The 20 best Nigella Lawson recipes: part 1 (2024)

My mother’s praised chicken

This may well be – indeed is – the smell, the taste, the dish that says “family” to me and my siblings, and brings our long-absent mother back to the kitchen and the table with us. But the fact that I’ve cooked it more often and over more years than I’ve cooked anything else doesn’t make writing a recipe for it any easier. If anything, it makes it harder, much harder.

Relax: obviously, it’s not the reliability from a practical perspective that’s in question; rather, I cook this so often I know that one written-down version of it can’t take into account or begin to convey all its possible permutations. For example, you could toss in some pancetta cubes before you add the chicken and maybe use cider as your flavour-giving alcoholic beverage of choice; or you could add some ginger, freshly grated or sliced, along with the oil and use Chinese cooking wine or sake in place of the white wine or vermouth and put coriander stalks in, along with the parsley or instead, and add fresh, de-seeded red chilli, cut into fine almost-rings, as well as chopped coriander, at the end. At all times, you can play with the vegetables. And very often, when all is heaped into the pan at the beginning, just before it is left to cook itself into aromatic succulence, I grate in the zest of 1 lemon, then squeeze in the juice and maybe add a sprinkling of dried mint, too. I could go on and on ...

By its very nature, this symbolises the very free-style form of cooking that a recipe seems to argue against. So, let me reassure you that really all you need to know is that you simply brown the chicken before adding vegetables and just enough liquid to cover, and cook them slowly before eating on top of rice. I like brown basmati here, and work on 75-100g per head before cooking, depending on the ages and appetites of the eaters. On the whole, I tend to go for the higher rather than lower number – no huge surprise, I’m sure – not because I think it’s all needed, but because one of my favourite uses of leftover meat is a variation of a salad I make with leftover turkey at Christmas: chunks or shreds of cold chicken stirred into cold brown basmati rice, with pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds or any mixture of similar seeds, fresh dill, lemon juice, salt and 1-2 drops of gorgeously flavoured oil (a rich, mustardy yellow cold-pressed rapeseed being my favourite).

Obviously, if you want, you can ditch the rice and think of serving steamed potatoes, instead. And if you can steam them above the chicken, so much the better. But rice it has to be in our house. And, as I am presenting this in its role as a family favourite, my kitchen perennial, in fact, I feel I can allow myself to be bossier than normal, even telling you how you should eat it: by this I mean the Lawsonian familial practice of adding fresh fronds of dill and some English mustard – just a pinprick or great, sinus-clearing teaspoonfuls – as we greedily, gratefully eat.

Serves 4-8 (cooked this way it seems to go much further than roast chicken, so you can feed more first time or have plenty for the rest of the week)
chicken 1 large, preferably organic
garlic oil 2 tsp
white wine or dry white vermouth 100ml
leeks 2-3, cleaned, trimmed and cut into approx 7cm logs
carrots 2-3, peeled and cut into batons
celery 1-2 sticks , sliced
cold water approx 2 litres
bouquet garni 1, or 1 tsp dried herbs
fresh parsley stalks or few sprigs, tied or banded together
sea salt flakes 2 tsp, or 1 tsp pouring salt
red peppercorns 2 tsp, or good grinding pepper

To serve
chopped parsley leaves from stalks above
chopped fresh dill
English mustard

Get out a large, flame-safe cooking pot (with a lid) in which the chicken can fit snugly: mine is about 28cm wide x 10cm deep.

On a washable board, un-truss the chicken, put it breast-side down and press down until you hear the breastbone crack. (As you may imagine, I like this.) Then press down again, so that the chicken is flattened slightly. Now cut off the ankle joints below the drumstick (but keep them); I find kitchen scissors up to the task.

Put the oil in the pan to heat, then brown the chicken for a few minutes breast-side down, and turn up the heat and turn over the chicken, tossing in the feet as you do so. Still over a vigorous heat add the wine or vermouth to the pan and let it bubble down a little before adding the leeks, carrots and celery.

Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken, though the very top of it may poke out, then pop in the bouquet garni or your herbs of choice, and the parsley stalks (if I have a bunch, I cut the stalks off to use here, but leave them tied in the rubber band) or parsley sprigs along with the salt and red peppercorns (I just love these beautiful red berries) or a good grinding of regular pepper.

The chicken should be almost completely submerged by now and if not, do add some more cold water. You want it just about covered.

Bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to very low and leave to cook for 1½–2 hours. I tend to give it 1½ hours, or 1 hour 40 minutes, then leave it to stand with the heat off, but the lid still on, for the remaining 20-30 minutes.

Serve the chicken and accompanying vegetables with brown basmati rice, adding a ladleful or two of liquid over each shallow bowl, as you go, and putting fresh dill and mustard on the table for the eaters to add as they wish.
From Nigella Kitchen (Chatto & Windus, £20). To order a copy for £17, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99

Coca-Cola braised and glazed ham

The 20 best Nigella Lawson recipes: part 1 (1)

I love ham, or rather gammon (though it doesn’t seem to be called that any more), poached in water or cider and then its rind stripped off, the glutinous fatty wrapping underneath pressed with mustard and sugar, scored with a sharp knife and studded with cloves and then glazed in a hot oven. That was my mother’s way.

I am much taken with the American way of cooking a ham in Coca-Cola. In an age which solemnly tells you that cooking can produce food only as good as the ingredients that are provided (that’s the whole history of French cuisine dispatched then), there is something robustly cheering about this dish.

I cannot urge you to try this strongly enough. The first time I tried it, it was out of amused interest. I’d heard, and read, about this culinary tradition from the deep South, but wasn’t expecting it, in all honesty, to be good. It is: I’m converted. I have to make myself cook gammon otherwise now; though often I don’t bother with the glaze but just leave it for longer in the bubbling Coca-Cola instead. But, if you think about it, it’s not surprising it should work: the sweet, spiky drink just infuses it with spirit of barbecue. Don’t even think of using Diet co*ke.

Serves 6
mild-cure gammon 2kg
onion 1, peeled and cut in half
Coca-Cola 2 litres, minus 2 x 15ml tbsp (see below)
breadcrumbs 100g, freshly made from 4-5 pieces of bread
dark muscovado sugar 100g
mustard powder 1 x 15ml tbsp
dijon mustard 2 x 15ml tbsp
Coca-Cola 2 x 15ml tbsp

I find now, as I’ve said elsewhere, that mild-cure gammon doesn’t need soaking. I don’t soak my gammon: I just cover it with cold water, bring it to the boil, throw all the water out and put the gammon back in the pot and proceed. That gets rid of excessive saltiness, and probably doesn’t add more than 40 minutes on to the cooking time. (But do ask the butcher: many gammons now need no soaking or precooking at all.) Otherwise, put the gammon in a pan, skin side down if it fits like that, add the onion, then pour over the Coca-Cola. Bring to the boil, reduce to a good simmer, put the lid on, though not tightly, and cook for just under 2½ hours. (Or, of course, work out timing based on weight of your joint, remembering that it’s going to get a quick blast in the oven later. But do take into account that if the gammon’s been in the fridge right up to the moment you cook it, you will have to give a good 15 or so minutes’ extra cooking time so that the interior is properly cooked.)

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 210C/gas mark 7.

When the ham’s had its time (and ham it is now it’s cooked, though it’s true Americans call it ham from its uncooked state) take it out of the pan and let cool a little for ease of handling. (Indeed, you can let it cool completely then finish off the cooking at some later stage if you want.) Remove skin, leaving a thin layer of fat. Mix breadcrumbs, sugar and the mustards to a thick, stiff paste with the 2 tablespoons of Coca-Cola. Add a drop at a time because the one thing you don’t want is a runny mixture. Slap the glaze on the ham, and put it, glaze-side up, on a roasting tray and cook in the hot oven for 10–15 minutes until the glaze is just set.

Or if you want to do the braising stage in advance and then let the ham cool, give it 30–40 minutes, from room temperature, in a 180C/gas mark 4 oven.

With this I’d have a large bowl of floury, large-chunked boiled potatoes, leafily covered with fresh chopped parsley, and I mean covered not sprinkled. But mashed potatoes are wonderful with this, too, truly. Any other vegetable just needs to be green and sprightly and have some crunch to it.

This ham, not surprisingly, is sensational cold.
From How to Eat (Chatto & Windus, £20). To order a copy for £15.19, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99

Sweet potato macaroni cheese

I’m just going to say it: this is the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever eaten – better than the macaroni cheese I ate as a child; better than the macaroni cheese I brought my own children up on when they were little (they don’t agree); better than any fancy restaurant macaroni cheese with white truffle or lobster; better than any macaroni cheese I have loved in my life thus far, and there have been many.

I don’t feel it’s boastful to say as much, as the greatness lies not in any brilliance on my part, but in the simple tastes of the ingredients as they fuse in the heat. That’s home cooking for you.

Serves 4
sweet potatoes 500g
pennette 300g, or other small short pasta
soft unsalted butter 4 x 15ml tbsp (60g)
plain flour 3 x 15ml tbsp
full-fat milk 500ml
English mustard 1 tsp
paprika ¼ tsp , plus ¼ tsp to sprinkle on top
feta cheese 75g
mature cheddar 125g, grated, plus 25g to sprinkle on top
fresh sage leaves 4
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Put on a large-ish pan of water to boil, with the lid on to make it come to the boil faster.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them roughly into 2-3cm pieces. When the water’s boiling, add salt to taste, and then the sweet potato pieces, and cook them for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. Scoop them out of the water into a bowl – using a “spider” or slotted spoon – and lightly mash with a fork, without turning them into a purée. Don’t get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta in later.

In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan off the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it’s all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard and the ¼ teaspoon of paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.

Cook the pennette in the sweet-potato water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than packet instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn’t lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pennette to the mashed sweet potato, and fold in to combine; the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in.

Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the 125g grated cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.

Check for seasoning again, then, when you’re happy, spoon the brightly sauced macaroni cheese into 4 small ovenproof dishes of approx 375-425ml capacity (or 1 large rectangular dish measuring approx 30 x 20 x 5cm deep and 1.6 litre capacity). Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over each one, dust with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.

Put the pots on a baking tray, pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or, if you’re making this in a larger dish, bake for 30-35 minutes), by which time they will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat them.
From Simply Nigella (Chatto & Windus, £26). To order a copy for £20, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99

Corsican omelette

The 20 best Nigella Lawson recipes: part 1 (3)

Bear with me – as telephonists like to say – while I gush for a bit. This has to be the world’s best omelette. I call it Corsican not because it stems from any in-depth research into the food of Corsica but because it is the adaptation, from memory, of the best thing I ate there on a holiday now nearly 17 years ago. Also, to be fair, the key ingredient is itself Corsican, brocciu, a soft goat’s whey cheese that’s left to drain and shape in woven baskets; think ricotta with an edge. Here, I just use that goat’s cheese – chèvre – that comes in a log and which is incredibly easy to come by. Cut away the soft-kid skin and crumble the white sharp cheese into the eggs in the pan: the salty sharpness contrasts exquisitely with the rich fattiness of the eggs; against which, too, the fresh hit of mint is positively exhilarating, though to tell the truth, I make this just as often (just because it’s easier to keep both chèvre and eggs in the fridge on constant standby) without it.

Think of this more as a lunch or supper dish, although I wouldn’t turn it down at any time of day.

Serves 1
eggs 3
salt and pepper
butter 15g
fresh mint leaves from 3-4 good-sized sprigs, shredded
chèvre log approx 100g thick slice

Beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a frying pan approximately 25cm in diameter.

When the butter has melted and is bubbling, throw in most of the shredded mint, saving some for sprinkling on top at the end. When it has sizzled in the butter and become vibrantly green, pour in the beaten eggs and tip the egg around the pan. Crumble the cheese over the omelette and cook, lifting the sides and swilling the pan around to let any runny egg cook in the heat underneath.

When the top of the omelette looks nearly set but still gooey, fold into three lengthways – in other words, fold in two sides, leaving a strip of white-blobbed omelette facing up in a strip in the middle – and slide on to a plate. Sprinkle with the reserved mint and eat.
From Nigella Summer (Chatto & Windus, £20). To order a copy for £17, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99

Chicken Cosima

The 20 best Nigella Lawson recipes: part 1 (4)

I am smiling as I’m writing this, as it is what I cooked for my daughter to celebrate her 21st birthday. Actually, I cooked huge vats of it, in a pan so big that both the children could fit into it together when they were little – and have the lid put on, too. Not that I was in the habit of squeezing them into saucepans.

I wanted to create something that had all my daughter’s favourite ingredients in it, that would be easy to make, and amenable once made. It sits comfortably on a low heat or in a low oven if you need to wait before serving, and it doesn’t require anything more than to be ladled out into shallow bowls.

Serves 6
plain flour 2½-3 x 15ml tbsp
ground coriander 1 tsp
ground cumin 1 tsp
ground turmeric ½ tsp
paprika ½ tsp
sea salt flakes ½ tsp
chicken thighs 6 large, skinless and boneless, cut into bite-sized chunks
cold-pressed coconut oil or regular olive oil 1 x 15ml tbsp
onion 1, peeled and chopped
sweet potatoes 500g, peeled and cut into 2-3cm chunks
hot chicken stock 500ml
chickpeas 500g cooked (from dried), or 1 x 660g jar or 2 x 400g cans, drained
fresh coriander chopped, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Measure the flour, spices and salt into a freezer bag and then tip in the chicken. Shake the bag around to coat the chicken with the floury spice.

Heat the oil in a wide casserole or pan (with a lid), and then fry the onion until softened but not really coloured.

Add the chicken and all the contents of the bag to the pan, and stir around for a minute or so, then add the peeled and chopped sweet potatoes and stir again.

Pour in the hot stock, then bring the pan to the boil and tip in the chickpeas. Give it another good stir, then clamp on the lid and put in the oven for 25 minutes.

Check that the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potatoes are tender, then take out of the oven and leave with the lid on to stand for about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls, sprinkling each with chopped coriander.
From Simply Nigella (Chatto & Windus, £26). To order a copy for £20, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99

The 20 best Nigella Lawson recipes: part 1 (2024)
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