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I'm such a sucker for Nigella
on 3 October 2008
I can't help really, really liking Nigella Lawson; she forces me, in spite of myself. I try to remember she's married to a millionaire and that she's probably written this whole Christmassy book in the middle of August but ... there's something genuine about her passion for parties, drinks, canapes, turkey... that by the end, is making me wish I was her. Or at least her friend.
This is a great christmas book, (although I am NOT going to agree with the person who says it's loads better than Delia! Don't be stupid! You cannot swap this book for Delia at christmas, not least for the simple practical reason that Nigella is WAY too big to go to Waitrose in the trolley. And I'm not putting chocolate in the Christmas cake, whatever NL says).
What is unique about Nigella's book? The little details you don't expect. Black bean soup hangover cures. Chicken soup flu remedies. A sharp fruit salad to wake you up on Christmas morning. Her naughty selection of Yuletide drinks (martinis made with earl grey tea, and um, honeyed vodka....).
There's a great selection of twists on the conventional Christmas book stuff: preserves to make as gifts include chilli jam, pomegranate vodka and gorgeous little sweets in the shape of xmas puddings.
Long-time Nigella users will not be surprised that cupcakes make it in there: Christmas fairy cakes have silver sprinkles on, apparently. And I will definitely concede that Nigella's yule log actually looks better than Delia's, though I haven't done a back-to-back taste test. And can't actually promise to.
For me one of the big tests of a Christmas cookbook is the vegetarian option, because it's SO HARD to find nice ones to make things as special for the non-meat eaters. Hers is a ginormous pumpkin stuffed with rice. It looks gorgeous, but I'm not sure whether all those extra carbs are what you need on National Roast Potato Day.
The leftovers recipes, another test, are great. Cassoulet for leftover goose, oriental beef salad for beef, and her agent Ed Victor's turkey hash for the dreaded bird.
The only problem with changing ANY of the reliable recipes at Christmas is that it ruins the whole day if they are rubbish, and then you have to wait a whole year to fix the mistakes. One thing I'm absolutely sold on is her FOUR PAGE Christmas pudding which even she describes as "the ultimate". You even get instructions for how to stir it, for which I once more love her.
So look I think this book is probably a must-have. So few pictures of her in her ringlets simpering this time around that I almost miss them, and loads of her very funny, motivating, seductive prose about food. I won't be swapping from Delia's red cabbage, but I will definitely be trying quite a lot of stuff out of this book, on the basis that for me, her recipes are utterly reliable and always turn out a treat. And I haven't even mentioned the prosecco jelly...
I hadn't quite realised until other reviewers pointed it out that this book is absolutely CHOCKA with repeat recipes. Spurred by their criticisms I sat in the kitchen last night flicking through my other NIgella books and realised that almost half the recipes in Nigella Christmas have already appeared in other titles - even though she has, I admit, slightly modified most of them. (Eg chestnut and lentil soup is now just chestnut, rocky road has glacé cherries in it, etc etc.) But still! I am a bit shocked. The good thing of course is that all the recipes are in one place, so you don't have to go hunting through her other books to find the Christmas ones. However it does make me think a bit less of the book.