In my short tenure of writing a blog, I’ve come across food bloggers who are members of several different cook along projects or groups. Some even have a group to cook and post for every day, though they don’t always do so. Initially, my intention for creating Yummy Chunklet was to participate in French Fridays with Dorie. But, now, my growing interest in cooking and baking has gone beyond the weekly posting group to include my random cooking adventures through the cookbooks I’ve amassed over the years.
One such cookbook is Nigella Express. I thoroughly enjoy watching Nigella Lawson’s cooking programs and appreciate how she calls herself a “cook” and not a “chef”. Back in 2007, I had the opportunity to meet Nigella when she was promoting the aforementioned cookbook at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago. You can read about the details of that day, including getting an autographed copy of Nigella Express for me and my friend, and the chicken schnitzel with bacon and white wine I made from her cookbook here. Trust me, you’ll want to read the post (if you haven’t already!)
After posting my Nigella story, one of the bloggers I read regularly, Sugar Plum Fairy at Bright Morning Star, suggested I join Forever Nigella. I was hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure I’d have time for a second cooking challenge, but this was right up my alley! A monthly, theme-centered Nigella recipe of your choosing? Yes, please!
For the inaugural month, the Nigella theme is “Seasonal Sensations”, meaning we make and blog about a recipe that’s Christmas or New Year-oriented, party canapes, or winter comfort food. Just as long as it’s a Nigella recipe! Luckily, I also own Nigella Christmas. Although it’s not personally my story, I do have a follow-up as to how I received an autographed copy of this cookbook as well. In the fall of 2008, my friend, (Codename: Candelabra), informed me that Nigella would be giving a talk in Atlanta, signing her Nigella Christmas cookbook, and that I should come visit. Unfortunately, like Candelabra’s surgical residency, my trial schedule got the better of me and was unable to make it. So, Candelabra resolved to go by herself to get both of us autographed copies of Nigella Christmas just like I had gotten both of us autographed copies of Nigella Express a year earlier. I also had to coax Candelabra to bring her autographed copy of Nigella Express so she could show Nigella how we’d come full circle!
Now, for those of you who do not understand what it’s like to be a resident, the following will always be true. Residents are sleep-deprived, food-deprived, mentally and physically exhausted, and their own ailments are forever put on the backburner. Usually, residents cannot look forward to weekends or holidays off because THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SICK PEOPLE TO TAKE CARE OF AT ALL TIMES. Add all this to performing surgeries that require you to stand still for hours, cause your back to feel like it’s on fire because you’re hunched over, and knowing that someone’s life is in your hands. Try having that hang over your head every day. This is just a glimpse of the life that Candelabra leads.
Don’t worry. This all has a point. The evening of the Nigella talk that Candelabra was to attend by herself, she had been working all day and was particularly concerned about one patient. This patient was so troubling that Candelabra refused to leave until she was stable, but this made her extremely late to the event. So late, that by the time she arrived at the reception hall (which was 2 hours away), the pre-talk happy hour had ended and Nigella was literally wrapping up her talk. Tired and aching from carrying two Nigella Christmas cookbooks and her personalized copy of Nigella Express, Candelabra made a quick scan of the lobby and saw that Nigella’s book signing station was already set up five feet from where she was standing. So, as everyone from the reception hall started to pile out, Candelabra was the first in line at the signing station!
Not only was she the first in line, but Nigella herself spent a solid twenty minutes speaking with Candelabra because of her work in surgical oncology. Nigella genuinely wanted to have a decent interaction despite the now-long line that had formed behind Candelabra. After hearing how Candelabra sped to the event after working an extended day, and the fact that Candelabra was still in her scrubs, Nigella exclaimed, “You must be EXHAUSTED!” Candelabra then showed Nigella the personalized inscription she had written in the first cookbook and explained how I met her in Chicago and got an autographed copy of Nigella Express for Candelabra because she couldn’t make it. Nigella smiled, talked even further with Candelabra, and signed both Nigella Christmas cookbooks, mine with the generic “Festive Wishes”, while Candelabra got “Am STILL full of admiration for you!” Seriously, Nigella is just so amazing. If you ever have a chance to meet her, you simply must do so.
Anyway, back to “Seasonal Sensations”! Even though Christmas is over, I did want to make a recipe from Nigella Christmas. One recipe that caught my eye was panettone pudding on page 164. Seeing panettone in the Italian market always reminds me of Christmas. However, I didn’t want to make panettone pudding for 8-10 people like the recipe says, so I skipped the full 2-pound panettone boxes and purchased three of the miniature 3.5 ounce boxes. I halved the rest of the ingredients, went a little more decadent and used vanilla bean paste, and then topped the slices with frozen berries.
To see what others made for their interpretation of January’s “Seasonal Sensations”, head over to “Forever Nigella“!