Good-look­ing cook­ing…

Well, it is Christ­mas… Nigella Law­son is back, with a kitchen full of twinkly lights and a vi­sion of how happy the sea­son can be.

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODDRINKING -

BUN­DLED into a wrap­around cotton house­coat, with her hair in rollers, Nigella Law­son couldn’t look less like the wo­man next door. Un­less you hap­pened to live next door to Sophia Loren circa 1965, in which case you won’t be fazed by the killer com­bi­na­tion of ev­ery­day earth­i­ness and in­nate glam­our.

Nigella’s gift of ap­pear­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously fab­u­lous and re­as­sur­ingly or­di­nary is her unique sell­ing point. And if there’s one time of year when women want to buy into “Nigella World”, it’s Christ­mas.

“Christ­mas ap­peals to the camp side of me,” she con­fides. “This year, I’ve re­ally gone to town on the twinkly lights and the Swedish-y, ging­ham-y stuff. And, of course, there’s the greedy side of me – be­cause at Christ­mas every­thing can be big por­tions. How­ever, it’s also an in­cred­i­bly high-pres­sure time of year for women.

“You have cook­ing com­bined with fam­ily, and to­gether they’re enor­mously in­cen­di­ary. I think it would be an ex­treme act of cru­elty to im­ply that you can have a stress­free Christ­mas. Be­cause there’s no such thing. Wrap­ping presents, for ex­am­ple, is the thing that sends me over the edge and un­der the other side. I al­ways get my hair stuck un­der the sel­lotape, which is com­pletely dis­gust­ing for the per­son open­ing the present.

“And it’s not al­ways pos­si­ble to get suc­cour from some­one on tele­vi­sion say­ing, ‘Well, I find this ter­ri­bly easy.’ So there are times when I am very strict with view­ers and say, ‘You will feel hys­ter­i­cal. You will feel stressed out and ex­hausted and I can’t do any­thing about that.’ But there are cer­tain strate­gies I can sug­gest to try to re­lieve some of that stress in the kitchen.”

Prepa­ra­tion is key to beat­ing the clock. “The trick with big meals is not hav­ing to keep too many tim­ings in your head. So with any meal I al­ways try to give the amount of time it can be pre­pared in ad­vance or if it can be frozen.”

But if you’re the kind of cook for whom feed­ing the mul­ti­tude is a deep mys­tery, there is the rest of Christ­mas to be get­ting on with.

“You don’t have to do the whole do­mes­tic god­dess thing to revel in the so­lace of the earth,” she points out. “If you want to put up fairy lights ev­ery­where and then get pizza de­liv­ered, that’s ab­so­lutely okay by me. I’d never say no to chips and curry sauce – I have very low tastes. Just that, a nice drink and some nice friends and I’d be happy.”

In­deed, “the whole do­mes­tic god­dess thing” has be­come some­thing of an em­bar­rass­ment.

The phrase, coined with ironic in­tent for her first book, has launched a thou­sand editorials on the shift­ing place of women. “The ar­gu­ment has be­come so po­larised,” she sighs. “Ei­ther you’re a bitch who spends too long in the of­fice and never sees your chil­dren, or you’re some lit­tle throw­back want­ing to make things nice in the kitchen. And, of course, in real life women are both. Or nei­ther. You have to find a way of in­te­grat­ing those two sides of your­self. Other­wise you go mad.”

Nigella Kitchen on BBC Life­style ( chan­nel 180 on Dstv) Wed­nes­days at 8.25pm.

Nigella’s Christ­mas Kitchen 2008 (5 episodes) on BBC Life­style ( chan­nel 180 on Dstv) daily at 6.30pm and 7pm.

CHRIST­MAS CAKE RECIPE

A cake that can be made up to a week be­fore Christ­mas. 450g raisins 120g chopped dried apri­cots 60g cher­ries 60g dried cran­ber­ries 120g prunes 250g sul­tanas 120g peel (if you don’t like this then the zest of 2 oranges)

3 pre­served root gin­ger balls chopped 1½ tsp vanilla essence 1 Tbsp brown su­gar

1 One week be­fore: put all the fruits, spices, su­gar, vanilla, water and booze into a large pan. Mix over a low heat un­til the liq­uid is ab­sorbed. Cool and put into an air­tight con­tainer for seven days.

2 Af­ter seven days pre­heat oven to gas 1 or 150ºc. Put the flour, su­gar, but­ter and eggs into a bowl and mix un­til smooth. Add the fruit and mix.

3 Grease the cake tin and dou­ble­line with grease-proof pa­per. Pour cake mix­ture into the tin and cook for ap­prox 3-4 hours.

4 Test with a skewer. Dec­o­rate as pre­ferred.

CHRIST­MAS STA­PLE: Nigella Law­son is as much a part of a Christ­mas kitchen as mulled wine.

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