Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Feasting

I should really put Nigella's Feast over in the sidebar under books read [edited to add: done!], because it was the best book I got for Christmas, and the only one I've read cover to cover. She's such a fun writer.

I've also been cooking up a storm out of it. The New Year's day pork roast, which I made before New Year's, then the lentils, the breakfast banana ring and the banana pancakes, a big pasta, the biscotti...there may even be more, but that's enough, isn't it? Six recipes out of a new cookbook? (I made the banana ring twice already, too.)

I have been thinking about why it's so much fun to make these recipes. (Even when, as with the big pasta, they really aren't much to write home about.) There's something very inviting about the way Nigella presents herself and her cooking--nothing too elaborate or fussy, just home cooking.

The recipes are well presented, at least for people who already cook. I'm not sure how it works for truly novice cooks, as she tends to assume a lot. She assumes, for example, that you'll be comfortable substituting ingredients. Often she'll tell you about alternatives right there in a sidebar. With the banana breakfast ring, she reminds you that a half teaspooon of vinegar in a cup of milk makes an acceptable substitute for buttermilk--which was helpful to me as I had less buttermilk than I thought in the fridge! In a big encyclopedic cookbook like the Joy of Cooking or Fanny Farmer, there's a table of substitutions, but you need to check the index to find it and then see if the particular ingredient you don't have is actually listed. I like Nigella's way better, though of course if she didn't happen to think of an alternative you won't find it at all.

Becca's already talked about problems with some of the recipes, and I'm sure there are more, but I've still been finding the book out on the countertop more often than in the bookshelf over the last two weeks, and with mostly gratifying results. My winter cooking binge will have to slow down next week when classes start up again, so I'm taking advantage now.

1 comment:

caroline said...

If we didn't have better things to do we could start compiling our annotations to this cookbook! Like, yes, the plastic wrap really does melt, and no, there's really no butter in the chocolate orange cake even though she says to cream the butter with the sugar. I've made the granola several times (delicious), and just noticed a mistake in that recipe too. But we don't love Nigella for her perfectly edited recipes.
Maybe soon I'll venture further out of the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame, but right now I've got to find some maltesers...