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FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella – part two




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FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




This is inspired by my travels in Thailand last year and I have cooked it many, many times since. It is essentially a beef and potato stew, with all the comfort that this implies, but the rich mellow flavours bring a vibrancy not immediately conveyed by that description. A massaman curry is a relatively mild curry, so don’t feel that the amount of paste I use will blow you away. I do feel strongly, though, that unless you use authentic Thai pastes, you will not get a curry that truly delivers on flavour. Anyway, I buy my coconut milk, tamarind paste and all my curry pastes from a Thai provisioner online and not only is the quality much better, but the prices are much lower than the supermarket varieties.


As for the coconut, you will see that I add the cream from the top first, but I can’t tell you how often I open the tin upside down, and so can’t then follow my own instructions. In other words, relax: with good pastes and coconut milk, this cannot go wrong.


I like to blanch some green beans, chopped into short lengths, which I then refresh in cold water and mix with some thinly sliced shallots to sprinkle on top, or – for the family supper version – I just serve a bowl of plain-cooked green beans alongside.





2½ teaspoons tamarind paste

25g palm sugar or soft light brown sugar

500ml hot water, from a recently

boiled kettle

1 x 400ml can coconut milk

½ cup (125ml/140g) massaman

curry paste, or to taste

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

1kg beef shin off the bone, cut into

4-5cm cubes

750g waxy potatoes, peeled

small bunch Thai basil or coriander, to serve



1 Preheat the oven to 170C/ gas mark 3. Put the tamarind paste and the sugar in a measuring jug and add boiling water to the 250ml mark. Stir with a fork to help dissolve the paste and sugar.


2 In a large, heavy-based pan or casserole that has a tight-fitting lid – I use one of 24cm diameter – spoon in the cream from the top of the coconut can. Add the curry paste and then heat, stirring every now and again, until bubbling (some of the oil may separate out at this stage, but that’s fine). Add the contents of the jug – with its water, tamarind and sugar – and the rest of the coconut milk, along with the salt, and stir to combine, before adding the beef. Stir well, and let it come to a bubble. As soon as it does, clamp on the lid, turn off the heat and transfer to the oven to cook for 2 hours.


3 Once it’s out of the oven, leave to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 day, or up to 3 days, to allow the beef to get tender and the flavours in the sauce to develop.


4 About half an hour before you want to eat, preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6, and cut the potatoes into similar-sized chunks as the beef, then add them to the pot of curry. Place on the hob, add 250ml of boiling water and bring to a bubble, then clamp on the lid and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes, or until the stew is bubbling and hot and the potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with some shredded Thai basil leaves, should you be able to get hold of them, or scatter with chopped coriander, and bring to the table immediately.



Cook curry for 2 hours as per recipe, above, then cool, cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days.



Freeze cooled curry in an airtight container for up to 3 months, defrost overnight in fridge before reheating as per recipe, above.



The curry should be reheated once only.


FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




This is my idea of a perfect cake: simple, beautiful, fragrant and beguiling. I’ve been making this sort of cake, in one form or another, since my clementine cake in How to Eat, and I can’t help but feel, with a certain calm excitement, that it has reached its apogee here. This is invitingly easy to make, and while I love the poetry of its ingredients, the cake doesn’t overwhelm with its Thousand-and-One-Nights scent. Rosewater can be a tricky ingredient: a little, and it’s all exotic promise; a fraction too much and we’re in bubblebath territory.


One of the things that makes this so easy is that you can throw all the ingredients into a food processor. But if you don’t have one, simply chop the prepared dried apricots and cardamom seeds very finely and then beat together with the remaining cake ingredients.





150g ‘ready-to-eat’ dried apricots

250ml cold water

2 cardamom pods, cracked

200g ground almonds

50g fine polenta (not instant)

1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free if required)

150g caster sugar

6 large eggs

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon rosewater nonstick cooking spray or sunflower oil for greasing




2 teaspoons rose petal or apricot jam 1 teaspoon lemon juice 2½ teaspoons very finely chopped pistachios.



1 x 20cm round springform cake tin



1 Put the dried apricots into a small saucepan, cover them with the cold water and drop in the cracked cardamom pods with their fragrant seeds. Put on the heat, then bring to the boil and let it bubble for 10 minutes – don’t stray too far away from the pan, as by the end of the 10 minutes the pan will be just about out of water and you want to make sure it doesn’t actually run dry as the apricots will absorb more water as they cool.


2 Take the pan off the heat, place on a cold, heatproof surface and let the apricots cool.


3 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease the sides of your springform cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.


4 Remove 5 of the dried apricots and tear each in half, then set aside for the time being. Discard the cardamom husks, leaving the seeds in the pan.


5 Pour and scrape out the sticky contents of the pan into the bowl of a food processor. Add the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, caster sugar and eggs, and give a good long blitz to combine.


6 Open the top of the processor, scrape down the batter, add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and the rosewater, and blitz again, then scrape into the prepared tin and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the apricot halves around the circumference of the tin.


7 Bake for 40 minutes, though if the cake is browning up a lot before it’s actually ready, you may want to cover loosely with foil at the 30-minute mark. When it’s ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin, the top will feel firm, and a cake tester will come out with just one or two damp crumbs on it.


8 Remove the cake to a wire rack. If you’re using apricot jam to decorate, you may want to warm it a little first so that it’s easier to spread; rose petal jam is so lusciously soft-set, it shouldn’t need any help. Stir a teaspoon of lemon juice into the jam and brush over the top of the cake, then sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and leave the cake to cool in its tin before unspringing and removing to a plate.



Store in an airtight container in a cool place for 5-7 days. In hot weather (or if the central heating’s on) keep in fridge.



The cake can be made ahead and frozen for up to 3 months (though the nuts may soften slightly on defrosting). Wrap the fully cooled cake (still on the springform tin base) tightly in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil. To defrost, unwrap and leave it (still on the tin base) on a plate at room temperature for about 4 hours.


FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




This is a recipe of fabulous ease and speed, but you’d never guess it to eat it. These meatballs taste as if they had been slowly and lovingly tended, and their deeply spiced sauce tastes as if it had been cooked over days. I make no apology for the shortcuts – the meatballs are made of squeezed-out merguez sausages, and the sauce’s rich base is a jar of chargrilled peppers – because what you end up with is honest and flavourful and just so good.





500g merguez sausages

2 x 15ml tablespoons regular olive oil

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes

1 x 290g jar chargrilled peppers in oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

1 x 15ml tablespoon runny honey



1 Squeeze the sausagemeat out of the casings and then form into small meatballs, using about 2 teaspoonfuls per ball. I get 34 out of this mixture, but I have to concentrate on not making the meatballs bigger as I go – they should each be about the size of a cherry tomato.


2 Heat the oil in a wide, heavy-based saucepan or casserole (with a lid), and fry the meatballs for about 3 minutes or so, then spoon out as much excess oil as you can and discard.


3 Add the chopped tomatoes, then drain the jar of peppers and snip or chop them into pieces, before adding to the pan as well.


4 Sprinkle the spices over the contents of the pan, add the salt and – oiling the tablespoon first – the honey, then bring up to a bubble before partially covering the pan with its lid and leaving to simmer for 10 minutes. Obviously, you can make rice or couscous to eat with this, or just get some good bread to dunk in.



The meatballs and sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Reheat gently until piping hot, being careful not to break up the meatballs.



The cooked and cooled meatballs and sauce can be frozen, in an airtight container, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge before reheating as Make Ahead Note.


FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




I am smiling as I’m writing this, as it is what I cooked for my daughter to celebrate her 21st birthday, not long after we’d moved into our new home. Actually, I cooked huge vats of it, in a pan so big that both the children could fit into it together when they were little – and have the lid put on, too. Not that I was in the habit of squeezing them into saucepans.


I made this for the momentous event, as I wanted to create something that had all my daughter’s favourite ingredients in it, that would be easy to make, and amenable once made. It sits comfortably on a low heat or in a low oven if you need to wait before serving, and it doesn’t require anything more than to be ladled out into shallow bowls. The Leek Pasta Bake from the book was also presented, for non-meat-eaters, and both are great for a party and can be scaled up or down easily





2½-3 x 15ml tablespoons plain flour

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon sea salt flakes

6 large skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 x 15ml tablespoon cold-pressed coconut oil or regular olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-3cm chunks

500ml hot chicken stock

500g cooked chickpeas (from dried) or 1 x 660g jar chickpeas or 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained chopped fresh coriander, to serve



1 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.


2 Measure the flour, spices and salt into a freezer bag and then tip in the chicken. Shake the bag around to coat the chicken with the floury spice.


3 Heat the oil in a wide casserole or pan (with a lid), and then fry the onion until softened but not really coloured.


4 Add the chicken and all the contents of the bag to the pan, and stir around for a minute or so, then add the peeled and chopped sweet potatoes and stir again.


5 Pour in the hot stock, then bring the pan up to the boil and tip in the drained chickpeas. Give it another good stir, then clamp on the lid and put in the oven for 25 minutes.


6 Check that the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potatoes are tender, then take out of the oven and leave with the lid on to stand for about 10 minutes.


7Ladle into bowls, sprinkling each with chopped coriander.



Transfer leftover chicken to a container, then cool, cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat leftovers gently in a saucepan until piping hot. Stir occasionally, adding a splash of water or chicken stock if needed.


FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




I positively will everyone in the house not to eat the bananas so that they overripen and I have an excuse to make this. I love all the variants of banana bread I have ever made – much more than I do bananas – but this one is on another level. The smoky bitterness that emanates from both the cardamom and cocoa nibs offers a subtle foil to the natural and rich sweetness of the bananas. As this is for breakfast, it isn’t terribly sweet, so feel free to up the sugar to 250g if you have a sweet tooth and want to indulge it. It is also excellent (and tastes sweeter) when toasted and spread with unsalted butter.





2 very ripe or overripe bananas (250-275g total in their skins)

2 large eggs

200ml plain (runny) yogurt or buttermilk

125ml light and mild olive oil

325g plain flour

200g soft light brown sugar

1¼ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons ground cardamom, or seeds from

1 x 15ml tablespoon cardamom pods, ground

50g cocoa nibs



1 x 900g/2lb loaf tin approx 23 x 13 x 7cm



1 Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3, and pop a paper liner into your loaf tin (or line the bottom with baking parchment and grease the sides with a little sunflower oil).


2 I do the whole thing using a freestanding mixer, but a bowl and an electric whisk, or a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease would be fine. Mash the bananas (and if you’re not using a freestanding mixer, use a fork and a smallish bowl first, otherwise the flat paddle of a freestanding mixer will do) and beat in 1 egg at a time, followed by the yogurt or buttermilk, then the oil, and beat it all together. I measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb and cardamom into a bowl and whisk together, while this is going on.


3 Slow the speed down while you add the dry ingredients, gradually, beating all the while, and then turn the speed slightly higher again, and beat for 1 minute until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. You may have to scrape the bowl down and give a short final beat if you notice any flour sticking to the edges of the bowl. Then, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the cocoa nibs by hand and transfer the mixture to your prepared tin and thence to the oven for 1 hour (it is wise to start checking at 45 minutes) or until a cake tester comes out clean.


4 Sit the loaf tin on a wire rack and leave the banana bread in the tin until cold. Slip it out, in its paper liner (or baking parchment), and wrap with more parchment and then kitchen foil and keep for a day – if you can – before eating.



Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 week.



Can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap cake in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil. To defrost, unwrap and put on a wire rack at room temperature for about 5 hours. Or wrap individual slices in clingfilm and put into a resealable bag, and defrost by toasting on a low heat.


FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




This is a very lazy take – with some additions of my own – on a wonderful lamb tagine in Sabrina Ghayour’s gloriously inspiring Persiana cookbook. The first time I made it, I followed standard procedure and provided a shank per person, but it occurred to me that actually, no one needs a whole shank, so I now shred the sweet meat (making sure I extract every little bit of marrow from the shank bones) which makes it go much further. Couscous might seem the obvious accompaniment, and it’s a good one, but I prefer to produce a pile of proper pitta or good bread and the Chickpeas with Cumin and Spinach from my book.


If you haven’t come across black garlic, you must try to find it: it has a flavour that tastes somehow caramelised and fermented at the same time, and adds a fabulous musky richness. It’s much easier to get now, as it is being produced in the UK, but if this eludes you, or doesn’t appeal, then use 2 bulbs of home-caramelised garlic in its place (see note below for instructions). If you’re using this rather than black garlic, then just chop the onions by hand and squeeze the garlic pulp into the pan once the tomatoes have gone in.


SERVES 10-12



2 large onions (450–500g total), peeled and quartered

2 bulbs black garlic (see Intro), broken into cloves and peeled

3 x 15ml tablespoons (45g) goose or duck fat

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

250ml red vermouth or full-bodied red wine

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

6 lamb shanks



1 Preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Put the onions and black garlic cloves into the bowl of a food processor and chop finely. You could also do this by hand, but the black garlic is very sticky. It also disperses better in the stew if it is blitzed to a near pulp.


2 In a large pan, big enough to take everything later (I used one of 30cm diameter and 15cm deep) and that comes with a lid, melt the goose or duck fat, then add the contents of the food processor, scraping with a spatula to get every last bit. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes over a medium heat, or until the onion starts to soften, and then stir in the cumin seeds, ground allspice and cinnamon.


3 Turn the heat up to high, and then pour in the red vermouth or wine. Let this bubble up before adding the contents of the 2 cans of tomatoes, then fill each can with cold water from the tap and pour that in, too.


4 Stir in the salt and add the lamb shanks, bring again to a bubble, then clamp on the lid and transfer to the oven to cook for 4 hours, by which time the sauce will be rich and the meat will begin to fall off the bone.


5 Leave in a cool place with the lid off and when the shanks are not too hot to handle (you might need to leave this for 1 hour, depending on the sensitivity of your hands; I plough in after 30 minutes), strip the meat from the shanks and knock each shank bone against the inside rim of the pan to make sure the marrow and any juices in the bone go into the stew. This can be messy. Discard the bones, and shred the lamb a little more, using 2 forks. I then pour this into the pan I’m going to reheat and serve this in later – a pan of 28cm diameter and 10cm deep, or one with a 6-litre capacity, should be fine – as being in the cold pan will help the lamb cool faster. Once cooled, cover and stash in the fridge for at least 1 day, or up to 3 days. Or, if this is easier for your fridge, decant when cool into airtight containers or a dish of fridge-friendly size.


6 Before reheating the stew, take it out of the fridge, remove any fat from the surface and leave for 1 hour (less if in airtight containers) to come to room temperature, and preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Cook for 1-1¼ hours, until piping hot, and if everyone’s not ready to eat, just switch off the oven and let the pan sit there for up to 30 minutes.



The shanks can be made up to 3 days ahead. Shred and cool as quickly as possible, then cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making.



Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge before reheating as per recipe.



The shanks should be reheated once only.



Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Cut the top off two whole unpeeled bulbs of garlic, so that you can just see the tops of the cloves peeking through, discard the tops, then sit each bulb on a piece of kitchen foil and wrap, sealing the ends tightly while leaving the parcels slightly baggy. Sit these on a small foil tray (or similar) and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Let them cool in the foil wrapping before using.


FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




When I made these the first time, I put them on the table after supper and I have never seen a plateful of anything go down so fast. Naturally, I have been making them a lot ever since. As the ingredients – yes, all of them – are among my kitchen basics, I know I always have the wherewithal to make these, unplanned. Having said that, this is one of those recipes which is actually better the following day, not that it’s likely you’ll get a chance to find out.





4 large eggs

pinch fine sea salt

250ml (270g) Nutella

½ teaspoon icing sugar



1 x 20cm square cake tin



1 Preheat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line the base and sides of your cake tin with baking parchment.


2 Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and beat, using a freestanding mixer with the whisk attachment or electric handheld whisk, until they have more than doubled in size and are pale, aerated and mousselike; this will take about 5 minutes.


3 Measure the Nutella into a microwave-safe jug, filling it up to the 250ml mark, and microwave for 1 minute at 750 watt. Or you can soften it in a heatproof bowl over (but not in) a saucepan of simmering water for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until warm and slightly runny.


4 Stir the heated Nutella, then pour it in a continuous thin stream on to the eggs, whisking as you go, until all the Nutella is combined. This will knock the volume out of the eggs quite a bit, but don’t worry about it.


5 Pour this mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for 17-20 minutes, by which time the top will be dry and the middle tender but set in a slightly jellied fashion.


6 Leave to cool completely in the tin; the mixture will shrink away from the sides a little as it does. Once cool, cut it into 16 squares, arrange them on a plate and dust with a little icing sugar pressed through a fine tea strainer or sieve.




Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 5 days or in fridge for up to 1 week. In hot weather, store in fridge.



Stack the squares in an airtight container with baking parchment in between the layers. Freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost, put squares on a wire rack and leave at room temperature for about 1 hour, or defrost overnight in fridge.


FOOD EXCLUSIVE: Simply Nigella - part two




I’m just going to say it: this is the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever eaten – better than the macaroni cheese I ate as a child; better than the macaroni cheese I brought my own children up on when they were little (they don’t agree); better than any fancy restaurant macaroni cheese with white truffle or lobster; better than any macaroni cheese I have loved in my life thus far, and there have been many.


I don’t feel it’s boastful to say as much, as the greatness lies not in any brilliance on my part, but in the simple tastes of the ingredients as they fuse in the heat. That’s home cooking for you.


I do rather love the way these little macaroni cheeses, with their pixie-penne, look like they’ve been made with artificially coloured, cheap squeezy cheese or out of a box, when in fact their exotic glow comes courtesy of the earthy goodness of a sweet potato.





500g sweet potatoes

300g pennette or other small short pasta

4 x 15ml tablespoons (60g) soft unsalted butter

3 x 15ml tablespoons plain flour

500ml full-fat milk

1 teaspoon English mustard

¼ teaspoon paprika, plus ¼ teaspoon to sprinkle on top

75g feta cheese

125g mature Cheddar, grated, plus 25g to sprinkle on top

4 fresh sage leaves

salt and pepper to taste



1 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Put on a large-ish pan of water to boil, with the lid on to make it come to the boil faster.


2 Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them roughly into 2-3cm pieces. When the water’s boiling, add salt to taste, and then the sweet potato pieces, and cook them for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. Scoop them out of the water into a bowl – using a ‘spider’ or slotted spoon – and lightly mash with a fork, without turning them into a purée. Don’t get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta in later.


3 In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan of the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it’s all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard and the ¼ teaspoon of paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding Cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.


4 Cook the pennette in the sweet-potato water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than packet instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn’t lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pennette to the mashed sweet potato, and fold in to combine; the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in.


5 Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the 125g grated Cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.


6 Check for seasoning again, then, when you’re happy, spoon the brightly sauced macaroni cheese into 4 small ovenproof dishes of approx 375-425ml capacity (or 1 large rectangular dish measuring approx 30 x 20 x 5cm deep and 1.6 litre capacity). Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar over each one, dust with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.


7 Put the pots on a baking tray, pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or, if you’re making this in a larger dish, bake for 30-35 minutes), by which time they will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat them.



The macaroni cheese can be made 1 day ahead. When the pasta has cooked, reserve 100ml of the cooking water and add this to the white sauce (it may look a little thin but the pasta absorbs the sauce as it cools). Transfer to the ovenproof dishes (without the sage topping). Once cool, cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Sprinkle with the Cheddar, paprika and sage just before baking and cook for an extra 5-10 minutes, checking that the macaroni cheese is piping hot in the centre before serving.


Photographs Keiko Oikawa


AND ON TV Simply Nigella, a six-part BBC Two TV series, will air in November, with a Christmas special in December.



Our recipes are from Simply Nigella which will be published by Chatto & Windus on 8 October, price £26. To pre-order a copy for £19.50 (a 25 per cent discount) with free p&p until 4 October, visit the YOU Bookshop,, or call 0808 272 0808. TERMS AND CONDITIONS Offer applies to UK mainland only. Subject to availability. For full terms, visit