From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...lShe appeared on the scene at a time when celebrity chefs still wore button-down "dress" whites and their cookbooks, for the most part, were formulaic "knit one, purl two" instruction manuals. This photogenic daughter of the British peerage seemingly burst out of nowhere, and, with her famous come-hither grin, convinced us that a lusty appreciation of good food was an acceptable extension of the good life. I speak, of course, of the domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson, who is being featured this week on our on-going series of women on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game Changers in Food. She is a wife, mother, writer and media personality who happens to come from a distinguished and privileged background. Her father was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Margaret Thatcher's government and her mother, a great beauty, was an heiress with an impeccable background. She attended Oxford where she received a Master's degree in Medieval and Modern Languages and she went on to become the deputy editor of The Sunday Times. Her love of food led to some cross-over in her writing, and she began to write a food-column for The Spectator magazine. She married John Diamond, a broadcaster and fellow journalist while writing for the magazine, and he was instrumental in transforming her appearance and developing her public persona. Her first book, 'How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food', was published in 1998 and it was the springboard to her television series 'Nigella Bites.' The show was a huge success and it led to a second book and another series. In 2000, she published her 3rd book, 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess', which was voted Cookery Book of the Year' by the Guild of Food Writers the following year. While it was a period of professional success, she lost her mother, sister and husband to cancer during this time. She took a brief rest and then went on to write 'Forever Summer', 'Feast: Food that Celebrates' and 'Nigella Express'. Her books have sold over 3 million copies and she has continued to appear on television, here, and in Britain.
My favorite Nigella story regards an appearance she made with the heiress Gloria Vanderbilt on an Anderson Cooper show years ago. Vanderbilt is Cooper's mother and I think it is fair to say she did not do a lot of cooking when he was a child. At any rate, she and Nigella were friends and they agreed to appear on the program to do a dry run of the Thanksgiving meal Gloria planned to make for her son. Nigella walked and talked her through stuffing and roasting a turkey and things went swimmingly, save for the fact that Anderson Cooper was so stunned to see his mother in an apron, that he had a fit of giggles he could not control. His mom just beamed. It was a gotcha smile if ever there was one. I wonder if he got the wish bone that year?
While the food that Nigella Lawson prepares is very approachable, I have yet to come across a recipe that represents a culinary breakthrough. Her food is seductive and nicely done but her books are not places you will find innovation or new techniques. Her recipes are interpretations of food she has eaten and enjoyed and I am fine with that. With that in mind, I wanted to chose a recipe that I had had elsewhere and compare her version to it. I chose Liptauer cheese, a personal favorite of mind. There are many recipes for this wonderful cheese spread and while I really liked Nigella's version on bagels, I prefer my old stand-by for snacks and appetizers. There are no pitfalls in the recipe below. I hope you will give it a try. Here's Nigella's guide to making Liptauer cheese.
Liptauer Cheese...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Nigella Lawson
18 ounces cream cheese
2-1/4 cups cottage cheese
4-5 tablespoons capers
8 cornichons, chopped
3 teaspoons paprika
Pinch of salt
Good grating of black pepper
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons French mustard
For drizzling over:
1-2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil
Fat pinch of paprika
Beat the two cheeses together until they are smooth, and then add all the other ingredients. Mix everything together well, and then turn into a small bowl with a capacity of approximately 1 quart, lined with plastic wrap for easier unmolding later. Smooth the top with a spatula and cover with the overhanging plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator to set. I put a couple of cans on top to press it down, but I don't feel it's crucial. I think it's because my mother was always putting pâté and suchlike in the refrigerator with weights on. When it has become cold enough to turn out — a few hours should do it — unwrap the folded-over plastic wrap on top, place a plate over the now uncovered bowl, turn it the other way out and unmold. Pull the plastic wrap off and drizzle over a rust-red ooze, made by mixing the oil with a pinch of paprika. Serve this with bread or poppy-seed-sprinkled bagels, gherkins, and, if you like, some chopped red onions.
The following bloggers are also featuring the recipes of Nigella Lawson today. I hope you'll pay them all a visit. They are great cooks who have wonderful blogs.
Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef, Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary - One Perfect Bite, Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable Feasts
Linda A - There and Back Again, Nancy - Picadillo, Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen, Annie - Most Lovely Things, Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce - More Time at the Table
Kathy - Bakeaway with Me, Martha - Simple Nourished Living, Jill - Saucy Cooks
Sarah - Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Next week we will highlight the career and recipes of Diana Kennedy. It will be really interesting to see what everyone comes up with. If you'd like to join us please email me for additional information no later than Monday, April 23rd.