Celebrity chef: Nigella Lawson
The minute you hear Nigella Lawson utter the words "Hello Love," it's hard not to imagine yourself talking to one of your closest girlfriends. Our midday interview interrupts her ride home in a cab, racing through the streets of London to pick up her two kiddies. Instead of rescheduling the phone interview, she ever so sweetly asks if I don't mind holding on for a few, while she tells the cabbie the fastest route to the children while double-checking her schedule with her assistant, who is clearly sitting alongside her in the backseat of the taxi.
A born multitasker, Nigella Lawson juggles it all with super-human ease. Not only does she do mom duties like no other but she has catapulted to celebrity chef status with a handful of top notch cooking shows (Nigella Bites, Forever Summer and Nigella Feasts, to name a few). Then there's the line of design-worthy cookware that she launched a few years back that has become a must-have in every wannabe chef's kitchen. And most recently, the domestic diva wrote her sixth cookbook (she's even lost count), Nigella Express: Good Food Fast (Random House, 2007).
A book on fast food? From Nigella Lawson? "I call it real food," she explains. "Not fast food. It's not a book about showing you fast ways to cook foods that actually should be slow cooked. It's a book that shows you how to cook flavourful, interesting meals in a pinch - with step-by-step instructions to make it easier." And with chapter headings like Everyday Easy, Workday Winners, Against the Clock and Speedy Gonzales you can be guaranteed that the recipes will fit into any type of fast-paced lifestyle.
But don't expect a how-to entertaining guide. This book isn't about table settings and flower arranging. "I don't care what you do with your napkins," says Nigella. "I don't like a lot of stuff on the table, just big bowls and platters that you can serve up quickly."
What you can expect are super-fast and super-tasty meals that are perfectly suitable for feeding a crowd. "These recipes are great for entertaining because they require very little stress," she adds. "And I go nuts when people become too stressed in the kitchen. Entertaining is supposed to be fun and enjoyable."
Nigella Lawson's advice for entertaining a crowd
When entertaining a crowd, Nigella Lawson, the queen of quick cuisine, likes to keep it simple - really simple. Here are a few of her tried-and-true tricks.
Get excited. "Entertaining doesn't have to be fussy at all. People love the opportunity to come over so that they don't have to cook themselves. If you are excited about chicken, mushroom and bacon pie or cheddar cheese risotto, your guests will love it too!"
Forget about formality. "I don't do formal courses. I fill the table with one type of food and I make lots of it. Too many choices becomes daunting to cook and can be overwhelming to your guests."
Impress. "Choose one dish that you are great at and do it well. It could be a simple roast, or a one-pot meal or pasta. Keep the sides simple and the flavour of your meal will be remembered."
Balance tastes and textures. " The trick to a fabulous meal is balancing tastes and textures. If you are making pasta, make sure it has some kind of crunchy vegetable hiding in there, or if you are serving a roast chicken, offset the moist meat with a crunchy salad. That way you get the perfect balance of textures in your mouth."