Image: David Ellis
Nigella Lawson dishes on spring dining and her latest cookbook, At My Table.
Style at Home: What are some things you have to have on your spring table?
Nigella Lawson: Once asparagus season starts, I can’t stop cooking it. And I really think my favourite way to cook it is to roast it in a very hot oven with some olive oil, Maldon sea salt and finely grated lemon zest for about 15 minutes. Then I squeeze the juice of the lemon over it the minute it comes out. And on the table, nothing says spring with more delicate beauty and, for me, poignancy than lily-of-the-valley (these were favourite flowers of my late sister Thomasina). I dot them, planted in small vintage terracotta pots, on the table or I cut them and arrange them in vintage mini milk bottles, also dotted about the table.
What are your best memories of spring dining?
These recipes just fill me with happiness — they conjure up my table on days and evenings that are filled with more light. And supper or a languorous weekend lunch can have a bit of that indoor-picnic feel, with everyone filling their plates, feeling that sense of excitement as the memory of an icy winter fades and the blue skies and blossoms on the trees herald a fresh start. Old friends and new beginnings: That’s what I want to be celebrating around my table.
Do you have your own garden? What do you like to grow?
I have a garden, but it’s small, and although I often plan to grow vegetables, I have never applied myself consistently. But it is my herb cupboard: I grow thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint and chives in pots, and I was given a bay tree as a moving-in present that I’m always using in my cooking. My garden is a leafy and green shady place, with a natural pergola created by three hornbeam trees, but in spring it is sprinkled with the colour of crocuses and grape hyacinths, and a beautiful wisteria that climbs up one of the walls.
What's the newest recipe in At My Table, and why is it special to you?
It’s probably the Ginger & Walnut Carrot Cake but, though it may have been the last recipe to make its way into the book, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’d baked it more times now than some of the recipes that have been in my repertoire for years. And every time I’ve served it, someone’s asked for the recipe! So it’s special to me because I absolutely love it, but also because I first made it to celebrate the birthday of one of my oldest dearest friends — she’s mad about all things ginger — and I think of her with a smile every time I have it.