NIGELLA MY COM­FORT FOOD

In a rare in­ter­view, Nigella Law­son talks about the recipes that have trans­formed her tu­mul­tous year

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - PRO­FILE ANDY THRELFALL

THE SUN has just burst through the clouds on the Cote D’Azur and this is not a good mo­ment to be Nigella Law­son’s PA, or should I say the small pha­lanx of PAs who busy them­selves, i-Phones pressed to ears, like honey to the bee. Nigella you see, has a prob­lem. A PA is hur­riedly dis­patched in my di­rec­tion.

“Is it pos­si­ble to do it out of the sun,” I’m po­litely asked in that way that sort of ren­ders the ques­tion mark ir­rel­e­vant. “She said she doesn’t really want to be in the sun at all.”

To be fair to Nigella, she is quite the trooper as a para­sol is pro­duced. You can imag­ine her be­ing the tom­boy as a teenager, the wing man par ex­cel­lence in adult­hood. She likes to feign oc­ca­sion­ally mild protests through­out our chat but it merely re­in­forces the im­pres­sion, as if needed, that Nigella is in­cred­i­ble fun to be with.

So here she comes, the Dam­sel in So­lar Dis­tress, shield­ing her eyes, (no big pair of shades for Nigella). She is im­me­di­ately open, hon­est, en­gag­ing, vi­va­cious, and not un­like cur­rent Bond girl Monica Bel­lucci in ways too adult to go into in this es­teemed pub­li­ca­tion.

The hand she prof­fers is porce­lain white, as she seeks the safety of the our makeshift shade: “Bon­jour Nigella…” “I’m just go­ing to stay out of the sun be­cause I’ve not really got skin to go in the sun, An­drew,” she tells your auburn-haired in­ter­viewer free of irony.

“And I don’t really want to fall over into the sea ei­ther,” she adds, look­ing over her shoul­der at the 10ft drop into the Mediter­ranean.

Oh dear, the South of France is ab­so­lutely choc-full of per­ils to­day. But she ef­fort­lessly re­laxes, al­low­ing her­self a smile so dev­as­tat­ingly dis­arm­ing you understand just why the BBC were so keen to have her back in the kitchen cook­ing up those im­pres­sive view­ing fig­ures for the chan­nel with her new Mon­day night se­ries, Sim­ply Nigella.

She set­tles into a rhythm of pro­mot­ing the show (of course) but all the while re­veal­ing the slightly vul­ner­a­ble side we have come to see more of since, well, you know who and those in­fa­mous pa­parazzi snaps over lunch.

It’s lunchtime here, too, and Nigella au­to­mat­i­cally raises her game, as if be­ing in the land of gas­tro­nomic ex­cel­lence does that to cham­pi­ons.

I’m im­me­di­ately dis­armed by her ra­zor-snap wit when I ask her why she’s here. “Wow, what is my rea­son for be­ing here, well that’s a big ex­is­ten­tial ques­tion.” She chuck­les. The mind is alert, and ob­vi­ously this is how it has ac­counted for mil­lions of male hearts since she was a teenager study­ing mod­ern and me­dieval lan­guages at Ox­ford.

“It’s a re­turn to my own pro­grammes really, which are al­ways what I loved do­ing. There has to be some­thing that con­nects through and I sup­pose my voice and my recipes are that.”

Ah, yes, the voice. In spite of her back­ground, her vo­cab­u­lary some­how comes over as any­thing but posh; again, she works this fine line where it is her ac­ces­si­bil­ity that makes her so ap­peal­ing.

“It’s a very up­lift­ing en­v­i­ron- ment for the way that I’m cook­ing and I think this is really im­por­tant be­cause what I sup­pose I really want to talk about in this se­ries — and I do both through the food and my wit­ter­ing — is that food can be such a won­der­ful way of help­ing us to destress from a busy work­ing day.

It helps us peo­ple re­lax and I feel it’s really im­por­tant to show how that can be achieved through the food, but also I like the fact that it is re­flected inthe­waythe­p­ro­gram­meis­shotin terms of all of the in­gre­di­ents.”

I’m about to raise the dreaded C word but she beats me to it: “We could class a lot of what I am mak- ing th­ese days as com­fort food and go­ing back to how food can have a sooth­ing qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly at the end of the day — well, any time of day ac­tu­ally

Is that a fair com­ment, though, to call it com­fort food, I ask, re­al­is­ing that the word it­self has neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions.

Aware of her im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings (we could throw a fish­ing net over about three Michellinstarred ho­tel restau­rants where we have ar­ranged to meet), Nigella is ready: “My food is com­fort food but

Food is such a bril­liant way to de-stress

not in a way that peo­ple think — be­cause peo­ple think that com­fort food is stodgy, maybe quite bland; you know, pies, heavy food, but I think it takes on many man­i­fes­ta­tions. Some­times, for ex­am­ple, I can­not stop roast­ing cauliflow­ers.”

Roast cauliflow­ers? Now that’s new…

“Some­times, it can be a really won­der­ful spice-and-roast-cau­li­flower salad; some­times, it’s a bowl of soup; some­times, it’s some­thing rather sprightly. I think a lot of Asian food is, in that way, quite com­fort­ing. And I guess some­times it may be a take on an old favourite like Shep­herd’s Pie but made with lots of In­dian spices and sweet potato on top rather than the nor­mal potato.

“I do that, ac­tu­ally, be­cause it’s much eas­ier to do and you just bake and you don’t then have to peel and mash.”

So is this a new lazier -sound­ing Nigella?

“Well, you know, lazi­ness and pa­tience is the driv­ing force rather than any other con­cern. It’s com­fort food but com­fort food that doesn’t then make you feel like you can’t get up from the sofa.

“It’s com­fort food and yet you feel like you can jump up and em­brace the world with joy.” (And I swear she

You should eat what­ever makes you happy

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