Nigella Kitchen

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I happen to be a fan of Nigella Lawson. She’s so prolific in the cookbook department, but each of her books manages to be different.

My favorite is Nigella Christmas, but probably because I’m a Christmas freak. Feast is also fabulous. But maybe in my top five is Nigella Kitchen, published in 2010.

Nigella describes this book as a comfort chronicle – “the story of my love affair with the kitchen,” which she refers to as the “heart of the home.”

That’s probably one major thing that all food bloggers have in common, that we’re at home in our kitchens. It’s where we’re the most comfortable, where we dish up love in the form of food.

In her introduction, she stresses the fact that she is not a chef. Nigella writes, “I understand why cooking can hold so much terror and the kitchen seem a place of stress, not solace. I’m sure this is partly to do with the contemporary cult of the chef…”.

Well I’ve been saying this for years. If anyone was ever hesitant about getting into the kitchen, I think the intimidating chefs on tv put an end to any attempts at cooking. This is especially sad when home cooking has nothing to do with what chefs do in their restaurant kitchens.

Furthermore, she adds, “I say and can never seem to say enough: if we needed qualifications and expertise before we stepped into the kitchen, human beings would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long time ago.”

I love her approach, probably because it was always my goal, especially when I taught cooking classes, and now with this blog, to show how simple home cooking is, and how easy it is to be creative and not stick to an exact recipe.

In another part of the book she writes about having a girlfriend over for supper:

“We were chatting, moaning, jabbering away and generally passing the time, as one does. I was at the stove, pontificating and pottering occasionally pushing and prodding what was in front of me with a pair of tongs; she was facing me, at the kitchen table. After about ten minutes, if that I presented her with her plate and she looked surprised, as she was sure she hadn’t seen me actually cooking. In a way, I can see her point: this wasn’t Cooking-with-a-capital-C, but the lower-case way which is always my starting point, and on busy days, I wouldn’t think of going beyond. You put something on the heat, you take it off the heat.”

Nigella’s writing is so impressive to me (her first career was journalism), and she’s also damn funny. And even though she’s gorgeous model-pretty, she seems so down to earth and shall I say normal?

I also love the passion she has not just for cooking but also eating; the way she embraces her love of indulging is respectable to me. I’d rather live like Nigella and eat chocolate cake in the middle of the night, than doom myself to eat egg white omelets the rest of my life like rail-thin Gwyneth Paltrow.

So what recipe from Nigella Kitchen to pick for this post? I have many recipes bookmarked, some of which are quite simple, but manage also to be unique. One really spoke to me – it was a salmon over sushi rice topped with a spicy Asian sauce. Simple? Definitely. Yet fabulous.

I’ve always mentioned that I use brown rice, or actually when I use any grain I purchase the unprocessed variety for more nutrition, but Nigella’s use of sushi rice in this recipe – with its beautiful white elegance – made me actually go out and buy some.

Plus I finally get to use some sake that I’ve had on hand forever!

Salmon and Sushi Rice
with hot, sweet, and sour Asian Sauce

2 1/2 cups sushi rice
1 – 1 pound slab salmon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red or green chile peppers, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced gingerroot
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water (used used only 1)

Cook the rice following the package instructions.

Sear the salmon on a flat griddle for 4-5 minutes. Turn it over and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side. The salmon should be just opaque and cooked in the center. Set aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients together, and put in a bowl to serve alongside the salmon and the cooked rice.


Flake the salmon and serve it over the rice, and generously add the sauce.

This would be a fantastic sauce for any leftover salmon you might have. This recipe, as it turns out, is only about the cooked rice, the cooked salmon, and the sauce!

I originally assumed that the salmon was marinated, but no, it’s just a matter of making this fabulous sauce!

Besides reducing the water in the recipe(I didn’t want a watery sauce), I also added chile paste (sambal oelek) to the sauce.

Part of the reason is that I used jalapeños, but I could only find sweet red chile peppers.

I wanted the sauce more spicy!!!

Make sure and serve the sauce with the salmon. You’ll want more of it!

note: You can probably tell that I cooked 2 small salmon fillets, plus I only cooked 1 cup of sushi rice; my husband doesn’t eat salmon. But I made the full recipe of the sauce and will use it up on something else soon. Grilled chicken? Eggs? The next morning after I’d made this dish, I ate the second salmon and rice serving of it cold, for breakfast. It was fantastic.

53 thoughts on “Nigella Kitchen

  1. ” if we needed qualifications and expertise before we stepped into the kitchen, human beings would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long time ago.” Thats what I have been telling my friends..just cook dont think too much,its the love you put into your dish.

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  2. I totally agree, I love Nigella. Really enjoyed watching shows. There is something very genuine about her and the fact that she is not a professional Chef make her even more endearing to me. She truly loves cooking and food and it shows. The salmon dish looks delicious!!

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  3. I’ve actually never looked at one of Nigella’s cookbooks! I’ve seen her recipes in newspapers and magazine, and they’re good. And I’ve seen her on TV a few times. I really should get a couple of her cookbooks (although I have so many, I hesitate to get new ones; but then, there’s always the library!). Anyway, this looks super — thanks.

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    • They’re really nice cookbooks, and very useable for the home cook, which I like. She doesn’t dummy down the recipes, nor is she pretentious. And John, one can never have too many cookbooks….

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  4. While she’s right in saying that cooking should be accessible to all, I’m sure she too doesn’t eat only homey foods all the time… We just need to make the distinction between foods that can only be cooked at a professional restaurant kitchen, and foods that we can cook at home. Both are equally important.

    Love the dressing for the salmon. Looks like a very tasty dish. :)

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    • hmmm. well that’s exactly what she is saying. Although I might add that home cooking might be more important if you’re raising children – I’ve watched too many children get fed improperly with fast food while I was raising mine. To me, it was the highest priority, no matter how busy I was. I have a lot of history working with people, trying to de-mistify what home cooking entails. Cooking, no matter how simple or fancy, is accessible. People just have to get in there and do it! As a restaurant-goer, I’m personally thrilled with what chefs do in restaurant kitchens!!

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      • I feel she is a bit too dismissive about “the cult of chefs”. When she says their cooking is intimidating, she fails to mention that they promote a completely different type of cooking.

        I too give cooking classes and sometimes I’m at owe with how little some people know about cooking. Most grew up on take away/fast food/frozen dinners only, so it’s no wonder they can’t even follow a simple recipe. I think it’s a shame that cooking is not taught in elementary schools.

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      • I wonder if she just wants to make sure she doesn’t come across as a chef, instead of a self-taught cook? I don’t know. I really do feel like she expresses the gap between what chefs do and what home cooks should be doing. I know personally that cooking shows did some people under, when they might have made cooking attempts… This was years ago of course. I do know you give cooking classes – I assumed your students were more experienced! Isn’t it crazy what people don’t do in the kitchen! I wrote a cookbook long ago, trying to not only get people to cook, but teach them about the choice of ingredients. There are always healthier alternatives. I still remember vividly when a little boy in my daughter’s 3rd grade class opened up a giant Hershey’s chocolate bar in the morning; I was substituting for an hour. My jaw dropped when I saw what he was doing. He said, “It’s okay, Mrs. Rippee. I didn’t get breakfast this morning.” I used to not only do classes and demonstrations but talks as well. One mom asked me what to do because her toddler only ate Cocoa Puffs. I’m like, “WTH, does he grab your car keys and do the grocery shopping?!!” Why are there Cocoa Puffs in your house??? Anyway, you can tell this whole cooking thing is/was a big issue for me. Cooking in elementary schools is a great idea. I was able to do this when my kids were at a Montessori, but not public. It should be combined with chemistry class!!! Thanks for your input. I love chefs!!!

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      • lol love that story! “I didn’t get breakfast this morning” – what a great excuse! :)
        I will teach anyone, no matter what their level in cooking is, as long as they have a genuine desire to learn. I too feel it is my mission to promote good basic home cooking anywhere… :D

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  5. I really need to get myself a Nigella cook book… I’ll make this one my first priority. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a bottle of sake that’s been unopened since forever! This recipe looks fantastic, and one I know my hubby and daughter would really like too.

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    • Funny story. I bought the sake at least ten-12 years ago for an all Asian birthday dinner for my husband. That afternoon he started to not feel well, which is odd for him, and needless to say, he never made it to dinner. Turns out he had mono – in his 50’s! And that’s why that sake has sat there ever since!

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  6. I also like her, though I only have one of her books. I need to explore some of these that you mention, Mimi, and also must make this salmon. Maybe even tonight!

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  7. This recipe looks lovely Mimi, especially for the warmer seasons. I think Sambal oelek is a great substitute for any lack of real chilli.
    I’m mot a big fan of Nigella. I have two of her books languishing on the shelf. I find her preludes to recipes to wordy and her food has little appeal to me. She is rather lovely to watch and I also appreciate that she is a real woman who eats a little of whatever she fancies, but after her initial success, the series became tiresome.

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  8. Aww sushi rice and sake…always have that in our Asian well stocked kitchen. This recipe is like a poke bowl but with the salmon cooked… We have watched some of Nigella’s cooking shows and the part that always makes us laugh is when she gets up in the middle of the night to raid the refrigerator.. LOL

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  9. I love this post, Mimi! I too am a huge fan of Nigella and have been for decades. Many years ago a friend of mine bought me How to Eat (her first book) for my birthday and I’ve never looked back. As you say, her writing is so fabulous you could buy her books simply for the joy of reading them – even if you never cooked one recipe. My personal favourite is Feast. I cook from it so often. Love this recipe you’ve chosen – will have to go home and look it up. Brilliant post!

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    • I love Feast and Christmas! I like that her food is not pretentious, and neither is she as a person. And personally she’s lived through some tough times so she’s most likely very humble. Wish she had a tv show here in the states.

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