Talk Takeaway: Cooking with Nigella Lawson

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 10:45am

Nigella Lawson stopped by to show us great Valentine's Day dinner recipes.  The recipes are from her new cookbook, "Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes".

Beef Pizzaiola
Serves 2-4

1 tablespoon garlic-flavored oil
4 thin-cut New York strip steaks (approx. 12 ounces)
4 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons dry red vermouth
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, to serve
Warm the garlic-flavored oil in a non-stick frying pan that will contain all four steaks.  I use one with a diameter of 11 inches.
When the oil is hot, fry the steaks over high heat for 30 seconds a side (for medium-rare, longer if you must), then take the pan off the heat, transfer the steaks to a large piece of aluminum foil and make a loose but tightly sealed package.  I don't salt the meat at this stage as I would do normally, since the oil-cured olives are intensely salty.  If using regular pitted olives, add a pinch of salt to each steak.
Put the pan back on the heat and add anchovy fillets, stirring and squishing them down with a wooden spoon or similar utensil until they start to dissolve into the oil. Stir in the dried oregano and red pepper flakes.
Now tumble in the halved tomatoes along with the olives and capers and the red vermouth, and cook for two minutes. Add the water and cook for one further minute.
Acting fast, while the sauce is cooking, unwrap the steaks, slice and arrange them on a platter, pouring the juices that have collected in the foil onto the pan. Now pour the contents of the pan over and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve immediately.

Tuscan Fries
Serves 2-4

2lb 4 oz waxy potatoes
1.5L/2½ pt corn oil or flavorless vegetable oil
1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
8 sprigs thyme, rosemary or sage, or herbs of your choice
Sea salt flakes, to taste

Cut the short ends off each potato (but don't peel it) so that it can sit up vertically, and then slice it downwards into generous ½in slices. Cut these slices into chips about 1cm thick, again, err on the generous side. Load up a clean tea towel with the chips as you cut them.

Put the oil into a wide, heavy-based pan (mine is approximately 11in diameter and 4in deep), and add the freshly cut potatoes. Then put the pan over a high heat and bring to a boil, which should take about five minutes. Keep a careful watch on the pan at all times.

Continue to cook the fries, without stirring them, for another 15 minutes. Once the oil temperature reaches 325F, turn down the heat slightly and keep the fries cooking at between 300-325F. The pan will be bubbling vigorously. If the oil gets too hot or bubbles too hard, reduce the heat a little, and always keep a close eye on it.

Now you can very carefully give the chips a gentle stir with a pair of tongs held in an oven glove, moving any that have stuck away from the bottom or sides of the pan. Add the unpeeled cloves of garlic to the pan, stir gently again, and cook for another 5-10 minutes (watching the temperature and making sure the garlic doesn't look burnt or the fries too dark), before testing a chip for crispness on the outside and tenderness on the inside. Do not burn your mouth, though! You might need another five minutes or so beyond this, but stand by your pan, the chips can turn from a cooked gold to a burnt bronze quickly.

At the point when the chips are pale gold, but crisp, toss in the herbs, then after a minute or so scoop everything out – using a couple of perforated scoops for ease, and wearing oven gloves to protect your hands – onto a tray or platter lined with a double thickness of kitchen roll. Once any excess oil has been absorbed, tip the chips off the kitchen paper clatteringly onto the plate and sprinkle with sea salt flakes to taste, serving immediately.

Chocolate Pasta with Pecans and Caramel
Serves 2

4 ounces cocoa or chocolate pasta, such as cocoa fusilli
Pinch or two of salt
1⁄2 cup unsalted pecan nuts, roughly broken up
3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
7 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more (optional), to serve

Put water on to boil for the pasta and, when it's boiling, add a pinch of salt and cook the pasta, setting a timer for 2 minutes before the package instructions say it will be ready. Put a medium-sized, non-stick frying pan on the stove and tumble in the pecans, then toast them over a medium heat. Once you can smell their scent wafting up from the pan, remove them to a cold plate.

Now stir the butter and sugar together in the frying pan over a low heat, until you have a hot, thick syrup. Carefully, pour in the cream, stir, and let the caramel mixture bubble up, add the toasted pecans and a pinch of salt, then turn off the heat.

Just before draining the pasta, lower in a cup to remove a little pasta-cooking water, then toss the drained pasta back into the frying pan with the dark and nutty caramel sauce, adding a tablespoon or two of the cooking water, if needed, to help coat the pasta. Stir to combine before dividing between 2 bowls. Serve with a little extra cream in a small pitcher to pour over as you eat, if wished.

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