In 'At My Table,' Nigella Lawson Celebrates Home Cooking
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Nigella Lawson is with us once again. Her latest cooking show is called "At My Table." It's on the BBC. And her new book has the same name. It's a celebration of home cooking, according to the subtitle. Nigella Lawson, welcome back.
NIGELLA LAWSON: Lovely to be here.
INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness, so you're talking about home cooking.
INSKEEP: I'm thinking about, you know, my own kitchen, and some of the people at the table are going to be kids, and they want nothing with any flavor whatsoever. But you're going to tell me something interesting, I guess, about home cooking.
LAWSON: (Laughter) Well, I've slightly gone through the bits - you know, I've gone through the years when I couldn't put green bits in food, and everything would be looked at with suspicion as if I was trying to poison them. But I think there is a time for the sort of foods that I think frankly get ignored a lot in the Instagram age. You know, I've got a recipe for chicken and barley where everything is a very unphotogenic (ph) beige, and it tastes wonderful. And that is something that, you know, you can give to suspicious children, and they will love it.
INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness, You're right. Just don't worry about the garnish and go with it.
LAWSON: Yes. God, I wouldn't dream of putting parsley on it if I were giving it to small children.
LAWSON: You know, I wouldn't risk offending their sensibilities, but I think home cooking for me is such a sort of creative arena because, yes, it takes in the sort of food we've, you know, loved for ages, the sort of shepherd's pie, meat loaf kind of cooking, which makes us feel like we could be cozily in our grandma's kitchen.
LAWSON: But I think actually there is something quite creative and anarchic about home cooking.
INSKEEP: Because you said anarchic there, I also wonder when it's not TV, when it's just at home, does your kitchen get phenomenally messy while you're cooking?
LAWSON: No, it doesn't. I don't suppose - I mean, I mean anarchic much more in the sense of not being constrained always by the original recipe.
LAWSON: I think that you do need to know how to make something the first time, and I think I want to write recipes that people then can fiddle with in their own way in their kitchen, I think.
INSKEEP: So I'm looking here in the book at a picture of meatballs with orzo and...
LAWSON: Oh, yes.
INSKEEP: ...I'm ready to eat this right now. What's going on here?
LAWSON: Oh, good and also your children will.
INSKEEP: Oh, I was thinking that too, yeah.
LAWSON: So I thought I - well, how about if I just rolled some, you know, ground beef with spices or if I roll those into small meatballs, cooked them in some tomato - quite watery because later, once the meatballs have gone in, I add the orzo pasta, and they cook in the same tomato sauce. And then what you have is this wonderful one-pot meal, incredibly comforting but with a lot of flavor.
LAWSON: I'm glad you've chosen something your children will eat.
INSKEEP: (Laughter) I will...
LAWSON: They'll eat the herbs in the meatball mixture, though.
INSKEEP: If they don't see them or suspect them...
INSKEEP: ...They might. Let's get a tiny bit more adventurous. I'm not sure, but you'll tell me - Turkish eggs. That sounds more adventurous.
LAWSON: OK. Steve, I'm going to change your life with these eggs. If I said to anyone, look, there's this really fabulous dish, and you have poached eggs with a butter sauce on top of yogurt, you'd think, has she lost her mind? That doesn't sound right. But the point is it's so good altogether. So you - to the Greek yogurt, you just put some sea salt flakes and you mince in some garlic. I then melt some butter in a pan, and then I add just a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil. And then there's some wonderful Turkish red pepper flakes, and you add some of that, and the whole thing just suddenly bubbles up a fiery orange. Set that to one side, poach your eggs, and then - so you've got the room temperature garlicky yogurt in a little bowl, and then you put the poached egg on top, and then you put the fiery orange butter over the top of that and some fresh dill, sourdough toast or something rustic, dip in and eat, and you're in heaven.
INSKEEP: I feel like I can see this just from the description. Let's get even more ambitious, if we can. Can you go to something even a little more sophisticated that you could still see an ordinary person making at home?
LAWSON: Well, yes, I will. I'm going to take you to my beef and eggplant fatteh, which actually uses much the same technique. It's like a refined Middle Eastern form of nachos. So you have some pita bread. I use scissors to cut that into triangles and put them in the oven to toast, remove them. And I make a sauce. This time, I add to the Greek yogurt some tahini, lots of lemon juice, bit - you know, two gloves of garlic. And I warm that so it gets slightly aerated and the chill leaves it.
And then I make a meat sauce when I've chopped up the eggplant to very small cubes. And I cook those, you know, with onion, add some ground beef and ground cumin, ground coriander. And it's so wonderful for everyone sitting around a table and snatching bits and picking in bits. It's quite messy, but I love that. And, you know, it is in a way for a lot of people, a very unfamiliar way of eating. It's - in itself, we all know what ground meat is, and the pita chips we know, but together, it's different. It's a different thing to eat.
INSKEEP: When you say it's a different way of eating, are you eating this without cutlery? You're dipping the chips basically into the beef.
LAWSON: Yes, yes, but you're not really dipping them because they're slightly underneath anyway a bit like when you do nachos.
INSKEEP: So I want to mention this as kind of an aside, but we were recently doing some reporting in the Middle East, and we were in Yemen and ate a number of meals where there is - there's no silverware.
INSKEEP: And you just break off a hunk of lamb with your hand or whatever you do, and it completely changes the experience to have that kind of tactile contact with the food when you're not the chef, when it's all over your hands and you're the person eating it.
LAWSON: Yes, yes. I mean, I would like to calm people to know that this isn't - you know, it's not quite as outgoing to the next level...
INSKEEP: Not quite as adventurous as that, but still.
LAWSON: ...As taking a hunk of meat. But I think actually, it creates a more intimate atmosphere when sharing the food as well. It's not just about how you experience the food. It's how you experience the company as well. And that is what cooking is about.
INSKEEP: The new book by Nigella Lawson is "At My Table: A Celebration Of Home Cooking." It's great to talk with you again. Thank you very much.
LAWSON: And you. OK, then.
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