Nigella Lawson interview
PUBLISHED: 11:26 24 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:13 20 February 2013
Food writer and presenter Nigella Lawson returns to Norwich
Grilling the goddess
Food writer and presenter Nigella Lawson appears in Norwich this month, and Sarah Cassells wants to know what she thinks about Delia, dieting and doing different in Norfolk.
Theres a colourful corner of Norfolk that Nigella Lawson finds impossible to resist. Its not our wide open skies, the beauty of the Broads or a particular north Norfolk beach so often quoted by visiting celebrities, but a refreshingly different favourite space and one many of us will share.
Im afraid I spend an awful lot of time in Jarrolds, she admits with a guilty sigh. I did almost all my Christmas shopping there the year before last. I remember getting a girlfriend a very nice Marc Jacobs-y handbag and another friend a lovely velvet one that looked very vintage, and I bought my daughter a nice top from the fashion department. All in all I dont think I should have done quite so much shopping
The glamorous television cook is back in Norwich this November for a special evening at Delias Canary Catering and says she hopes to have time before the shops shut because I always find something that I havent seen in London.
Currently appearing on BBC2 with her 13-part series Nigella Kitchen, the domestic goddess is also on the look out for inspiration from Norfolks home cooks. Her evening at Delias will be an opportunity for guests to grill her about her new book Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home, but shes got a few questions of her own too.
I feel so passionately about what I do that I always say to people: Ask me anything, I dont mind if its about food or not, she says. Its really nice that it then becomes a bit of a conversation. People ask what to do with unusual ingredients and have questions about feeding children. Ive also had really interesting feedback about how people have tweaked a recipe of mine and what theyve done with leftovers. Im so nosy that if people say to me: I cooked that recipe of yours I always say: When and who for? Id also like to find out more about local produce and what the new movements are.
Nigella, who turned 50 this year, first visited Norfolk as a 13 year old, staying with a school friend near Diss. Because I was a child I cant remember what the village was called, but I adored itbecause there was lots of running about and being outside.
She also says shes fortunate to have moved in the same circles as Norfolks most famous culinary export. Ive always been a huge fan of Delia, she says.
Is it their shared attitude towards no-nonsense cooking thats drawn the two icons together? Shes much more accomplished than I am! says Nigella.
I think she has been and continues to be a fabulous force in food. Shes very experienced and yet she gives confidence to people who are perhaps more tentative, and thats a great gift.
Nigella suggests that their common ground is probably the assertion that they are both cooks, not chefs.
So often people say: Oh, Im not a chef! as though thats a limitation, but I think its a great liberation.
Its always been the theme of my books and is very empathic in Kitchen. So often people say: Oh, Im not a chef! as though thats a limitation, but I think its a great liberation. When cooking professionally you cant make the same lovely relaxed food, like slow-cooked food.
New book Kitchen is an evolution of her bestselling back catalogue, which includes How to be a Domestic Goddess, Nigella Bites, Feast, and Nigella Christmas, and her numerous accompanying television series. A former Sunday Times and Vogue journalist, her contagious enthusiasm for food, and her relaxed, engaging attitude has prompted thousands to get back into their kitchens.
Kitchen is Nigellas biggest book to date and rich in home-cooked recipes.
I love being in the kitchen; the room interests me as a sanctuary and a place where you warm your soul, she says. I wanted the illustrations not just to depict the food but also to convey mood. I just had fun really!
Among her personal favourites is her mothers roast chicken. I call it praised chicken because she would cook it in a pot on the hob and I didnt know whether to call it poached or braised. Ive probably cooked that more than anything in my life.
While Nigellas father, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, is perhaps her better-known parent, her mother, Vanessa Salmon, was the beautiful socialite and heiress to the Lyons Corner House empire, who died in 1985.
Nigella is married to art-collector Charles Saatchi and has two children Cosima, 16, and Bruno, 14, by her late husband John Diamond. The food from Kitchen is what she cooks for family at home and, occasionally, her children show interest. Their efforts, she says, are mainly pasta-based but her son is very into stir fries.
Shes also conscious of equipping them with a healthy attitude to food, which is partly a reaction to her own upbringing. My mother had a run of pretty bad eating disorders when I was in my teens and thats possibly one of the reasons Im not one of those women who makes a career out of dieting, because Ive seen what its like, she says. When I had my daughter I vowed that I would never say: You shouldnt be eating that. I feel as long as they eat healthily at mealtimes, a bit of everything is fine. Like any parent, you just have to hope you give them enough sense of self that they can use their own judgement.
Nutrition is also a consideration when Nigella composes her recipes, but shes loath to extract any ingredient on the grounds that its considered unhealthy by contemporary nutritionists. Like butter or cream, she says. I wouldnt have them every day, but as long as theres a lot of fruit and veg included as well, the odd spoonful of cream isnt going to do any harm. I feel if we learn to enjoy real food, were going to eat a lot more healthily than someone who is always afraid about whether what theyre eating is good or bad. As a parent I am very strict that my children have a proper breakfast and not sugary things at night and Ive always given them water, but those are my only rules.
Drinking lots of water it turns out is also one of Nigellas secrets for looking fab at 50. Compliment her and shes endearingly flustered. Its really odd that it sounds very old, but I think people look different now, she ponders. Maybe not being thin has its advantages in terms of lines on the face.
But what about any secret superfoods hidden in her recipes? Well, I believe in eating avocado to keep your hair glossy, and I also joke that when people say my meals include fat I say: Yes, but its moisturiser from within! Low fat diets make peoples skin very dry, parched and aged. Thats my excuse!
It could be so easy to be envious of such a gorgeous, successful woman, but one with a weakness for shopping, cream and butter is as irresistible as her famously indulgent cakes.
Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson is available now for 26, published by Chatto & Windus.