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Great chefs are not threatened: Nigella Lawson

tv Updated: Apr 05, 2013 19:10 IST
Serena Menon
Serena Menon
Hindustan Times
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Nigella Lawson does not shy from speaking her mind. In July 2011, which was around when she was labelled the ‘Queen of food porn’ for her flirtatious style of presenting recipes, she had said, “I don’t pay attention to good or bad reviews… they’re corrupting.”

Now, a few years later, her new show, Nigellissima, is ready to go on air in India on TLC this April 15. Having already aired internationally, the show has received some feedback, but not all of it has been positive. Reacting once again to a mixed bag of responses, the celebrity food expert, self-trained chef and author tells us more about her career and undying appetite to do more.

Tell us a bit about Nigellissima. Apart from you, what’s the show’s USP?
Well, it’s not an authoritative or traditional look at Italian food; it’s a personal journey. I went to live in Italy between school and university, and have been there pretty much every year since. The show is a way of looking at how I can bring the Italian spirit and taste into my own kitchen. So it’s slightly about attitude and certain spices, but also about trying to explain how simple and straightforward Italian food can be.

The series and your book, Nigellissima, have received varied responses from critics. How do you handle the criticism?
I’m sure there are many chefs who are full of outrage that I’m doing this. But the point is that real cooking is what takes place in people’s kitchens, at their homes. I love chefs; great chefs understand me, great chefs are are not threatened. But I can see that those who don’t have the confidence that comes with talent might feel threatened by someone who doesn’t have any qualifications. The point is that if you needed qualifications to go into the kitchen, human beings would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long time ago. Cooking is not the preserve of experts and it has no real right to be held ransom by the professionals. I feel that my concerns when I am cooking echo those of my readers or viewers.

What is the fastest Italian dish you can prepare?
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake; it is incredibly easy to make. Actually, it doesn’t contain chocolate, it contains cocoa. I created it because a friend, who has Celiac Disease (people suffering from it cannot process gluten), felt very unhappy because he would never be able to eat chocolate cake again. So I used a very light olive oil (you can actually use any not-too-strongly flavoured oil) and ground almonds instead of flour. Even someone who’s never baked before can make it. Eggs in Purgatory is another one of my favourites. I can also never veer too far from roast chicken, so I do Italian Roast Chicken an awful lot.

Do you get to eat Indian cuisine often?
We’re quite lucky because in London particularly, we do have quite a sophisticated array of Indian food. So I do, and actually it does interest me. For example, in the eggs in tomato (read: eggs in purgatory) I told you about, you can easily add a bolder array of Indian spices so that it becomes absolutely delicious.

One-Step No Churn Coffee Ice Cream
“I have a one-step no churn coffee ice-cream, which tastes like the most fantastic gelato in Italy, but is in fact made with condensed milk, cream, coffee liquor and instant espresso powder. It is very un-Italian in how it’s made, but totally Italian in flavour. You don’t need a machine for it. Just stir all these ingredients, whip them together and then put them in a box to freeze. I don’t quite understand; it shouldn’t be that simple, but it is,” says Lawson. Premiering in India on April 15, Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima will air from Monday to Friday at 10 pm on TLC.