…any recipe ever written, any meal ever eaten, is a story, the story of home cooking which, in turn, is about who we are, where we’ve come from and the lives that we’ve lived and what we say to each other – all those assertions of love, friendship, hospitality, hope – when we invite people to sit at our table and eat the food we’ve made for them.
– Nigella Lawson, At My Table | a celebration of home cooking
This newest cookbook from Nigella Lawson, who needs not an introduction I’m sure, was a rousing reminder for me that the food we make matters. It matters for our own well-being; feeding people brings us joy and gives purpose when days are long, and hard. It matters to the people around us; making a meal for someone is one surefire way to let them know you care enough to take time from your day and use it to make theirs better, to nourish them both inside and out. It matters for our families; gathering at the table at the end of each day, or whenever time permits, allows stories to be shared, memories to come back to the surface so we can carry them through generations. It’s a handful of minutes delibrately spent on the ones you love most. Food matters, and the stories told around the table, wherever that table may be, are the ones that stick with us.
I think that’s what I found particularly memorable about At My Table. The recipes are shrouded in memories from Nigella’s table, so much so that you feel as though you might be sitting, well, at her table… and haven’t we all dreamed of that at some point? The recipes aren’t especially fussy, though a novice homecook may find some of the techniques, like Nigella’s poached egg method of allowing the excess eggwhites to strain out through a sieve, rather finicky. But for the most part, the recipes are attainable, with familiar ingredients and techniques told alongside charming stories of how they came to Nigella’s kitchen.
I am particular to her lauded Turkish Eggs (pg. 14) which have been praised by blog writers and journalists alike, the shaggy, fragrant Coconut Shrimp with Turmeric Yogurt (pg. 130) and her Lime and Cilantro Chicken (pg. 138) that looks rather pedestrian, but packs a punch of flavour you won’t be expecting from a humdrum chicken breast. I also appreciate that Nigella has no time for salad snobs, sharply reassuring those of us who adore but often feel shamed away from buying lowly iceberg lettuce, that there is nothing wrong with using it, especially when it’s been dressed lightly and topped with impossibly crisp shards of fried chicken skin. There ain’t nothing wrong with any of that.
Today I’m sharing the recipe for Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Mousse (pg. 210), a pillowy cloud of rich dark chocolate and luscious fruity oil. As discussed in Tuesday’s post, baking with olive oil takes a little bit of planning and understanding but for the most part is pretty simple. Here Nigella suggests using an oil that is “smooth but still spicy, rather than raspingly peppery extra virgin olive oil, and use the absolute best quality you can”.
I used a Greek olive oil I had bought recently that has a slight earthy/grassiness to it along with a gentle hum of spice that hits you in the back of your throat. It didn’t jump out of the mousse or smack you in the face with olive flavour, but it was obviously present in the overall flavour and I loved the way it played with the chocolate. The oil also makes the texture of the mouse brilliantly smooth and luscious. I recommend serving with a wee bit of whippped cream, perhaps with a dribble of orange blossom water, if you’re really wanting to gild the lily.Print
- 150g / 5 1/2oz / 1 cup dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids
- 100ml / 3 1/2fl oz / 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large fresh eggs at room temperature, separated
- 1/4 tsp flaky salt, plus a pinch
- 50g / 1/4 cup caster sugar
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl that fits snuggly into a small pot of boiling water (not touching the water) and stir occasionally until melted and smooth or melt in 10-15 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each. When melted, leave to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the oil and set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites and a pinch of sea salt by hand or with a mixer in a grease-free mixing bowl, until you have firm peaks. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in a separate large bowl until pale, thick and about doubled in volume.
- Gradually pour the chocolate-oil mixture into the beaten yolks and fold to mix completely.
- Add one third of the beaten egg whites and fold in vigorously to lighten the mixture; don’t be too worried about folding gently here. Fold in another third of the egg whites a little more delicately and, when the second third of the whites are incorporated, fold in the final third leaving behind any liquid at the bottom of the bowl of whites. Fold until no white streaks remain.
- Spoon the mixture gently into 6 small ramekins or espresso mugs. Now you can either refrigerate for 20 minutes before eating straight away, or pop in the fridge for an hour and let come to room temperature for 40 minutes before eating when you’re ready to serve.
Disclaimer: We received this book as a gift from Appetite Random House but all thoughts and opinions are our own.