Nigella Lawson at JW3  Photo: Alan Pitchforth

Nigella Lawson at JW3
Photo: Alan Pitchforth

According to Nigella Lawson, creating a new recipe book is like penning a novel, writes Louisa Walters. “You get an idea, it evolves and eventually all the ideas come together,” the celebrity chef told a 300-strong audience at JW3 on Monday. 

“My recipe books chart my life. Looking at them is like looking at a photo album – with each recipe I remember where I was when I created it and what else I ate with it. Cooking is a form of connection and in this way I connect with elements of my past.” 

Nigella, 55, was talking to journalist Sam Baker from online magazine The Pool as part of the Alan Howard Foundation/JW3 Speaker Series. She recounted her early days in the kitchen with warmth and wit. “When I was a girl I was often called on by my mother to help her in the kitchen – she was a great believer in child labour! She made a lot of sauces and she used to put my sister and me on wobbly chairs to stir things over a very high heat!”

Nigella’s place is most definitely in the kitchen. “When I travel abroad I don’t like staying in hotels because then I have no reason to shop for food, so I usually rent an apartment,” she said. “When I’m uprooted from the kitchen I feel a bit disconnected.”

Nigella recalled her maternal grandmother being a religious follower of recipes, whereas she likes to cook with spontaneity using the ingredients she has in the kitchen.

“I create the dish and try it out before I write the recipe. I never write recipes that you would need to have gadgets for – I like to think everyone is able to make my recipes and I have no desire to use something like a sous vide machine.”

So whose recipes does she follow? “I find Claudia Roden inspirational, especially her inventive use of of ingredients, but food writer Stephanie Alexander is the one whose books I turn to the most.”