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She is the best known female food personality in the world today. The mere mention of her name can cause people to recall, accurately, what she sounds like, how she smiles, and, of course, how she cooks.

You might think it could be unnerving being Queen of Gastroporn Nigella Lawson and constantly having your sensual charms – and curves – discussed alongside your body of work. But Lawson says that she can’t control how people perceive her and that ”it’s wrong to get into a state about it”.

She says the suggestion that the way she presents herself in front of the television is carefully thought about is simply false. ”I don’t construct a personality, but I certainly think the personality that is ascribed to me is not my personality,” she says. ”That’s a projection of other people, but also to do with the particular, strange force television has.”

Her trademark lascivious tone, for example, is unintentional. ”When I am talking to camera … I mean, I love my crew and I have had them forever so I am very very close to them … I know that I am quite an intense person and I know that I am being quite intimate. To me, I am not being remotely coquettish.”

Men and their egos are often the source of this misinterpretation, she suggests. ”One of the things I find quite endearing about men is that they do seem to have a certain sort of confidence and they sort of think anyone is flirting with them.”

Lawson is in Australia for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, of which she is the star attraction.

Here to represent a key festival theme, Women of the Kitchen, Lawson reflects on the women who inspired her. ”My mother was quite spontaneous, quite impatient, and really knew how to trust her own palate. I think people really underestimate how important that is,” she says. ”Maybe because cooking has been, in the large part, taken over by professionals, I think technique has been overstressed and actually what cooking is, is about trusting your instincts and about trusting your palate to know what tastes good.”

After graduating from Oxford University, Lawson worked as a literary journalist and opinion page columnist before releasing her first cookbook, How to Eat, which became a bestseller. Her first television series, Nigella Bites, became an incredible success and soon she was known as a woman who loves food and doesn’t torment herself dieting.

”I am always thinking about what my eating opportunities are, and what I can manage to get in,” she says.

(Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

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Recipe taken from Nigella Christmas by Queen of Gastroporn Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £25)

150g currants
150g sultanas
150g prunes, scissored into pieces
175ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
100g plain flour
125g breadcrumbs
150g suet
150g dark muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 medium cooking apple, peeled and grated
2 x 15ml tablespoons honey
sprig of holly to decorate
125ml vodka to flame

Although I stipulate a capacious 1.7 litre basin, and cannot extol the utter gloriousness of this pud too much, I know that you’re unlikely to get through most of it, even half of it, at one sitting. But I like the grand, pride-instilling size of this, plus it’s wonderful on following days, microwaved in portions after or between meals, fried in butter and eaten with vanilla ice cream for completely off-the-chart, midnight-munchy feasts. But it wouldn’t be out of the question – and it would certainly be in the spirit of the season – to make up the entire quantity of mixture, and share between smaller basins – a 2 pint one for you, a 1 pint one to give away. Three hours’ steaming both first and second time around should do it; just keep the one pudding for yourself, and give the other to a friend, after it’s had its first steaming, and is cool, with the steaming instructions for Christmas Day.

Put the currants, sultanas and scissored prunes in a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.

When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients, either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas. Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly. Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid. Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my double-decker couscous pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.

When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen or, if you’re lucky enough, a larder, until Christmas Day.

On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Eight hours’ combined cooking time might seem a faff, but it’s not as if you need to do anything to it in that time.

To serve, remove from the pan or steamer, take off the lid, put a plate on top, turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding. Then remove the basin – and voilà, the Massively Matriarchal Mono-Mammary is revealed. (Did I forget to mention the Freudian lure of the pudding beyond its pagan and Christian heritage?)

Put the sprig of holly on top of the dark, mutely gleaming pudding, then heat the vodka in a small pan (I use my diddy copper butter-melting pan) and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils – you don’t want the alcohol to burn off before you attempt to flambé it – turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of vodka, then pour the flaming vodka over the pudding and take it as fast as you safely can to your guests. If it feels less dangerous to you (I am a liability and you might well be wiser not to follow my devil-may-care instructions), pour the hot vodka over the pudding and then light the pudding. In either case, don’t worry if the holly catches alight; I have never known it to be anything but singed.

Recipe taken from Nigella Christmas by Queen of Gastroporn Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £25)

This involves a simple, but amply satisfying procedure. In advance, as soon as you get your bird home, remove any trussing, take out the giblets and stash them separately in the fridge. Before putting the turkey in the fridge, wash the inside of the bird with cold running water. Drain well and blot dry with kitchen towels.

The important thing is that you take your bird out of the fridge a good hour before you want to start cooking it, so that it’s at room temperature before you begin. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Now comes the bosomy bit. You take your turkey and, using your fingers, wiggle some space between the skin and breast of the bird, being careful not to tear the skin. (Mind you, turkey skin is so tough, you’d probably need talons to rupture it.) Into this space you’ve made, squeeze good sausage meat, or the contents of your favourite butcher’s sausages (900g of either should be enough for a 5.5kg turkey), pushing, pressing and coaxing so that it covers the whole breast.

Then, from on top of the skin, mould it a little with your hand so that the breast is voluptuously but smoothly bulging. Secure the flaps of skin over the cavity with a metal skewer so that the sausage meat doesn’t escape during cooking.

The skin really crisps up as this turkey roasts, and the sausage meat, which drips down into the breast as it cooks, keeps the meat from drying out. To ensure the turkey doesn’t brown too rapidly, cover it loosely with a sheet of buttered foil until halfway through the cooking time about 2 hours 40 minutes total for a 5.5kg bird with its sausagey faux-bosom). You could then dispense with the chipolatas (or stuffing if you can live without it), so this is a good way of cutting down on dishes to prepare, without making huge sacrifices.

(Yorkshire Evening Post)

Kitchen Goddess Nigella Lawson visited Leeds to sign copies of her latest cookery book.

The smouldering TV star of effortless cooking – who has written for a number of newspapers and magazines, and has launched a successful cookware range – was at Asda House.

Supermarket staff were invited to meet Nigella and buy a signed copy of Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home, with 50p from every sale donated to the Tickled Pink Campaign for Breast Cancer Care.

THE SUSPENSE IS OVER!

The Queen of Gastroporn’s new book “Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home” will be published on 2 September 2010.

Exclusive recipes from Nigella Lawson’s new book

There’s something intensely satisfying about cooking and eating, says the Queen of Gastroporn – whether it’s feeding family or snatching a greedy treat – and the kitchen, her ‘messy, ramshackle sanctuary’, is no place for guilt or self-denial. Here, introducing her new cookbook, she explains what the kitchen means to her, and why food is not just for body but for soul, too:

In everything I do, I try to beat the drum for the non-expert: I am not interested in some romantic idyll, but real life; call it making a virtue of necessity, but I declare myself, hand on cynical heart, the anti-perfectionist. But it appears that it’s hard to enthuse about the kitchen without either seeming to be whimsically nostalgic or bustlingly virtuous. I am neither. But still, the kitchen is my favoured space, my messy haven and ramshackle sanctuary – the place I feel most myself and yet most part of the world.

Maybe it is ungracious to admit this publicly, but I often feel that those of us who like cooking get an unfairly good press: we are hailed as loving, warm and nurturing. And it’s true that I am – to a fault – a feeder; there is scarcely a person who can leave my kitchen without something wrapped in foil to eat later, and just thinking about what I might cook for the next meal gives me a surge of absolute if greedy delight.

But sometimes I wonder if the interest I pay to what I might be giving someone to eat is more selfish than anything else. Of course, I want to give pleasure, but life in the kitchen is, for me, as much about personal gratification.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not such a bad thing. Of course, when you set it against the model of the ideal cook, that all-giving provider of good things, it doesn’t sound so great. But as I get older, I appreciate more and more that enjoying what makes you happy in the everyday is crucially important, and that self-denial (never my forte, let’s be frank) is not the path to virtue but to unhappiness.

So yes, for me the kitchen is not merely a room, but a pleasure palace, an interior garden of sensual delights – and all the better for it. While I could take the line that those who turn away from all that – whether it be the gorgeous, fatty richness of some long-braised belly of pork, or the melting intensity of a chocolate lime cake, dolloped shamelessly with margarita cream – must surely be blessed in their lives if they can so casually afford to deprive themselves of extra occasions of pleasure, I don’t really believe that; my admiration is sarcastic.

The joys of food are so great that I really do believe that those who cannot allow themselves to wallow in them have lesser lives. Of course, they have lesser dress sizes, too, and I can see that the trade-off works for many. It just doesn’t for me – or not that way around.

I know I eat a lot, but my refusal to bow down to the daily diet and all-round self-denial doesn’t mean I believe in indiscriminate gluttony. For me, it’s about savouring food without guilt or shame and not thinking that less flesh (either on your plate or your skeleton) is necessarily better.

Besides, I do think that enjoying food is a way of celebrating being alive. People often say that no one lies on their deathbed wishing they’d spent more time at the office and what I’d add is that I am sure that no one lies on their deathbed saying I’m so glad I turned down the bread, the cheese, the pudding, so thrilled I spent all those years on a diet.

We are all shaped by different things in our lives, but the memory of my perpetually dieting, self-denying mother saying – once she knew she had only a few weeks to live – that this was the first time she had eaten what she wanted and could enjoy it, is still shocking to me. She was such a fantastic cook and actually understood food and the joys it could bring, but the lesson I have learnt from her self-inflicted deprivation is as much a part of her legacy to me as is My Mother’s Praised Chicken, which is the fundamental, actually essential, dish to emanate from my kitchen, as it did from hers.

The joys that emanate from the kitchen are not just about consumption, however delectable, but creation, too. Yes, giving oneself the task of putting together some elaborate, I-must-impress dinner party would be absolute hell, but real cooking contains an element of play that I can’t help but delight in. Mixing up a cake or a batch of muffins is as near as I feel I can get now to the thrill of making mud pies. And I love the feel of food in my hands, almost as much as I like the taste of it in my mouth.

For as much as I find food interesting to think about – and as pretty much a food obsessive, I think about it a lot – what I gain most pleasure from is the fact that cooking is about touch and feel, occupying – tangibly – the realm of the senses.

And I think that is partly why, despite being busy, despite being short of time and despite being able to find a great range of food out there that is already made, we still cook. We need to feel involved in the production, not just the consumption of food; we need to feel that satisfaction that comes from making something to eat, and then enjoying what it tastes like.

But one last request: this isn’t about turning ingredients or cooking into some sort of fetish. I don’t feel guilty that I make my Slut’s Spaghetti more or less by opening a few jars; indeed I revel in it. I believe that the only unhealthy food is not real food, and I feel I eat very healthily, just a lot. So yes, I allow butter, cream and other unfashionable delights into my recipes.

I don’t eat cake every day, but when I do make one I don’t feel bad about eating a slice; having said that, even food that I can’t quite make a case for, such as crisps, I am grateful for. In the kitchen I may be more of an Italophile than a Francophile, but still I cleave to the French saying, ‘Everything in moderation – even moderation’. I may have immoderate appetites, but that gives me immoderate pleasure. And for that I am greedily grateful.

I must have sex with Nigella Lawson before I die. She eats, she writes, she cooks, she drinks, she fucks. The perfect woman.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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