TV review: Nigella: At My Table
PUBLISHED: 00:01 03 November 2017
"I want pleasure. I want flavour and I want ease," thus purred Nigella Lawson who is back on the box in an attempt to turn us all from Domestic Slatterns to Domestic Goddesses or Gods.
Generally, when it comes to cooking, I just want something that everyone will eat without (a) rolling their eyes (b) looking at the plate and crying (c) actually gagging – a successful spot of home cooking at my house involves a meal which doesn’t end with someone asking me to never make it again.
Pleasure and flavour I can take or leave. Ease is another matter – if I could serve up pills instead of food, I would.
I once made the mistake of buying a slow-cooker with the idea that, with minimum morning effort, I could return home to a house filled with the delicious aroma of a simmering stew and simply plate it up and wait for a tide of effusive praise from my grateful family.
Instead, there would be an air of dread when the red light on the crock pot was glowing – the day I served my first slow-cooked stew was, coincidentally, the day my family begged me never to use it again. But never let it be said that my lack of joy for cooking means that I am not a Cookery Tourist. My shelves groan with cookery books – Nigella would love my collection, she too collects the obscure and the bizarre and I have entire shelves of them – and Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles is my current book at bedtime. I love cookery programmes on TV. My husband has his own cookery school. In the face of such compelling evidence to suggest I’d be good at cooking, you have to admit it’s impressive that I’m not.
I must admit that I have a soft spot for Nigella Lawson, who is back on our screens after a two-year absence. Her new series is all about the kind of food she serves on her own table, which on first viewing, is very little like the kind of food that I serve on my table. I think if I offered up her first recipe - poached egg on warm yoghurt with chilli butter sauce - for breakfast there would be a hasty exodus. I might try it the next time I need to get everyone moving quickly.
On the plus side, she also showed us how to make toast, to eat with aforementioned eggs and I can boastfully report I’ve already totally nailed that recipe.
There was then a Nigella/Midsomer Murders mash-up in which she donned black latex gloves in order to handle frozen peas while upmarket hotel lobby music played in the background and we tried to banish the image of a serial killer from the 1970s as she made some kind of pea/chicken tray bake with a beatific smile on her face at all times.
Next was a Queen of Puddings, all while keeping Harry Hill in a job, selflessly providing him with a whole host of new material for his Nigella’s Innuendo Countdown (“now I impale”, “I’m enjoying roughing up a meringue”). As a final hurrah, Nigella – about a quarter of the size she was when she started out on television – then kidded us that she has call for ‘emergency brownies’ in the middle of the night, which is usually the province of students who’ve been smoking too many funny cigarettes.
Wafting to her permanently fairy-lit kitchen (I am married to a chef – our kitchen has LED overhead lights that are brighter than the core of the sun) in the kind of silken dressing gown that is the polar opposite of my Primark fleecy one, she then whipped up an artery-clogging pudding that she then ate on the stairs, her dressing gown unsullied by ugly smears of chocolate or grease-tracks of butter.
And it wasn’t just her ability to make brownies in the dark without covering herself in the evidence that made me envious: Nigella’s tea towels are all 100 per cent nicer than anything I wear, ever. The £99 spiraliser on her rose gold £739 food processor cost more than all the electrical items in my kitchen put together. She has AN ENTIRE SHELF FOR CHILLIES WHICH IS ILLUMINATED BY CHILLI FAIRYLIGHTS. She is perfect. I am not worthy.
Back in 2007, viewers swooned in horror when it was revealed that the ‘family kitchen’ in which she presented Nigella Express was, in fact, an industrial unit just off the traffic-choked South Circular which had been adorned with kiddie pictures, her actual kiddies and Charles Saatchi in order to give the impression we were seeing Nige cooking at home. This is worse, because I think the palace we saw on Monday actually might be her kitchen - I’m off to buy a spiraliser, a basket ladle, some black-skinned purple-flesh vitelotte potatoes and some Aleppo pepper. I may be some time.