an informed decision about whether to increase or decrease quantities.

        The size of the book is chunky, it has 487 pages and measures approximately 6 inches by 9 inches. It has a lovely matt finish dust cover and a ribbon page marker. The pages also have a matt finish to them which gives the book a nice classy feel. All the recipes are accompanied by at least one large colour photograph, but more usually, several photographs including pictures of the dishes being enjoyed by friends or family. The photographs show the dishes exactly as they have been prepared, they look like dishes you feel easily able to recreate, rather than the many experiences we have had following other cookbooks ending up with plates that in no way resemble the book photograph!

        Nigella really does take you to the heart of her home with this book and it remains easily one of our favourite cookbooks amongst the hundreds we seem to have acquired over the years.

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        27.04.2013 16:49
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        A worthy addition to any cookbook collection

        In theory, I shouldn't like Nigella Lawson. The whole 'suggestively licking spoons whilst making come-to-bed eyes at the camera' thing....the slightly smug image she projects...the pretentious way that she talks about food.... But, somehow, I find her impossible to dislike. Poring over a Nigella Lawson cookbook is one of my great pleasures in life.

        So I was delighted to receive Nigella Lawson's 'Kitchen' for Christmas last year. Finding myself unable to resist the lure of this beautifully presented, 487 page tome I dug in almost immediately.
        The book is divided into two main sections - Kitchen Quandries and Kitchen Comforts - with a lengthy introduction.

        It took me a while to actually read the introductory section. At over 20 pages of continuous text, it's not very easy to dip into and is really more of an extensive personal essay on food and cooking than classic cook-book fare. I do think think a bit of ruthless editing here would've increased the overall appeal of the book.

        Once you get past the opening waffle, there's plenty of classic Nigella gems to be found here.
        The main sections of the book are both divided into further subsections with titles like 'What's for Tea?', 'My Sweet Solution' and 'The Bone Collection'.
        The organization of the recipes isn't particularly intuitive - desserts and cakes can be found sprinkled throughout the book; and savoury recipes are grouped together fairly randomly.

        Almost every recipe in the book is accompanied by a minimum of one full-page photograph and a detailed description written in Nigella's typically chatty and somewhat bossy prose.
        Many of the recipes also come with detailed 'making leftovers suggestions', as well as instructions for freezing and making in advance, which I found very useful. The recipe 'My Mother's Praised Chicken' for example, is followed by 'leftovers' recipes for 'Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Salad', 'Chinatown Chicken Salad' and 'Quick Chicken Caesar'.
        Nigella's recipes tend to be laden with expensive, luxurious ingredients so I appreciated the more restrained approach of this book. There's a lot of attention given to cheap, unshowy cuts of meat (such as ham hocks and lamb shoulder) as well as the aforementioned suggestions for leftovers.
        This is a fairly eclectic mix of recipe, although Asian and Italian recipes are both well represented as are recipes for cakes and desserts (suits me!).

        Some of the recipes I've tried so far include:
        Barbecued beef mince - a very simple recipe for mince that has become a firm favourite in our house. We eat in laden with grated cheddar cheese and tacos and it makes for an easy, satisfying tea

        Pasta alla genovese - this is essentially pasta with pesto but it includes the unusual addition of sliced potatoes which melt into the pasta. This worked so much better than I'd expected - the potatoes helped the sauce adhere better to the pasta and made the texture of the dish more interesting. This has become another regular dinner in our house.

        Slut's Spaghetti - how could I not try a dish with a title like that? This is a store-cupboard version of 'Pasta alla Puttanesca' and worked really well. It's amazing how good it tasted, considering all I did was open a few tins and jars. Not one for the children though as it's pretty fiery.

        Red velvet cupcakes - these are an American classic; bright red tinted sponge with cream cheese icing. Easy to make, and tasted lovely, although I may go a little easier on the food colouring next time!

        Chocolate brownie bowls - this is a genius idea for a speedy but impressive pudding. Brownie mix - well, chocolate cake mix really - is baked in a dessert shell tin making a chocolate cake shell which you can fill with whatever you fancy. Nigella's suggestions include squirty cream, strawberries and strawberry sauce, chocolate mint ice cream and chocolate sauce and coffee ice cream, maple syrup and pecans (my personal favourite). This is one of the few dessert recipes that requires speciality equipment - but I found the specified 6 cavity dessert shell tin easy to find on Amazon and reasonably priced.

        Sweet and salty crunch nut bars - this stuff really is a chocolate-flavoured heart attack waiting to happen. It's vulgar and over the top - but completely addictive and very easy to make! The ingredients include butter, dark and milk chocolate, Crunchie bars, golden syrup and salted peanuts. I have to be very strict with myself with this recipe...

        Ham hocks in cider - this makes use of an unfashionable and cheap cut of meat. I'd never considered using ham hocks before, but this recipe looked so delicious I decided to give it a go. It turned out beautifully - meltingly soft shredded ham - which I served with leeks in white sauce.

        Everyday brownies - this is a great idea, in theory. If you've ever cooked Nigella brownies before, you'll know that they require a large quantity of expensive ingredients. I make the brownies from 'Domestic Goddess' pretty regularly, and although delicious, they cost me around 13 pounds a batch to make.
        This 'everyday' brownie recipe uses ingredients you'll probably have in your storecupboard - cocoa, bars of dairy milk, butter, sugar, eggs.
        So I had high hopes - but they just didn't turn out very well. I found them a bit bland - there was no real depth of chocolate flavour which is a prerequisite for any successful brownie. The cooking times were also way off - I had to cook them for twice the specified time.

        Chocolate chip cookies - these are THE definitive chocolate chip cookie and my go-to recipe. They're rammed full of chocolate chips, buttery and chewy within and crispy on the edges.
        Nigella recommends you use a 1/4 cup measure to portion these, which makes absolutely HUGE cookies. Although not necessarily a bad thing, I find a tablespoon measure makes more usefully sized cookies. The recipe also makes a very large quantity - so I always freeze half of the batch which means I'm only ever fifteen minutes away from a batch of homemade cookies.
        Highly recommend this one!

        Asian braised shin of beef with hot and sour shredded salad - this recipe was a revelation. I've never used beef shin before, as it's not sold by most superrmarkets, but it was worth the effort it took to source it. When slow-cooked, it's unbelievably tender and full of flavour. This recipe made really good use of it, and the hot and sour shredded salad was full of interesting textures.


        Other recipes include:
        African Drumsticks, Raspberry Bakewell Slice, Banoffe cheesecake, Texas Brisket, Mexican Lasagne, Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding, Tarragon Chicken, Chorizo and Chickpea Stew, Devil's Food Cake, Pork and Apple Hotpot, Patara Lamb Shanks, Lemon Polenta Cake, San Francisco Fish Stew, Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake with Margarita Cream, Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Homestyle Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas, Lamb with Rosemary and Port, Pigs in Blankets with a Mustard Dipping Sauce and Thai Chicken Noodle Soup.

        So, in summary, I was impressed with this book. It's inspired me to try new ingredients and cuts of meat I wouldn't normally have considered and the recipes have been mostly reliable and tasty.
        If you already own several Nigella books, I'm not sure whether this really brings anything new to the mix; but if you're a committed fan or completely new to Nigella then it's definitely worth buying.

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          05.04.2012 19:58

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          A fantastic cook book.

          I received this book a couple of years ago for Christmas and I just love it. It's a very thick book (nearly 500 pages) and quite heavy but just seems to make you want to read it. At the front of the book there is a long narrative whereby she talks about what cooking means to her and the things that she likes to cook for her family.

          Also in this introductory section there is a really useful guide where she talks about the gadgets she has in her kitchen and which are handy and which are a waste of time! It is quite useful to know which ones she would recommend and which she'd wished she hadn't bought! It is all very well written and reads exactly the same as how she speaks, with lots of long words and lovely expressions.

          The book is broken down into different chapters to distinguish between each collection of recipes. For example she has a speedy dinners section called 'Hurry up, I'm hungry!' and 'My sweet solution' for her desserts. There are 13 of these different sections so she certainly covers all areas of cooking. She also writes a small introduction to each recipe which I like to read before attempting to make the item. It might be a personal anecdote of how she came by acquiring the recipe or a tip that she wants you to know about how to make the dish.

          She is very good at keeping the recipes simple, easy to understand and informative. For each recipe she notes how many of the item it will make, if you can freeze the item and if so, how long for and some have a 'Make Ahead' note which informs you if you can make it in advance or not.

          This book is a hardback and is available to buy from Amazon for £15, a bargain considering the book actually retailed initially for £26. I have really enjoyed all the recipes I've followed, especially the sweet ones. I now make the choc chip cookies on a very regular basis! A great book for cooking enthusiasts - not so great for the figure though!!

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          16.11.2011 12:52
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          I am converted

          I rarely watch cookery programs (although as we now rent a house with a TV, I might do more in the next few months) and thus my opinion of celebrity-chefs' offerings is based almost exclusively on their printed offerings, but I tend to buy older cookbooks. Nigella's "Kitchen" was given to me as a Christmas present so I felt compelled to give it a try and I am very glad I did.

          Nigella Lawson's latest offering (and the first of her books on my shelves) is subtitled "recipes from the heart of home", which is a very vague title whose significance (undoubtedly clear to those who watch the TV versions) I fail to decode. All cooking is done in the kitchen after all. But I suppose coming up with interesting titles for general collections of recipes is not that easy, so I'll leave it at that.

          The collection is indeed general, with everything from salads to deserts and drinks and from very basic dishes that hardly need a recipe to some more complicated creations. Most recipes are fairly simple though, presenting an interesting or novel idea rather than a difficult technique or a complex process. This is definitely a good thing. Many cookbooks are either explicitly or implicitly geared towards "entertaining" recipes, best suited for dinner parties and other special occasions, while the Kitchen is relatively low on that and high on every-day food.

          The book is divided into fairly whimsical sections and sub-sections of Ms Lawson's design which means that you either need to read it from cover to cover several times to be able to find anything quickly or use the index, as it's not particularly obvious whether Toad in a Hole or Sweet and Sour Chicken for example should be hunted for in "What's For Tea" or "Cure of Sunday-Nightitiss" or some other area.

          Each recipe (as well as each section) is preceded by a lengthy and fairly entertaining if often infuriating intro. Ms Lawson's style is very, very affected - some might perceive it as insufferably camp - but all the wordiness stylised as mutterings of a neurotic middle-class mother is peppered with a fair amount of practical kitchen gold and many illuminating factoids.

          All of that is lavishly photographed and encased between hard covers in a well-stitched, large-format volume of semi-glossy, thick pages that appears to be fairly durable and stays flat when opened on a particular page. I would rather have a thinner book with less photos but at least the font is readable and margins wide (though the use of a heart icon for bullet-points still gets my goat me after months of use).

          The raison d'etre of any cookbook is the actual recipes, unless you like just reading them for fun. On this score, Nigella's Kitchen acquits itself very well. There are cookbooks that I owned or borrowed long-term that I never cooked a single recipe from, despite actually enjoying reading them. Some are still good for "general inspiration purposes" (classic Elisabeth David ones are a good example here), but many are just good for a browse (I owned several of Nigel Slater's books and I loved reading them but I can't recall cooking anything from any of them). This is not the case with Nigella's Kitchen. I have cooked numerous recipes from it in the five months I had it available and I am sure I will cook several more. We didn't love all of them, but we liked many and several have already had more than one outing. Nigella draws her inspiration from a huge variety of regions, styles and levels of cooking. She also has her own obsessions and biases, but a personal slant is a Good Thing and makes for a more interesting collection.

          We liked the Mexican and Spanish inspired dishes (an underused field in our kitchen), as well as many others that often combine sweet and spicy flavours in savoury recipes. The savoury favourites include African Drumsticks, Sunshine Soup (a wonderful yellow-pepper-and-sweetcorn concoction), Butternut, Rocket and Pine Nut Salad (which I am pleased to say works with pistachios too), Spring Chicken, Spanish Chicken with Chorizo, incredibly good Jumbo Chilli Sauce, Pork and Apple Hotpot and several more. There is a fair number of seafood and fish recipes which are financially slightly out of reach for us (and the kids don't like seafood yet), and several that go into directions that won't work in our household, but there is enough to choose from either for cooking straight off the page or inspiration.

          I am more ambivalent about Kitchen's sweet offerings: I have a strong feeling that Nigella's taste and style in cakes and puddings often diverges from mine by miles. The turn-offs include crushed-biscuit bases, the raptures over disturbing minglings of salty and sweet flavours in deserts (I hate those - maybe that's why I abhor the digestives), over-fondness for peanut butter and some seriously sickly American-inspired puddings (Grasshopper Pie that combines crème de menthe, crème de cacao, MELTED MARSHMALLOWS and a crushed-bourbon-biscuit base). And yet the same book has some of the most fabulous puddings I have ever tried, including the lovely Coconut and Cherry Banana Bread and - probably the best if rather expensive recipe in the whole book - the Venetian Carrot Cake.

          Nigella's Kitchen is a varied, usable, cookable collection of every-day recipes that offers some seriously good pickings along some offerings that, although probably great in their class, don't quite rock my sauce-boat. The production qualities of the hardback are very good and if Nigella's style appeals I suggest you buy this or (even better) get somebody else to buy it for you, definitely in hardback.

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          14.03.2011 16:19

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          A comprehensive cookery book full of delicious recipes

          This is the first of Nigella's books I've owned, and I can't believe it's taken me so long! This book is fantastic. Always honest and lighthearted, Nigella's narrative brings the recipes to life. It's a lovely book just to read, let alone cook from.

          The 'Kitchen Caboodle' and 'Kitchen Confidential' sections near the beginning give loads of information about equipment and ingredients respectively - especially useful if you are starting out and need to know what to buy.

          The recipes (and there a lots!) are divided into sections with delightful names like 'Hurry Up I'm Hungry' and 'The Cook's Cure for Sunday-night-itis'. There is everything from quick weeknight teas to yummy cakes and sophisticated suppers. The 'Roast Chuck with Leeks and Squash' has become our regular Sunday lunch - it is delicious and so simple!

          There are also great suggestions for what to do with leftovers and tips for making ahead and freezing. The photographs are numerous and beautiful. The whole book makes you want to cook something right away! It's a brilliant book and should be part of everyone's kitchen - the heart of your home.

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