Ordinarily I control my cookbook urges. With a collection of cookbooks that has overrun the available shelf space (cookbooks squished sideways on top of others, some spilling onto the floor, others taking over bookshelves originally allocated to "travel" or "history"), I. must. control. myself. I force myself to take a cookbook out of the library first, to ensure that I want to actually cook from it more than once. If a cookbook survives three recipes, I give myself permission to purchase it.
Not Nigella's. The moment I saw this book was on sale, I pre-ordered it. Doing so was the right decision.
Unlike some of her recent cookbooks, about Feasts or Christmas or Cooking Good Food, Fast, this has less of a specific theme except maybe "comfort food meets your real-life frenetic schedule." The first half of the book, called Kitchen Quandaries, leans toward serving your "dinner in 30 minutes" needs, with chapters like "Hurry up, I'm hungry" and "Off the cuff" (pantry suppers). The second, Kitchen Comforts, is full of recipes for when you're in the mood to chop and stir, segmented into chapters including "The solace of stirring" and "the bone collection."
Her recipes do not disappoint. (Well, they almost never DO disappoint, which is why I could order this book with such confidence.) So far, I've made two meals, both from the fast-food side of the book. "Lemony salmon with cherry tomato couscous" was quick to throw together but sure didn't taste that way; it was good as a cold salad, too, when I wanted lunch the next day. Her "speedy seafood supper" won't make me throw out my recipes for the putter-worthy cioppino, but it was 30 minutes from "What's for dinner?" to pouring the fish stew into a bowl and grabbing a hunk of bread. Even better, that recipe started with a pound of frozen mixed seafood from Trader Joe's; I didn't have to remember to defrost anything (a common "oh drat!" moment in this household). I'm making this week's shopping list now, and am trying to decide if I'll make her "spatchcocked Cornish hen" (with sultanas and pine nuts) or "pork and apple hotpot." It might be both.
Nigella includes a few extra features in this cookbook that I really appreciate. One is a chapter devoted to shortcuts and other things that make life a little easier. In many cases these are obvious tips, at least for someone who's been cooking for 30 years, but in this case I had a few, "Oh, I'll try that!" moments. (I had already learned from her TV shows how handy it is to use kitchen shears to cut up bacon or scallions directly into the pan; if that's all you need to cut up, why dirty a knife and cutting board?) Plus, she has a very good balance between recipes that feed 6-8 and those that serve one or two.
Another thing I like is that she has a postscript to many recipes that tell you what you can do with the leftovers. Some leftovers are intentional, of course, such as poaching chicken with the goal of turning leftovers into one of the chicken salads she suggests. Others, though, answer my "What the heck do I do with THIS?" questions, such as her suggestion to turn leftover Risotto Bolognese into "risotto burgers" with cheese melted on top, served with peas. I wish more cookbooks did this.
This cookbook has already earned its spot on the cookbook shelves, and I've had it for only a week. I expect you'll feel the same way. Highly recommended.