Easy Entertaining – Nigella Style

This post is inspired by two things.  Firstly, a lovely long leisurely lunch on Saturday with good friends who came down to visit us from Bournemouth.  Secondly, by a fantastic new blogging event hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcake. Here’s why:  

Entertaining - you never want it to be stressful.  My first tip is to call upon a trusted virtual kitchen companion to make your life easier.  In my case, it is usually one of two people. Nigella Lawson, whom I love for the fact that her recipes are down-to-earth, do-able and always tasty. Or, Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) an American cook who offers effortless dishes with easy-to-follow recipes and great flavours.

This time, I was swayed by Nigella and in particular by her comprehensive new book Nigella Kitchen.  Her most recent book really raises the bar for cookery books this year. She has already sold over 400,000 copies and its easy to see why.  It is huge. Nigella herself calls it a “comfort chronicle”‘ and it really is just that. 

The one thing you can always be sure of with a Nigella book is good value. It may be pricey (RRP £26) but she doesn’t short change you on recipes.  There are plenty of ideas for almost every occasion, 190 in total in the compendium, with 60 express recipes at 30 minutes or under. 

Four our lazy luncheon, I decided to cook Nigella’s Butternut, rocket and pine nut salad (page 94).  The butternut squash was coated in olive oil, turmeric and ginger (I added cumin) and roasted in the oven.  A dressing is made with golden sultanas (I didn’t have any so omitted these) and sherry vinegar, poured over the warm squash and tossed with the rocket leaves and toasted pine nuts.  

I served the butternut salad alongside a platter of well-seasoned, sliced grilled steak (Nigella suggests her Indian-rubbed lamb chops) a creamy roll of local goat’s cheese (which complemented the squash and steak perfectly) and some oven baked bread. My guest’s plates were all left empty, which I can only take as a good sign. 

The real star of the show was pudding.  In fact, it wasn’t just pudding, it was Nigella’s Marmalade pudding cake (page 269).  This happened to be the very first recipe I was drawn to when opening her new book on Christmas Day and one which I couldn’t wait to make.  (Click on the link to find the recipe or visit http://www.nigella.com/)

 

Aside from the fact that it was explode-in-the-mouth sensational, it was by far, the easiest cake I have ever made.  It was so easy that I wonder whether it has actually made my beloved KitchenAid mixer redundant…

 All the ingredients are literally measured out and thrown into a food processor (my three-year old helped me with this.)  A couple of blitzes later and your have your batter ready to scoop out straight into a dish and into the oven for 30-40 minutes. 

 With my ingredients set out at room temperature, I was able to make the pudding just before serving the main and stick it in the oven (already hot from having roasted the butternut squash).  By the time we had finished eating, we had a steaming hot, soft, perfectly risen sponge pudding. 

 Just before serving, you make a speedy glaze, a couple of spoons of marmalade mixed with some water mixed together over heat. Poured over the top, with gleaming shards of orange peel (I used medium cut marmalade)  and your pudding is transformed into a golden, shining, delectable pud.  All it needed was big serving bowls, a steaming jug of custard and a slightly smaller pot of double cream for good measure.

 

If you don’t have a food processor, Nigella gives instructions for the creaming method, which just takes slightly longer to make. The pudding served four of us and there was enough left-over for both the kids to have pudding for two days afterwards.  I add, that there was only some pudding remaining because we were all so full.

 

 If I were to make it again, I wouldn’t change a thing as far as the method.  For a flavour variation though, I may try it with lemon curd and lemon peel to see what happens!

 

It has definitely become my favourite pud of all time. Since both recipes worked a treat and didn’t let me down in front of an audience, I am entering this post into this month’s blogging event, “Forever Nigella” hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcake – to share the love and hopefully encourage everyone out there to make it!

Sarah’s theme is “Seasonal Sensations” and on the basis that the vibrant citrus smell of the Marmalade pudding cake, which filled my kitchen on Saturday reminded me so much of clementines at Christmas, I hope it makes my post a worthy contender.  Although the butternut squash is a lovely winter seasonal vegetable too…

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