A New Food Challenge!

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“!

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CP
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 12:48:11

    vanilla bean…mmmmm

  2. Mary
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 14:05:15

    What a great story! I sometimes feel that I belong to too many cooking groups, but the Nigella one sounds like a perfect fit for you, especially with the personal connection. I have her newest cookbook, but haven’t had the chance to make anything yet. Hopefully soon!
    Oh, I would try to get fresh whole cardamom, as it’s so much stronger, but if you can only get the ground stuff, just up the measurement a bit to get more cardamom flavour.

  3. Jessica
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 14:22:29

    Wow, you really love Nigella! I’m glad you found another food group to join!

  4. Cher
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 14:45:54

    That’s great – good for you! Good luck with the new challenge.

    Candelabra’s story left me a little exhausted – kudos to her for getting through a residency.

  5. Mia
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 14:55:04

    OmiGod , im all the more in loveee with Nigella now!
    And i sure know the life of a resident , whew!!
    Some places its a little more relaxed , but surgeries are almost always 24/7!
    i admire Candelabra too 🙂
    and boy , am i excited u took this up!
    Thannxx for the shout out -)
    was so thrilled to see me there:-) Ur rite , i sure wanna use all those books i have too and monthly groups are fantastic , though i am always a little behind , not in the actual cooking but the blogging:-)
    Looking forward to meet u up at Forever Nigella!

  6. Sarah, Maison Cupcake
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 15:03:15

    I met Nigella at a book signing a couple of years ago and she was delighted to chat and swap recipe tips with people… I was a little dumb struck myself!

    I have never seen this panettone recipe before – I must admit I fly through Nigella Christmas in November/December picking out a couple of things I’ve made before and always mean to sit down with it properly, I had no idea there was a panettone recipe in there but I will seek it out.

    Thank you so much for taking part in the first Forever Nigella and I hope you will join us in future months… it’s getting to be very popular if this first month is anything to go by!

  7. Trevor Sis Boom
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 15:30:04

    More power to you for joining another group! I’ll have to live vicariously through you on this one, however. I love me Nigella, however!
    Trevor Sis. Boom.

  8. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 15:57:15

    I love Nigella too, but I have enough trouble keeping up with FFwD. I look forward to seeing what Nigella recipes you make though! The Panettone Pudding looks great! 🙂

  9. NN
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 18:34:57

    HA! Home early for once….

    I will cook along when possible, try to make constructive comments (i.e., remember that we are blogging about food and not surgery…), and, in general, use this as a link to the outside-hospital world.

    And meeting Nigella? Totally worth the two hour drive after work.

  10. Cakelaw
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 19:50:14

    Yum! This looks superb – and perhaps another way to use up the remaining stollen in my freezer 🙂 I adore Nigella- good for you in signing up for this group. I am already overcommitted with 3 groups, so I will wisely leave it at that.

  11. blackbookkitchendiaries
    Jan 12, 2011 @ 10:33:53

    great looking pudding..i am a huge fan of nigella as well.. she is absolutely gorgeous and very talented. i cant wait to see whats cooking in this awesome series.

  12. Ker-Yng
    Jan 12, 2011 @ 23:13:37

    Another great story (yes, I did read the first Nigella story)! Great looking panettone pudding. I will follow ‘Forever Nigella’ through your blog as I don’t own any Nigella cookbooks nor have the time. I’m still trying to make use of Dorie’s Baking book as much as I can! 🙂

  13. Elaine
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 21:10:36

    What a wonderful story and what a great friend you have! How great that you have joined another group and I can certainly understand you wanting to join Nigella’s. Your panettone looks so beautiful! I have never tried vanilla bean paste – it sounds delicious.

  14. Comfy Cook
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 09:29:29

    I love this post. I have tremendous respect for Nigella and I love this new book and I love Sugar Plum Fairy and your recipe and the new club. Could you let me know the email to send my recipe to. I could not find it and although I am sure, it was right in front of me, I did not see it.

    Thanks for the help.

    Didn’t I see a link at Let’s Do Brunch at My Sweet and Savory? That is my other blog and I thank you.

  15. Radiodiva
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 16:33:22

    I too have always love the Nigella story. It’s inspiring and heartwarming. So many of us all have had to deal with the ugliness of cancer (in all of its forms). Be it for ourselves or friends and family. Candelabra is such a strong woman and I’m proud to know both of you!!


    And even though the holidays are over, your pudding looks fun and festive and ready to digg into…Yuletide caroling, anyone?! LOL! =)

  16. Trackback: Forever Nigella #1 Round Up and Winners | maisoncupcake.com
  17. Brownieville Girl
    Feb 06, 2011 @ 15:49:46

    What a lovely story – delighted that Nigella was nice in real life!!

    Your pannetone looks fantastic.

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