Monday, November 29, 2004

Me and my Salt Pig

About 2 weeks ago, my dad very kindly bought me a pale blue Salt Pig from Nigella Lawson's Living Kitchen range. It's so beautiful! It's about 8 inches high, and shaped like an egg. It lives on the Western end of our 3 metre island bench.


Salt pig - with salt

We've filled it with Maldon Salt (the best salt in the world - from Essex!) and it's very convenient for salt-grabbage and sprinklage. He bought it when I was in the middle of exams and studying (in the kitchen, as I do) and the Salt Pig is so cute, it made me smile just looking at its perfectly smooth pale blue happy curviness.

I don't think that Nigella's Living Kitchen range really suits my kitchen too much (it's way too subtle and elegant to sit in a bright-yellow Kill Bill postered room!) but I really love this Salt Pig, and think it really looks at home in my kitchen.

  • The Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen Range


  • And Maldon Salt is excellent. It has a lovely crisp salty taste and a great crunch. And it's good to use in a pestle and mortar for its abrasive texture.

  • The Maldon Crystal Salt Company



  • Me and salt pig - just to prove that I actually own one, and didn't download the above photo from a website!

    Thursday, November 25, 2004

    Lunch alla Romana

    Today, after coming home from seeing Bridge Jones' Diary 2, we had the "Supper alla Romana" from Nigella's Feast. Except it was lunch... and I didn't do the dessert (a blonde mocha sauce to pour over ice-cream). In this hot weather, all I would want for dessert is fruit!

    The lunch is Penne alla Vodka, and a Ricotta and Pine Nut Salad. It is wonderfully easy to make! The pasta sauce is just tomatoes, onion, garlic and oil, cooked and then tossed through cooked pasta with vodka, and a touch of cream and butter. It's so tasty!


    Pasta in Pot

    The salad that goes with is some mixed lettuce, topped with toasted pine nuts and ricotta cheese mixed with fresh basil. It is then dressed with oil, vinegar and paprika. It's so so so easy, and looks really impressive! I love the way the red paprika stands out against the white cheese as well. (It makes it looks more professional and less like something you'd quickly whip up after coming home from a film - even though that's what I did).


    Ricotta and Pine Nut Salad

    I also served it with some leftover Garlic and Parsley Hearthbread (see previous post), which I toasted. I halved the recipes, but still ended up with a lot of food. Never mind, it was so tasty we scoffed the lot.


    The Meal

    The Penne alla Vodka is, I think, the most popular dish from Feast - practically everyone who posts on Nigella.com (and yes, I am one of them!) has been raving about it, and now I can see why! I'd been dying to make this dish for months - and I'm glad to confirm that it's very very good.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    End of Exams! Let's Feast!

    Had my last exam today... and the first thing I did after coming home was bake some bread! Bashing that dough around was such stress-relieving fun. I didn't even use the KitchenAid to knead it - did it all with my pilates-strengthened arms. It was Nigella's Garlic and Parsley Hearthbreads. Bread is one of the things that I find very difficult to cook, so I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out very well. (Just goes to show what a good recipe it is!) Everyone on the Nigella.com forum raves about this bread. And with good reason!




    We had it for dinner, with some turmeric-teriyaki grilled salmon fillets, mixed lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cucumber. And a lovely glass (or two!) of crisp white wine. Perrrrrrfect!

    Quote:

    George: mmm that's some sexy bread
    Adri: it's so professional! the colours make it look like pro!

    ps I've started reading Nigella's new book, Feast!! It's so ace! It's huge, thick, and full of lovely wordy paragraphs describing the food and the eating and the rituals. Mmmm... and there are lots of cool pictures too. Droolness!! I think I'll be cooking a lot in the next couple of weeks!!

    Sunday, November 14, 2004

    Why Food Writing is Porn (for me)

    I recently wrote an essay on pornography for cinema studies, and whilst researching (extensively) for my essay I made the connection between food writing and pornography.

    Before I continue, I have to state that the purpose of this essay is not to contend that consuming food writing is a sexual experience. I do, however, find it interesting that many cookbooks and cooking programs take on features of a pornographic aesthetic. An obvious example is Nigella Lawson’s programs (not that they were overtly sexual to begin with, but I think that due to her stunning beauty, many viewers find her program sexual… and she seems to have picked up on this in the later seasons). But more amusing and obviously sexual is Nigel Slater’s Real Food. From him lying atop the bench in his dimly-lit kitchen, the 80’s-porn-film-Careless-Whisper-style saxophone in the background and the way he describes the food – “Stir the chocolate in the double boiler until it becomes smooth and sexy”, or “I love a good sausage”, his show is full of sexual innuendos which are so overt that they’re just not innuendo anymore. It’s hilarious. But more importantly, his shows (and Nigella’s ones too) are good, and the sexuality is just an interesting aside to the quality recipes that they present.

    Anyway, back to the connection between food writing and porn. Pornography is something pleasurable and obsessive you consume in private, which involves transgressing boundaries you police publicly (Lumby, 1997, p97-98). I consume endless cookbooks and food magazines (Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Jill Dupleix, Vogue Entertaining and Travel, Australian Gourmet Traveller etc), and can spend lots of time just sitting and reading.

    Although a concrete definition of pornography is difficult to pin down, broadly speaking, “pornography’s principal and most humanly significant function is that of arousing sexual excitement” (Carter, 2000, p. 534), inciting sexual activity and ultimately leading to orgasm. This type of definition can also be applied to food writing – food writing’s principal and most humanly significant function is that of arousing the appetite, inciting eating or cooking, ultimately leading to satiation. I know that when I read quality food writing or watch quality food programs, my appetite is undoubtedly aroused… or at the very least I am inspired to cook.

    The spectrum of pornography runs from soft-core erotica to hardcore pornography. In a similar manner to attempting to define the term ‘pornography’, establishing a concrete delineation of and separation between erotica and pornography is difficult, as the terms are again subjective and ambiguous. Furthermore, individual responses to various erotic stimuli will inevitably vary from person to person. According to Han Li Thorn, an erotica author, pornography is sexually driven, emotionally remote, crude and functional in its purpose to stimulate orgasm. Lisabet Sarai, another erotica author, considers the responses of the body and mind to the text to be the determining factor in distinguishing pornography from erotica. Sex without stimulating the mind is just sex, but the purely physical can be transformed to the erotic by means of appealing to the mind. In my case, I would classify fast food advertising as ‘hardcore food porn’, in its crude function of stimulating appetite without appealing to the palate in any sort of sophisticated way. Neil Perry’s Food Source program, on the other hand, would be soft-core erotica – yes it does stimulate your appetite, but it also makes you think about food as a whole experience, rather than just satiation of appetite. When you watch his program, you think of the suppliers, the quality of the food, matching the food with appropriate drinks, combining flavours and the enjoyment of the whole food experience.

    The function of erotic writing is to turn “the flesh into word. This is the real transformation the text performs upon libidinous fantasy” (Carter, 2000, p. 535). Additionally, the “verbal structure is in itself reassuring. We know we are not dealing with real flesh or anything like it, but with a cunningly articulated verbal simulacrum which has the power to arouse, but not, in itself, to assuage desire” (Carter, 2000, p. 535). In my opinion, Nigella Lawson is one of the most skilled food writers around – her words express accurately, but not clinically, the gorgeous tastes and textures of food, (thereby arousing appetite). But more than this, she writes in a way that makes you excited to be involved in creating meals for yourself, your friends, your family, and conveys the pleasures in cooking, eating and sharing food (thus encouraging the connection of the mind to the food). Other writers I enjoy include Nigel Slater, Jill Dupleix…

    Incidentally, by no means do I claim this to be an original discovery – but isn’t that the whole point of academic-style writing? To take thoughts that are already subconsciously known and understood, and then formalize them in fancy writing, thereby making yourself appear intelligent. Then you can share these ideas with everyone else and pretend you came up with them all by yourself. I’m a clever cookie.


    References:

    Carter, Angela. 2000. “Polemical Preface: Pornography in the Service of Women”. Feminism and pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch. 28. 527-539.

    Lumby, Catherine. 1997. “Why feminists need porn”. Bad Girls: the media, sex and feminism in the ‘90’s, St Leonard: Allen & Unwin. Ch. 5. 94-116.

    Sarai, Lisabet. 2004. Lisabet Sarai’s Fantasy Factory. Available from . 2 November 2004.

    Thorn, Han Li. 2004. The Erotic Fiction of Han Li Thorn. Available from . 2 November 2004.

    Friday, November 12, 2004

    Roast chicken Pasta

    I made this the night after the roast chicken, having been inspired by an episode of Nigella Bites which screened on Lifestyle Food whilst I was busy writing my Musicals essay (which is done now... hence my spending loads of time blogging!). Her recipe must be from How To Eat - the only Nigella book I don't own (hint hint).

    Basically what I can remember her doing is roasting a chicken, then putting the pan juices in a small saucepan with water-soaked raisins and toasted pine nuts, adding some fresh thyme and heating it through. Then she pulled the meat & skin off the chicken, and mixed the meat, sauce and some cooked tagliatelle in a big bowl.

    Anyways - the lemon & garlic spatchcock chicken I made had lots of juices left over (and some meat left on random parts of the carcass), so the next night, I scooped all the solidified juices (sorry to be gross!) into a saucepan with marsala-soaked raisins and pine nuts. Also, there were bits of lemon skin and red onion left in the chicken pan, so I chopped them up and added them to the sauce.


    Beautiful colours!

    Then I pulled all the meat off the carcass and mixed it up with some fettucine and the sauce. It was really nice, with parsley and parmesan cheese.

    Word of advice - my mum didn't like the lemon skin in the pasta and picked it out. I liked it though - so it's your call whether you add it or not. It does look pretty against the purple onion bits though!


    Tasty.

    Spatchcock Chicken with Lemon & Rosemary, and Double Potato and Feta Bake

    Well I made this for dinner the other night. The chicken is from Forever Summer, and the potato bake is from Nigella Bites. I basically made it because we had feta and a sweet potato lying around and I wanted to use them up before mould and wrinkling occured.


    Food... I really should get married.

    It really is very very easy.

    1. Marinate chicken and cut all the vegies up. Chuck in pan.
    2. Go to gym for an hour. (Make mum preheat the oven while you're out)
    3. Come home. Chuck chicken and vegies into the oven.
    4. Have a shower.
    5. Put cheese on top of vegetables for 5 minutes while you...
    6. Set the table.
    7. Eat.

    Dad: Well done Sarah. You make it look easy, but I know it must be very difficult.
    Me: Um, nah. Actually it IS very easy. You just cut everything up and put it in the dish.
    Dad: Yes, but cutting up vegetables is hard!

    Hehe, my dad's gorgeous.

    The fun part about making this is spatchcocking (aka dismembering) the chicken. (And no, not just because it's called spatchCOCKing... haha). I used a meat cleaver, then a pair of scissors... then finally my bare hands to rip out the poor thing's backbone before flipping it over and pressing it flat. It's disturbingly satisfying to do. It only takes 45 minutes to cook! Insania.

    The world's BEST hangover cure

    Ok - so on Saturday night I had a pretty large night out - mid-exam break, you know. Anyway, the next morning I was feeling quite rough, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try Nigella's Mozzarella in Carozza, from Nigella Bites.

    It's just two pieces of white bread with cheese in the middle (you're supposed to use mozzarella but I only had Coon Tasty Light... classy), which you squish together, then dip in milk, flour and egg before frying it up. There was a bit of egg left over, so I also dipped & fried up the crusts.


    Mmm... fattening! (By the way, this is only half the sandwich - I ate the first half when I realised it was so good that it warranted a photo + blog).

    Oh my god, it was so so so good! Dipped in Thai sweet chilli sauce, all gooey and salty and crunchy and soft. It just wakes you up from hungover stupor. And I had Woscesteshire (dunno how to spell that) sauce with the fried crusts - MAGIC. And this is coming from a girl who hates French toast! Bizzare.

    If you've been looking for an excuse to drink more - this is it.

    Pappardelle with Courgettes, Sultanas and Pine Nuts

    I made this for just my mum and I the other day for lunch, and it was so delicious I made it for the whole family the next day. I think my dad was sceptical about the raisins at first - but he loved it - all the elements just work so well together.


    mmm... smells great


    pasta

    It's from Nigella Lawson's book Forever Summer, which is one of my favourite cookbooks of all time. Also, I just found out on the Nigella.com forum that there's a Forever Summer cooking club who are trying to work their way through the book. How awesome is that?! I love this book so much I've already done about half of them (so so so tasty). I should see if I can join them on this quest.

    Um yeah so the pasta - you cook up a bunch of zucchinis with garlic and oil, then add marsala-soaked raisins and toasted pine nuts. Then you toss the whole lot with egg pappardelle (only a small amount because it swells up a lot and is very filling) and have it with loads of parmesan cheese. Mmmm...

    By the way, pappardelle is really wide, flat pasta - like a wide fettucine or a very narrow lasagne. The one I bought is about 1.5 inches wide. It's toothsome.

    Normally I'd include a quote here from someone who ate it... but it really isn't necessary. My brother was conspicuously quiet during the meal, so I was worried he didn't like it... until we were going for seconds and there was only two pieces of pasta left in the dish. He scooped them up before I even had a chance. My mum scraped the sauce off the tongs. Success.

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    Swot Vac Pasta

    Well I made a pasta for lunch today when I should have been doing my Musicals essay.

    Here's the recipe. Basically I was trying to use up all the little bits and pieces that were sitting in the fridge. It was really really good. Like very very very nice. I'm going to make it for the family tomorrow night.

    These quantities are for 1 person (i.e. me, a girl with a big appetite and an obsession with chilli, garlic and anchovies) but you can adjust them to taste. And I served it with some torn cos lettuce with a bit of oil and vinegar drizzled over.

    Swot Vac Pasta

    Boil 125g penne pasta. Steam 1 bunch trimmed and chopped (same length as penne) asparagus over pasta for 3 minutes.

    Heat oil, 2 cloves crushed garlic and 2 chopped chillies (don't deseed unless you're a wuss) with 3 anchovy fillets in a pan. Stir around until anchovies break up into mush and the pan is fragrant. Add a small handful chopped up semi-dried tomatoes and stir around. Tip in asparagus and stir to coat in the fragrant oil. Turn off the heat. Add drained pasta to the pan and stir around to distribute the asparagus evenly. Tip into a bowl and crumble over feta cheese (and some chopped parsley if you've got it) Eat with a fork, on the couch in front of the TV or computer.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2004

    Cake Love

    Today I was attempting to get stuck into my cinema studies essay, but the only thing I got stuck into was Lifestyle Food.

    When I came home from the gym at about 12:30, I flicked on the TV and what was on but Tyler's Ultimate, one of my favourite cooking programs combining food and travel. He basically goes around looking for the most authentic and best versions of different foods (e.g. pizza, cheesecake, eggplant etc) Man, I am so jealous of that Tyler - he has the ultimate job! (No pun intended). Today's episode was "Party Cakes".

    He went to this bakery in Washington DC called Cake Love, run by Warren Brown. I found his story really inspiring. Brown used to be a practising lawyer, but he always had a passion for baking cakes and would bake all night after work. So anyways, eventually he stopped practising law and opened his bakery, Cake Love, making beautiful and delicious cakes (and cupcakes, cookies etc)... It was awesome watching him just whip up a couple of cakes (New German Chocolate, Susie's a Pink Lady and another one which I forget...) with such fast precision - he really knows what he's doing and the cakes looked amazing. His bakery is one of the best in the country and he's also opened a cafe across the street, the Love Cafe. I wanna go to DC just to visit his bakery! I mean, who cares about the Whitehouse, the Pentagon, and all those monuments when there's CAKE!! Sweet delicious cake!

  • The Cake Love Website