How do I love Nigella? Let me count the ways. Sometimes she’s bigger, and some times she’s smaller, but she’s always incredibly beautiful. She is incredible intelligent and well-educated, and has had some incredibly hard knocks (including the death of her first husband) and survived with consummate grace. She is a mother over 40 who oozes sex appeal, admits to cooking pasta for herself to eat in bed while watching television, and deep fries candy bars in batter. Most important, in an age of molecular gastronomy and foodie preciousness, she cooks food that is simple, sensuous and exactly what you were yearning for but couldn’t name until you saw the recipe.
I have all of her cookbooks, but my favorite for actual cooking is Nigella Bites. The recipes are mostly family-friendly and attainable, the writing style is chummy, and the pictures are splendid. There are certainly recipes I can’t cook for my family – Asian-Spiced Kedgeree and Whitebait come to mind – but there are many more that I can and do cook fairly often. The Easy Sticky Toffee dessert is to die for, and I’ve made it for my own family and for guests, all of whom have practically licked their plates in transports of ecstasy. The Sticky Toffee dessert is part of a suggested Sunday Lunch for 12 which includes a Slow Roasted Aromatic Shoulder of Pork which is crusty outside, tender inside and wonderful in all possible ways.
Nigella’s recipes are not always as perfect as, say, Thomas Keller’s; I use them more as a general contour than a precise set of instructions. She is not a trained chef and doesn’t pretend to be. They are mostly not “haute,” and that’s okay; its why we should have more than one cookbook on the shelf.
The following is a recipe that is good comfort food on a cold day, and makes a nice meal to eat with kids. Nigella suggests serving it with tomato sauce, chili sauce or a chopped chili to “counter the gorgeously melting blandness of the mozzarella” and I agree. We like ours with tomato soup, or Arrabiata sauce (or just out-of-the-jar tomato sauce with some red pepper flakes). Try this out, or check out some other recipes from the book here, and then go buy this book, or at least get it out of the library.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
(from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson)
- 6 slices white bread, crust removed
- 1 fist-sized ball mozzarella, cut into approximately 1/4 inch slices and then strips
- 1/2 cup whole milk (although I rarely have whole milk in the house and just use whatever I have around)
- 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper
- olive oil (not extra virgin) for frying
Make sandwiches out of bread and mozzarella, leaving a little margin around the edges unfilled with cheese, and press the edges together with your fingers to help seal. Pour the milk into one soup bowl, the flour into another, and beat the egg with salt and pepper in a third. Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dunk the sandwiches briefly, one by one, in the milk (quickly so it doesn’t dissolve), then dredge in the flour, then dip in the egg. Fry in hot oil on each side until crisp and golden and remove to a paper towel.