Nigella Lawson is returning to BBC Two with a new series, Nigella's Cook, Eat, Repeat.
Nigella will get to the heart of how food is woven into our everyday lives and the connections it provides. Along the way, she'll offer up mouthwatering dishes that range from indulgent chocolate peanut butter cake to the rich luxurious crab mac'n’cheese, and the life-affirming fear-free fish stew - all beautifully shot to bring a weekly serving of comfort and cheer into the nation’s lives.
During the series, Nigella will spend time explaining where she finds inspiration for her recipes, from delving into her collection of vintage cookbooks to exchanges of ideas on social media.
In this interview, Lawson talks about what it's like to produce a cooking show during a pandemic and what she hopes the viewers will respond to her recipes:
Q: How does it feel to be back doing a new series after such a crazy year?
Nigella Lawson: It feels really lovely to be back. I’m lucky enough to work with a team I love, and have worked with forever. It feels really wonderful to be able to share my new recipes. Of course, for all of us, there was a bit of culture shock at first having been living and working remotely for so long suddenly finding ourselves on set, but after two days it felt like we had been doing it forever.
Q: How did you make the series Covid secure?
Lawson: Well, the BBC has a whole raft of measures in place, and I won’t itemize them all. In some senses, the biggest difference from our usual set up is that we all had to keep two meter's distance from one another and were reminded of this regularly - in the nicest possible way.
Plus there was a two meter rod that could be brought out if at any time it looked as if we were inching towards one another. This was wielded somewhat teasingly, and yet we knew it was done for serious reasons. I think we were all grateful for the strict list of safety regulations, even though it of course made an impact on how we filmed. I have to say I felt very protected by them.
Q: How was the filming with these new rules in place?
Lawson: I think we all felt so fortunate to be working that we really didn’t focus on the constraints. But of course it did have an impact editorially, not least in the sense that we couldn’t have our usual eating scenes with friends. But I made the supreme sacrifice and ate everything myself!
Q: How would you describe the new series?
Lawson: At its heart, it’s a celebration of the power of food to transform every single day: while Cook, Eat, Repeat re-dates the pandemic as a project, I think we all learnt over lockdown that thinking about what to eat, cooking it, sitting down to what we’ve cooked, really gave a focus to our lives that we were grateful for. But the series is also a passion project, delving into the ingredients I love, the recipes I always return to, and the pleasure of cooking and eating.
Q: What does the series have in store for us?
Lawson: It’s full of recipes that celebrate my favorite ingredients and tell the story of what I’m cooking now: from a spicy broth with noodles, fried chicken sandwich with major crunch factor, brown butter colcannon and meatballs with a difference, a lemony chicken cooked whole with carrots, leeks and orzo pasta, my new favorite thing to cook with fish fingers, crab mac’n’cheese, fear-free fish stew, and so many recipes to make your cooking pleasurable and eating blissful!
And those with a sweet tooth haven’t, of course, been forgotten either! I can’t wait to share my chocolate peanut butter cake, Basque burnt cheesecake, rice pudding cake, and a luscious creme caramel for one.
Q: Let’s talk about the first episode, which sees you cook a recipe combining fish fingers, chilli, onion, garlic and ginger…
Lawson: Yes, this is an absolute joy! I can’t stop making it. There is so much to love about it, but more than that, I feel it shows the alchemy of cooking: all the ingredients in this recipe are familiar, and yet the finished dish is for many of us so completely new.
Q: And the noodles with lamb shank and aromatic broth?
Lawson: This dish is something I’ve been making for a while, but it became very important to me in lockdown. It is so soothing and yet a real feast at the same time. There is something about the aromatic broth (which, incidentally, is incredibly simple to make) that makes you feel warm, safe and at peace. And again, it shows the power of food to sustain us physically and emotionally.
Q: Tell us about the chocolate tahini pudding.
Lawson: It’s a cross between a cake and a pudding: warm, chocolatey and squidgy, and gratifyingly easy to make. It’s not large - perfect for two - but could be stretched to three or four. But it’s great for one, since leftovers can be microwaved for a treat another day. No one has a huge crowd around their kitchen table these days for obvious reasons, so a small-scale, simple but special pudding is just right. And the tahini could easily be substituted with peanut butter.
Q: You also make a curry using banana skins…
Lawson: I can’t bear throwing anything away! And when I found out that you could eat banana skins, I couldn’t get in the kitchen fast enough. It’s a revelation. And for those who feel hesitant about the idea, I assure you that you would never guess my banana skin curry had banana skins in it. You wouldn’t even think bananas. I love that this is a dish made with something that would normally go in the bin, although that wouldn't be enough to justify its presence in the program. It’s there because it is just a glorious thing to eat.
Q: Let’s chat about other recipes later in the series, such as crab mac and cheese.
Lawson: The crab mac’n’cheese is just luscious. It’s a strange thing, it manages to be both rich and delicate at the same time. Maybe this is what makes it so beguiling. It’s comfort food that is also a sumptuous treat. But I’ve got so many recipes in this series that I could describe like that: mood-boosting, life-enhancing and warming dishes that are needed in a dark and difficult winter.
Q: Are you pleased a lot more people have taken up cooking during lockdown?
Lawson: I think the reason a lot of people are nervous about cooking is they think there is one perfect way and they are frightened of getting it wrong. Lockdown showed people who don’t consider themselves confident cooks, that cooking is all about improvisation. It gave them confidence. You are not talking about making showstoppers; you are talking about cobbling things together to make supper!
Q: And finally, tell us a little about your Christmas special...
Lawson: Well, Christmas presents shouldn’t be opened early so I will only say a very little! But Nigella’s Christmas Comforts certainly did feel special to make. It is really about revelling in the season, a total immersion in Christmasiness. In common with lots of people, I haven’t been away anywhere this year, and won’t be, so this is about travelling at the table, with some of my favorite Christmas recipes from abroad, as well as home-grown treats.