To celebrate our new and exclusive partnership (have we mentioned how excited we are?) Nigella Lawson has created four fabulous recipes that are easy to cook, super convenient and made using everyday great-value ingredients. Or to use Nigella’s own words, “food you’d like to cook on a Friday after a long week at work”.
Nigella’s Dreamy, Creamy, Peanut, Butter Pasta
I can’t deny that the idea of making a sauce for spaghetti with peanut butter might sound alarming – not least for Italians! – but I can promise you it has an appeal that goes beyond peanut butter fans. For what hits you most is not its peanuttiness but its voluptuous creaminess. Here, I propose cooking the pasta largely off the heat (and leaving tender spinach leaves in the colander, to be effortlessly wilted as the spaghetti is drained over it). This energy-saving and much calmer way of cooking pasta was taught to me by Anna del Conte 30 years ago, and written about in her 1991 book Entertaining all’Italiana, so I smiled wryly when I read recently of this breaking-news method, as authorised by the Nobel prize-winning Italian physicist, Giorgio Parisi. This store-cupboard stalwart, a favourite in my home, will, I hope, become as regular a fixture in yours.
- 1 x 240g pack baby spinach
- 1 tbsp fine salt, plus ¼ tsp for the sauce
- 320g spaghetti
- 75g smooth peanut butter
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- ½ unwaxed lemon, juiced, plus wedges to serve
- large pinch of paprika, for dusting (optional)
- Get out a large pan that comes with a tightly fitting lid, and fill it with 2.5L water from a just-boiled kettle. Clamp on the lid, and bring the water back to the boil on a large burner on your hob. Sit a large colander in the sink, break open your bag of baby spinach leaves with gusto and tip the contents into the waiting colander.
- Get out a clean tea towel (not a terry towelling or waffle one, just a smooth, thin one) and take it over to the stove. Once the water’s boiling vigorously, add 1tbsp fine salt, which will make the water rise up fizzingly. Wait for it to subside, then give it a good stir and, once the water’s boiling again, add the pasta, and stir with a pasta fork to help it submerge. Once the water has come back to the boil, cook for 2 mins, stirring often to detangle and declump the spaghetti. Once the 2 mins are up, take the pan off the heat – though just to a neighbouring burner – cover with your tea towel and clamp on the lid for 8 mins, during which you can prepare your remaining ingredients.
3. Remove the lid and tea towel, give the spaghetti a good old stir, then scoop out 500ml of the starchy pasta cooking liquid with a jug or mug: it’s this that makes the sauce so luxuriously creamy. If you taste a strand of pasta, you should find it’s almost properly cooked, but still has a tiny bit of bite to it.
- Drain the pasta into the spinach-filled colander – thereby wilting the leaves – and take the pan back to the hob, leaving the colander in the sink for now. Quickly spoon the peanut butter into the warm pan and add about 125ml of the reserved pasta cooking water and stir well. It will look grainy and alarming at first, and when you look at the curdled clumps, you’ll think something’s gone wrong. It hasn’t! Just carry on stirring, adding the minced garlic, dried thyme, chilli flakes, 2tsp lemon juice and 1⁄4tsp salt, and you will swiftly see a pale, herb-flecked emulsion come into being. Slowly stir in another 125ml of the pasta water until that too has been smoothly incorporated.
- Add the spag‘n’spinach and stir and toss in the pan (I use a couple of forks) to mix everything together as evenly as possible. You’ll need to keep adding more of the reserved pasta water, as the pasta will keep drinking it up, so keep adding a little at a time, stirring vigorously but carefully; you shouldn’t have more than 50ml left, though you might well use it all. Taste for seasoning – you may need more salt or lemon juice – then serve, making sure you give everyone an even amount of spinach. If wished, lightly dust the top of each bowl with paprika. And if you have half a lemon left over, you could slice it into thin wedges and give one to each person to squeeze as they eat.
Nigella’s Feta, Black Bean and Clementine Couscous
The fact that this is quick to make is far from its only charm: I return to it, again and again, in one guise or other when I feel a midweek feast with fabulous full-on flavour is called for. The rich earthiness of the black beans is such a gorgeous contrast with the sweet onions and couscous, the bright tomatoes, and the fierce, salty rasp of the feta. Talking of which, if you need this to be vegan rather than vegetarian, you could replace the feta with olives (or, indeed, feta-style non-dairy cheese). And if you have half an orange about the place, you can, of course, use that in place of the clementine.
- 4 tsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 x 400g tins black beans in water, drained and rinsed
- ½ x 25g bunch fresh coriander, stalks and leaves separated, both finely chopped
- 200g couscous
- 1 easy peeler, zested
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 300g red onions, finely sliced into half moons
- 2 tsp fine salt
- 100g feta, drained
- Toast the cumin seeds in a large, dry frying pan over a medium heat until fragrant, shaking the pan to let them dance to the surface every now and then, ensuring they don’t catch or burn. Then tip them out into a cup to cool.
- Measure out 2 tsp of the toasted cumin seeds and add to the chilli flakes. Gather and prepare the garlic, cherry tomatoes, beans and coriander next to the stove.
- Prepare your couscous now, too, as this will take the same time to cook as the beans and tomatoes. Measure the couscous into a wide, medium-sized bowl and add the grated zest from the easy peeler, the remaining 2 tsp of toasted cumin seeds and 1 tsp fine salt. Stir in 300ml freshly boiled water. Cover the bowl and leave while you get on with the rest of the cooking.
- Juice the now-bald easy peeler into a small jug, then top up to the 125ml mark with cold water and leave this near the stove.
- Warm the oil in the large frying pan until hot. Add the onions, sprinkle with ½ tsp salt and cook over a pretty high heat for about 5 mins. Stir every now and again, and cook until the onions are beginning to soften. Don’t turn your gaze from them, to make sure they aren’t burning (turn the heat down if they are).
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 mins more, then stir in the chopped coriander stalks, cumin seed and chilli flakes mix, and minced garlic, and cook for a further 1 min, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tbsp of the easy peeler juice and water to the pan, and cook for a further minute, stirring a little more.
- Tip in the cherry tomatoes with the now jammy onions and cook, stirring once in a while, for a further 2 mins. Add the drained black beans and remaining ½ tsp salt. Give everything a good, but gentle, stir and cook for 3 mins or until the beans are piping hot. Stir in the remaining juice and water for the last 30 secs. Take the pan off the heat while you use a fork to fluff up the couscous, steadily loosening the grains until it’s light and free-flowing.
- Arrange the couscous on 4 plates or in bowls and then top with the beans and tomatoes. Take pieces of the feta and crumble it in your fingers over each plate or bowl. Sprinkle over the chopped coriander leaves and take proudly to the table.
Nigella’s Speedy Steamed Syrup Sponge
While I have nothing against stodge, what strikes me whenever I eat this, is how ridiculously light the sponge is. All too often this kind of pud is disparaged these days as dense, when this is far from the case. Freshly steamed, the sponge has a feathery and open texture; it’s only on keeping that it becomes indigestibly heavy. In other words, you have to make the supreme sacrifice and eat it all up at once. This version differs from the traditional model in one way only; it’s cooked in a trice in the microwave. It’s like being rewarded for impatience! All I require with this golden treasure is copious amounts of cool double cream, though I concede there are undeniable arguments to be made on behalf of custard or ice cream. Anyway, I have no desire to keep you any longer. The sooner you stop reading this, the sooner you can be eating it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be positively purring with pleasure…
- 125g very soft unsalted butter, plus 10g for greasing the pudding bowl
- 200g golden syrup
- 125g granulated sugar
- 1 lemon, finely zested, ½ juiced (approx. 30ml)
- 125g self-raising flour
- ¼ tsp fine salt
- 2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
- 300ml double cream, to serve
- Grease a 2-pint (approx. 1.4L) plastic pudding basin and its lid (or use a similar capacity glass bowl and cling film) with 10g butter, then measure the golden syrup into it, and set to one side for the time being.
2. If you’re making this by hand – though if you have a processor, proceed to step 4 now – measure out the remaining 125g butter into a wide-ish mixing bowl (not a huge one: these are small amounts), along with the sugar, and add the finely grated zest of the lemon. Squeeze half of the now-bald lemon into a bowl, and set aside for now, and likewise, fork the flour and salt together in a small bowl, and put that to one side, too.
3. Cream the butter, sugar and zest together with a wooden spoon. Don’t be tempted to use a whisk as you don’t want to beat too much air into it. When you have a soft, pale mixture, beat in the first egg, followed by 1tbsp or so of flour (and don’t worry that the mixture will look fairly curdled), then add your second egg, followed by 1tbsp or so of flour and beat that until absorbed too. Now, a heaped spoonful at a time, beat in the rest of the flour and salt, and when all is incorporated into a soft batter, beat in your lemon juice.
4. If you’re using a processor, add butter, sugar, lemon zest, flour, salt and eggs to the bowl fitted with the steel blade and blitz thoroughly to mix, giving the bowl a bit of a scrape-down before blitzing again briefly. With the motor running, add the lemon juice down the funnel, and when all is amalgamated, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
5. Using a bendy spatula, pour and scrape your light batter into the prepared pudding basin on top of the golden syrup. Don’t mix them together: the syrup is meant to stay in a separate layer. Delicately spread the top of the batter to smooth it out to the edges evenly. Clip the lid onto the basin, or tightly wrap with several layers of cling film, and cook the pudding in the microwave at 750W for 6 mins, at the end of which let it stand in there for 2 further mins.
6. Wearing oven gloves, remove the pudding basin from the microwave; there may be a little spillage on the sides of the basin but nothing to worry about. Remove the lid, place a lipped plate or shallow bowl over the pudding basin and carefully, and still in your oven gloves, turn it the other way up, with the upended pudding basin (and pudding) on the plate. Give the gentlest of shakes and the pudding will – not entirely gracefully – plop down, and you can carefully remove the bowl.
7. Cut into generous slices, and use a spoon to share out the syrup that’s settled on the plate. Eat joyfully, immediately, with lots of cold double cream.
Nigella’s Cosy Supper Fry
This is one of those quick, dependably mood-lifting suppers which I turn to regularly and gratefully. Stir-fries normally involve a little too much last-minute chopping for my liking, but this has only modest demands to make of you on that score: once you’ve sliced the bacon and salad onions, you’re pretty much done, and then it’s only a matter of minutes before everything comes joyously together in the pan. If you have the eggs to spare, I wouldn’t try to dissuade you from topping each bowlful with a fried or poached egg. And there’s just one more thing: despite its title, do not think it must be made only for supper: it hits the spot almost too perfectly when a morning-after-the-night-before breakfast is urgently required!
- 200g frozen petit pois
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 8 rashers smoked (or unsmoked if preferred) streaky bacon, cut into 1cm strips
- 1 x 300g pack beansprouts
- 1 x 150g bunch salad onions, finely sliced into ½cm rings, reserving the greenest slices from the very top in a separate bowl
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes
- 2 x 250g packs microwave long-grain rice
- 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
- drizzle of HP Sauce, to serve
- Measure the petits pois into a small bowl and fill with cold water; leave near the sink for now.
- I use a wok-shaped non-stick pan for this, but a very large frying pan should be fine. Toast the cumin seeds over a medium heat until fragrant, shaking the pan to let them dance to the surface every now and then, ensuring they don’t catch or burn. Then tip them out into a cup to cool.
- Warm the oil in the same pan over a high heat on your largest burner and, when hot, tip in the bacon. Using a spatula or whatever your preferred stirring utensil is (though I must say, I like an implement in each hand, so reach for a pair of stirrers/spatulas), cook, stirring and tossing the little bacon pieces about to try to separate them all, for about 3 mins.
- Cook for a further 4-5 mins, stirring only occasionally, by which time the liquid should have evaporated, leaving an intense bacony oil behind; the shreds of bacon should be bronzed at the edges.
- Once the bacon has cooked, shake in the beansprouts and toss and stir with the bacon to mix, then tip in the sliced salad onions, minced garlic, toasted cumin seeds and chilli flakes and give everything a good stir. Then add the rice, breaking up any large clumps as you do so, and stir this in well. Drain and toss in the peas, along with the Lea & Perrins sauce, and carry on cooking – still over a high heat – stirring and tossing the ingredients for another 3 mins, until everything is piping hot.
6. Divide between 4 bowls, and scatter each with the reserved green salad onions. And I love this with a final flourish in the form of a squiggled zig-zag of HP Sauce over the top. The tamarind sourness of the brown sauce is a fabulous counterpoint to the rich, salty bacon. With or without, though, much comfort and joy awaits you.
You might like…
Head over to Ocado to shop Nigella’s recipes.