Here's an excerpt:
This is, as the title makes clear, a book about fast food, but it is a book about fast food for those who love eating. Perhaps that's self-evident: How could I write any other sort? But I start with this premise because so much is written about the need to reduce thetime we must spend cooking, it's as if the kitchen were a hateful place, almost an unsafe place, and that it must be only reasonable for us to avoid it. I love food, I adore being in the kitchen and I am happy to cook. But here's the problem: The day doesn't have enoughgaps in it for me to do much shopping and the evening — what with the battles over homework, the still unchecked-off list of things I was meant to do, the calls I was supposed to return — doesn't yield much time to cook. But I must eat, and I must eat well — or else what is the point of it all? And then there are the people who need to be fed. I don't mention them grudgingly, either. I love to feed people, and rare is the person who comes into my home and leaves without a foil parcel of something from the kitchen. I have had to adapt. I manage to have a fridge full of food and a life rich in the expectation of dinner, but within the confines of a timetable that is disorganized, busy, full of things I want to do as well as things I don't want to do — though sometimes I'm so tired I can't tell the difference. In short, I have a normal life, the sort we all share. To be sure, I can occasionally find the odd weekend or rainy afternoon when I am able to lose myself in an afternoon's stirring, chopping, kneading, or general pursuit of unhurried cooking, but for the most part, I am either in a hurry or in some state of psycho-fizz or obligation-overload, and food has to be fitted in.
Even if I might never have thought that a book of fast food recipes would be the natural one for me to write, it has been both pleasurable and easy. After all, the recipes are already there. For this is the food I do eat, day in day out. I don't know if I have quite spelled out my food obsessiveness before, but it's the case that I take notes of everything I cook (even if the notes are sometimes hard to read later), and I keep a digital camera in the kitchen to record each finished dish, if not for posterity, for my own greedy archives. In a way, then, this book has written itself. This is just as well, since I left myself barely enough time to write it. My sister, Horatia, said I was like Wallace and Gromit, laying down the tracks just in time for the train to ride over them; and although it's been a bit hairy at times, it does, however, seem entirely fitting for a book called Nigella Express. I feel, though, that I must emphasize this: Cooking is only one part of the exercise; the shopping and planning can be the most stressful parts. I have tried to keep the ingredients lists as short as possible and, although I haven't excluded all recondite items from them, I try to make sure any shopping trip pays for itself, timewise. That's to say, if I ask you (or myself) to buy something for one recipe, I try to supply other outings for it. But avoiding the recherché or unfamiliar wouldn't be the answer, in any case: after all, there is no way, however basic the supplies required, that shopping can be dispensed with. Eggs and bacon don't magically appear in the kitchen: they need to be shopped for just as coconut milk or wasabi does. I make this embarrassingly obvious point, because I think we all need reminding of it. It's not, however, for me to tell you how to plan your shopping or order your storecupboard. I do much of my shopping on the Internet (too much, some would say), go to specialty stores when I find the time (for me that's fun, not duty), and have the odd turnaround the supermarket. In the occasional recipe, where I've thought it might be helpful, I've noted an online source for an ingredient that could be harder for you to find locally. I've also been quite strict with myself. I can't — couldn't possibly — eradicate all witter from my writing life, but I have tried to restrict the babble to the introduction to each recipe and havethen given the method in a number of short, precise steps. This is to make sure you never have to turn a page to continue a recipe and to help every step read as clearly as it can. There isn't a recipe in here that isn't gloriously simple to cook, and I wanted to make that immediately evident on the page. I could go on, but in the interest of brevity and the Express spirit, it seems only right to cut straight to the chase. The recipes that follow are not simply quick to cook, they attempt to make the whole of your cooking life — and as a consequence all of your life — easier. They are arranged in chapters, but please don't feel confined by these. Read, browse, sample, fiddle about as you see fit. As in cooking, so in life: We muddle through as best we can and this is what Nigella Express is all about.
NOTE FOR THE READER• ALL EGGS ARE LARGE, ORGANIC• ALL BUTTER IS UNSALTED• ALL HERBS ARE FRESH, UNLESS STATED• ALL CHOCOLATE IS DARK (MIN. 70% COCOA SOLIDS), UNLESS STATED• SEE PAGE 353 FOR INFORMATION ABOUT INFUSED OILS
Most days, I approach cooking supper with less than absolute perkiness. This is never because I can't face it or even that I resent it, but because, at the end of a long, working day, and after I have wrestled with children's homework and other domestic demands, and feel that I am nothing more than the sum of my impatience and irritation and, of course, tetchy exhaustion, I just can't even think of what there might be to cook. Actually, the cooking itself is the least of it, and this is not just because the kitchen is a place of sanctuary for me. Now, planning, shopping, deciding: These are the real drainers. I sometimes think how much easier things were in my grandmother's day. She had a schedule, and an unchanging one. Without looking at a calendar, I could know what day of the week it was by what I was given for dinner there. Of course, we are moreadventurous these days and would not wish to inflict that tedium on our children. But alittle of that order is desirable. I actually think it can lead to more variation rather than less. I don't like to own up to how often my children get pasta with pesto or meat saucefor supper because I am accustomed to life as a free spirit in the kitchen. So now what I try and do is make sure that I am a little more repetitive than I once might have liked while writing my shopping lists. Luckily, I begin to see thatrepetition, too, has its virtues. I know, at least, that I can get supper on the table withoutgoing shopping afresh every day. I don't follow the recipes below enormously rigorously; that's to say I certainly deviate, both in the regularity with which they appear and the irregularity of the way in which I follow them.
I am not good at authority, even when that authority is my own. Still, I have one rule and it's a simple enough one to adhere to. And it's that it's never worth cooking anything for supper unless it can stand on equal footing with one of life's great and simplest gastro-delights, boiled egg on toast (the best free-range eggs, soft boiled, rapidly peeled and squished on thick sourdough or rye toast). Of course, I don't want that every day, but nor do I want to settle for anything less. If it can't measure up to that, I don't want to eat it. However little time or effort I can expend on the day's supper, I have to know it will deliver nothing less than pure pleasure. The recipes that follow satisfy that most necessary of edicts.
Excerpted from “xxxxx."