Love to cook meals but don't want it to take all day? Then try Nigella Lawson's scrumptious dishes from her new cookbook, “Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast.” Whether it's butternut squash with pecans and blue cheese, chicken schnitzel or chocolate mousse, these dishes can be prepared quickly but cooked slowly in the oven, leaving you time to have a bath, a drink, talk to friends, or help the children with their homework.
Chicken schnitzel with bacon and white wineIt stands to reason that if you want food to cook quickly it needs, first of all, to be fit for the purpose. Thin cuts of meat — and, indeed, fish — are obvious contenders here, but you do have to make sure that speed doesn’t take priority over taste. A chicken schnitzel, or escalope, grilled plain is certainly fast fare, but it wouldn’t make you skip to the dinner table. Bacon comes to the rescue here; nothing fancy, just sweet, salty ribbons courtesy of Oscar Mayer, which I always keep in the fridge for just such an eventuality. There’s something about the coming together of bacon and white wine that is simple — but ever-compelling. For me, it’s the smell, the lure, of carbonara and what it does here is ooze its way through the pan-scorched chicken to make this feel like a treat. And if you can do that with a boneless, skinless piece of chicken breast, you’re doing something right. I love this with some slender green beans — even my children do — and if you have any left over, chop it up and heat with a little cream and Parmesan to make a quick pasta sauce.
Butternut squash with pecans and blue cheese
This has many strings to its bow: It serves as a vegetarian alternative to the Thanksgiving turkey; it gussies up a plate of cold leftover turkey; it adds the right balance of mellow warmth and tang to any plain wintry dish; it is a good whole meal on days when you just feel fleshed out. Roquamole
I have practically had to sit on my hands to stop myself writing about this before now. Now, naturally I know Roquefort does not come from Mexico, but because it melds deliciously with avocado I couldn’t resist; I hope you won’t be able to, either. And although I have called this incredible dip roquamole, I think it may be better made with a less illustrious bleu. Saint Agur out of a wedge-shaped package is the cheese I keep in the fridge so that I am ever-ready to make this. You don’t need to serve blue corn tortilla chips with this; you don’t have to serve any kind of tortilla chip with this, though both do add to the luscious eat-me quality here. But I’m also very keen on a huge platter of dippable bits: radishes, carrot batons, sugar snaps, you name it. For me, this can be a dip with drinks, a quick treat for lunch, or a greedy solitary dinner. The only meal I’ve yet to eat it at is breakfast. I think it’s just a question of time …
New Orleans coleslaw
This is my accompaniment of choice for the buttermilk chicken. Indeed, I have even converted fiercely committed anti-coleslawers with it. I can’t remember why I call it my New Orleans Coleslaw now (I’ve been making it, or a version of it, for so long), but I think it has something to do with all the wonderful pecan trees I saw when I was there. Do serve a potato salad alongside if you want: You see, in the picture on page 275, some baby new potatoes doused in olive oil, salt, and a little lime juice, shaken about in a mustard jar.
Instant chocolate mousse Normally, you need to make chocolate mousse a good few hours or, better still, a day before you want to eat it, so that the egg yolk sets and the whisked whites permeate everything with air bubbles. Forget that: Here we have no yolks, no whites, no whisking, no waiting. Lack of raw egg, incidentally, also means that you might be happier giving the mousse to small children, though I certainly feel they should not be the only beneficiaries. No-churn pomegranate ice cream
It’s not hard to think of a dessert that can be made in advance. But mostly the advantage is simply that all the effort is upfront and early. The thing about this recipe is that you do it in advance — it’s ice cream, so that stands to reason — but what you do in advance is negligible in terms of effort. You don’t make a custard, and you don’t have to keep whipping it out of the deep freeze to beat the crystals out of it. No, you simply squeeze and stir. On top of that cause for greater contentment, there is also the fact that this delicate pink ice cream tastes like fragrant, sherbety heaven. Excerpted from “Nigella Express” by Nigella Lawson. Photographs by Lis Parsons. Copyright (c) 2007 Nigella Lawson. Published in the United States by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available November, 2007, wherever books are sold.