10 Reasons to Love Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson, she’s the “Queen of frozen peas,” creator of the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame and ambassador for food pleasure… And I got to meet her on Thursday night at the Isaac Theatre Royal, courtesy of WORD Christchurch and her publishers Penguin Random House.

To say I was thrilled is an understatement. It’d be more accurate to say I just about pooped my pants with excitement. But a lady sitting next to me had never read any of her books. And I saw someone online saying they felt it would be a waste of time to go see her.

How could this be? She’s fantastic! With me or not, here’s 10 reasons for you to love Nigella Lawson:

  • She is an inspiration to women all over the world. When asked what she thought about people always commenting on her “flaunting her tiny waist,” curves or weight; she responded: “When you get older you can ignore an awful lot, I find, it’s one of the great things… I don’t tend to care about what people think anymore.” *stands up clapping*
  • She’s honest about her motivations: “Because I’m greedy, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to cook.”
  • “People are more practiced at persecuting themselves than pursuing pleasure.” – her motto is to enjoy what you’re eating, even if it’s a slice of decadent chocolate cake.
  • Her advice for weeknight cooking: “My grandmother always had a schedule of food for the week… Give yourself a timetable” She explained how that not only limited stress, but would help with your food budget – and you can create strategies to use leftovers.
  • She loves reading: “There’s a wonderful life long companionship from reading” When I asked what her 3 book recommendations were she responded: “David Copperfield, by Mr Dickens. The Sugar Club Cookbook, by Peter Gordon, and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford.”

  • She’s a model mindful cook. “I love the sound that food makes… and get great pleasure from that” She’s not a fan of listening to music while cooking, “I’m very happy having the music of the food itself.” That’s mindfulness.
  • She isn’t a fan of restrictive diets, however she is understanding when it comes to food intolerances and allergies. She wants to make people comfortable when they enter her home. “I find it quite helpful when anyone doesn’t eat different things, it’s like painting with a different palate.” But don’t ask her why she doesn’t make sugar free cakes.  “If you want sugar free… just don’t have a cake!”
  • She’s all about nourishing yourself emotionally and physically.

 “I take great pleasure from a bowl of greens”

  • Hey Mums of picky eaters! Nigella was a picky eater as a kid too – there is hope! “I didn’t willingly eat anything at dinner till about 14… I loved spinach and hot chocolate.” Rest easy Mums, you may be nurturing the next Nigella.
  • She’s published 11 cookbooks, all of which make for great reading. Sometimes the “words” part of cookbooks can be boring, about gathering this and that fancy ingredient or implement – but her cookbooks read more like a comforting novel, all about the joys of food.

Check the list below to see what is available in our libraries.

Nigella Lawson

Books, eBooks and DVDs.

View Full List

Read more about Nigella in Aotearoa

Flip Grater – On food, music and parenting

Singer-songwriter Flip Grater, Christchurch born and raised, is back ‘on stage’ after a hiatus from performing since the birth of her first child. We catch up with Flip to coincide with her gig appearance at Blue Smoke with fellow Cantabrian-bred Andrew Keoghan, as part of his Something Going On Tour promoting his latest album Every Orchid Offering.

Flip Grater (Image supplied)

Flip’s music has been described as sultry, languid, indie, folk and personal. Her albums include Pigalle, While I’m Awake I’m at War, Be All and End All and Cage for a Song produced by her own label, Maiden Records, and she has published a book The Cookbook Tour: Adventures in Food & Music (a tour diary including recipes and a CD).


She is currently working on an EP of lullabies and a new album of adult material. She says she writes music “to explore certain parts of my brain that don’t tend to appear in conversation.”

Aside from music, Flip has a passion for animal welfare, wholesome foods and cooking, and is a Francophile. And of course there’s the new love in her live, her young daughter.
We flicked some quick questions to Flip about her passions:

You’re an avid cook and vegan, what foodie books are you enjoying that you can recommend?

Currently I love the Yotam Ottolenghi books, Whole: Recipes for Simple Wholefood Eating and Thug Kitchen.

What music do you like to listen to when you’re cooking?

If my husband is cooking it’s always gypsy jazz. For daytime summer cooking I prefer (Belgian musician) Stromae or Rokia Traore, for evening or rainy day cooking Leonard Cohen or Gillian Welch.

You have a toddler now. How has parenthood changed your music apparoach?

Well for a start it’s pretty hard to get quality practice time in as my daughter loves to play the guitar with me if I pick it up. It’s all about fitting it in nowadays… trying to find quiet moments to play and be inspired.

You were vegan at 15 and even got your nickname Flipper from your animal rights activism. What form does activism take for you these days?

These days my activism mostly looks like setting a good example – living a vegan lifestyle, reducing plastics in our home, eating and wearing organics etc. but I have written a few pieces on my blog www.ewyum.com about certain food topics I feel passionately about.

You’re from Christchurch (having grown up in Parklands) and spend time here when not living in France. What are some of your current favourite spots in the city?

It’s been great being back seeing the new city coming to life. I miss the old High Street and lanes like Poplar Lane but I’m loving OGB, The Origin, Smash Palace, Mumbaiwala, Pot Sticker and The Cornershop Bistro in Sumner.

What role do libraries play in your life?

I’ve always appreciated libraries but never so much as right now! When we first got back from France we used New Brighton Library for all of our printing and boring officey stuff around my husband’s New Zealand Residency and applying for rental properties etc. Then I was there weekly during pregnancy reading an unhealthy amount of baby-related books. Now I take my daughter to keep her bookshelf rotating (and keep me sane by changing up the bedtime books). It’s truly invaluable.

I’ve been loving introducing Anais (my daughter) to classic English books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peepo and her favourite book – Avocado Baby. And it’s great to find some brilliant newer books and New Zealand books in Te Reo like Kanohi and the Reo Pepi series. At the moment I’m loving reading her Little One by Jo Weaver and Lucy Ladybird by Sharon King-Chai.


Some of Flip’s Favourite Reads – on Music, Food and Parenting

Just kidsIdleParentFrenchChildrenDon'tThrowFoodPowerofNowBuddhismforMothers.jpeg

Flip Grater’s Bio
Flip Grater CDs in our catalogue
Read: Flip’s parenting and food blog: ewyum
Follow: Find Flip Grater on Facebook

Check out other local musicians: New Zealand Music Month in May at Christchurch City Libraries

The lazy crafter’s guide to Christmas

Sound the klaxons! It is officially two months until Christmas day. Ah-oooh-gah! Panic! Panic stations! PANIC!

But actually, don’t…because unless you’re in charge of the annual Santa parade, two months is plenty of time to get organised for Christmas. Having said that, if you’re on a limited budget and want to bulk out your gifty offerings with some homemade fare, then now is actually a pretty good time to start getting organised in a non-panicky, totally on top of it way. At least that’s the theory.

And that’s how I ended up pulling a bunch of Christmas books off the shelf before Halloween. Because homemade may be cheaper but it also takes longer… What I’m looking for is stylish inspiration, but stuff that’s not too fiddly or requires a lot of expensive ingredients/materials.

Here’s how my festive five lined up:

Cover of Christmas craftsChristmas crafts: 35 projects for the home and for giving – This scores high in the “stylish photography/inspiration” category. If you are the kind of person who likes large paper pom-poms and chandelier drops as tree ornaments you’ll do well with this book. There’s a whole section on place-setting related crafts that I would never do in a million years… however the edible gifts and kids crafts are all cute and achievable. Cookies that can also be tree decorations? I can whip those up in an afternoon, no worries.

Cover of Christmas crafting in no timeChristmas crafting in no time – I picked this book due to the title because I have no time to do anything. Most of the projects within (50 in total) do seem simple to moderately fiddly, but a lot of them feature felt and needlework so if that’s not your aesthetic/strength you might prefer something else. That said, there are some bright, cheery decoration options and pretty idiot proof gift ideas (e.g. flavoured vinegars, vanilla sugar), though typically very northern-hemisphere appropriate (cosy baby boots, hot water bottle covers and so on).

Cover of Christmas joys: Decorating, crafts & recipesChristmas joys: Decorating, crafts and recipes – This book wins in the “who has the best photos of effortless-looking rustic holiday cabins” competition by a Country Living mile. Everything in this book looks beautiful… however most of us cannot pull off hanging beribboned pine branches from our living room doorknobs, or sprigs of artfully placed pine in old jars without it looking mildly ridiculous. The recipes though are mouthwatering, and the gift ideas, very chic – sugar cookies shaped like buttons! Espresso sugar cubes! Bespoke embroidered gloves! Gourmet marshmallows! Rosemary honey! Gifts I’d be happy to receive and only slightly less happy to make.

Cover of Kirstie's Christmas craftsKirstie’s Christmas crafts – I have always enjoyed Kirstie Allsop’s sense of style both in her fashion choices and in her crafty television outings like Kirstie’s vintage home so had high hopes that she would solve all my Christmas gift problems in one fell swoop. Alas, no. This book rates the highest in fussy/fiddly factor. One project involved screenprinting. Making my own silkscreen is several steps too far for this lazy crafter. Saving graces come in the form of a dead easy recipe for summer favourite, limoncello, a rather good looking chutney, and a mulled cider, and a spiced pear martini that I can’t stop thinking about. So mainly the booze and food section.

Cover of Washi tape ChristmasWashi tape Christmas: Easy holiday craft ideas with washi tape – I went washi tape mad a couple of Christmases ago so I am not immune to its easy, removable adhesive charms. Unfortunately the crafts in this book do rather depend on you having acquired vast quantities of washi tape in a variety of Christmas-themed patterns, which I cannot be bothered with, frankly. And the appeal for me is how easy washi tape is to use but somehow they’ve managed to make it all fiddly. I reckon you could make most of the projects with patterned paper and some spray adhesive so if you’ve the time and skill and a fully stocked crafting toolkit, this could be your Christmas crafting inspiration.

Any sure-fire Christmas crafts you want to share or favourite Christmas inspiration type books?

Mmmm-mmm, hokey-pokey whoopie pies … Nailed it!

Cover of BakingI reckon I’m a pretty good cook. Not one of those people who can take a bunch of weird ingredients and create something amazing at the drop of a hat, but when I’m in the kitchen I generally keep the customers happy. I had a flatmate who liked my pizza so much, he thought I should open a restaurant. I thought it would be a pretty boring pizza restaurant, since I only make one flavour! But still — happy customers.

I’ll admit I’ve had the occasional disaster.  My sister and I once made an apricot pie — lord only knows what we did wrong, but that thing looked so disgusting, we actually wrote “YUCK” on the top with the left over pastry. Anne Shirley-style lapses in concentration have made an appearance, like the time I put salt in the pancakes instead of sugar (that really was disgusting!) or the time I put a tin of bean salad in the pilaf instead of mixed beans (my lovely husband actually finished it — I couldn’t!). And there was that one pav I made that sort of looked like a pav pancake…

But those failures pale in comparison to the hokey-pokey whoopee pies that I tried to make the other day. As failures go, they take the cake. The recipe made them look so delicious, I just had to give them a try!  The biscuits themselves were a bit dry*, but not bad…the caramel butter cream filling though — complete failure! See, it all started with not having a small heavy-bottomed pan to boil the butter, cream, sugar, and golden syrup in.  I was worried that if I boiled it for 5 minutes without stirring (like the recipe said) it’d scorch — so I stirred it. Just a little. Just a couple of times. Surely that couldn’t make that much difference, right? Then I was to let it cool to room temperature, pour it into a bowl, and beat in the icing sugar.


Waiting for “room temperature” and “pouring” were clearly going to be impossible because the stuff was solidifying before my eyes! Perhaps if I just beat the icing sugar in straight away, thinks I. Nek minnit the beaters are stuck fast in caramel-concrete and unholy noises are coming from the motor. There was no turning this mess into anything that even vaguely resembled butter cream filling! I stormed out of the kitchen in disgust. But when I returned to bin the lot and clean up the mess, I found the beaters and bowl were already soaking in the sink.  Turns out Mr K didn’t think it was such a failure, so he’d hijacked it before I could bin it. Delicious it was. Fluffy butter filling it was not!

I’ve always said that anyone can be a good cook — you just have to find a good recipe and follow it. I’m not sure that I can blame this disaster on the recipe! Who’s game enough to give it a try and let me know? You’ll find the recipe in Kiwiana cupcakes, cake pops and whoopie pies.

*They actually tasted pretty good once sandwiched together with a new batch of butter cream filling, this time made just by replacing 1/2 a cup of icing sugar with 1/2 a cup of brown sugar and following my usual recipe from the good old Edmonds Cookbook.

Stop talking about pies and make me one

It is lunchtime and I am a little hungry and this situation has in no way been helped by all the chat this morning about the results of the annual Bakels New Zealand Pie Awards which have just been announced.

Certain “factions” in my workplace are very pleased to see a potato top pie take out the Supreme Award. Is this a sign that potato top is in the ascendancy once more? Is the time of gourmet fruit pies in the top spot done?

Either way it’s making me hungry so I hope the pie fairy visits our house at dinnertime. But just in case the pie fairy is something my brain made up in a fit of pastry-starvation, the following titles might be of help.

Cover of Me, myself and pieCover of PieCover of Australian women's weekly pie favouritesCover of The hairy bikers' perfect pies

Cover of vegan pie in the skyCover of pies and tartscover of Paul Hollywood's pies & puds

We have The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies book at home and the recipes have so far been delicious so you can take that as a personal recommendation, or try your luck with a search for pie cookbooks in our catalogue.

What’s your favourite pie? I like a steak and cheese but also have a fondness for ones with curry in them.

Food Fad Fury

Bring a cookbook to morning tea and suddenly everybody at the table has an opinion.

  • Matte paper looks nice for about five minutes, but don’t put the book anywhere near where you actually cook. Drops and splashes look very nasty very quickly.
  • Cover of Dr Libby's Sweet Food StoryDr. Libby sucks all the joy out of life.
  • Reading a cookbook without intending to cook from it is fine. In fact it is officially A Big Thing.
  • Close-ups of the food in its raw state do not count as an illustration. We know what dirty potatoes look like – we want to know what the finished dish should look like once we’ve cooked it.
  • Beige is big but it’s not appetising.
  • One man’s meat is another woman’s poison. Paleo Pete‘s bone marrow broth may be the basis of the Paleo diet, but the very idea induces deep shudders in non-followers. Bone broth in a baby bottle is even worse.
  • Cover of Healthy Every DayCookbook writers should just take drugs to help them recover from their rare diseases. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. Why bring food into it?
  • If you write a cookbook all your friends have to be good looking. Those who aren’t can have their arm appear at the edge of the picture – but only their arm.
  • All your dogs also have to be attractive. Cats can’t be in cookbooks due to their habit of sitting on the table or lounging in the dishdrainer.
  • All your table cloths have to be retro. Also your china. Nothing should match. Useful if you live in Christchurch.
  • Your garden can be overgrown, but in a good way – grass long enough to attract a council fire hazard notice telling you you’re in for a fine in the real word is picturesque in cookbook world.
  • Assemblage is O.K. – wrapping a bread stick in a bit of ham with some rocket sticking out the top counts as cooking if it’s in a cookbook.
  • Nut butter is vile.

Are you infuriated by any food fads? Please share.

Ice-cream for Christmas

Cover of The 12 days of ChristmasI love Christmas time. It can be stressful – like when the entire extended family unexpectedly descends on your house Christmas Day. And it can be disappointing – like when Santa gives you Action Woman instead of the beautiful, tutu-clad, Active Sindy you asked for. Yup, Christmas can bring out the Grinch in the best of us. But still, I love Christmas.

I love setting up the tree, getting out the decorations and remembering where I bought this one, or when I made that one.

And I love Christmas food. All those delicious things that we have only once a year (and then eat as leftovers for dayafterwards – there’s really nothing better in this world than left-over trifle for breakfast!). I have a few tried and true recipes that I make every year. My specialty is Chocolate Bombe Noel, a rich, chocolate-y, ice-cream dessert packed full of dried fruit, glace cherries, and white chocolate drops. It’s frozen in a bowl then turned out, so it looks like figgy pudding, only yummier, and much more suited to a Southern Hemisphere Christmas dinner.

Mum’s been making Chocolate Bombe Noel since I was a kid, so when I moved out I rang her to ask for the recipe, but — horrors – she’d lost the book! I decided that Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without it, so I turned to the library for help. Luckily, Mum remembered the book was Margaret Fulton’s Book of Ices and Cold Desserts, but the library didn’t have it! This was before I’d even dreamt of becoming a librarian, and I’d never heard of Interloans, so imagine my surprise and delight when the librarian told me that they could get it from another library in New Zealand.

Cover for Ice Cream & other frozen delights The book duly arrived from Invercargill, and I’ve made Chocolate Bombe Noel every Christmas since. Even when it meant driving across town on a 30 degree day with rapidly melting ice-cream that had to be raced to the freezer ready to be shared with family after dinner. Even the year I was pregnant with Number Two who was due on November 11; I figured I might be a little busy in December, so I made it early – and the Young Lad arrived a week later.

Today the Young Lad helped me make this year’s bombe – although helping mainly involved putting on an apron and looking on while I worked. And blocking his ears when I started up the electric beater. Miss Missy helped with licking the beater.

Although we don’t have Margaret Fulton’s Book of Ices and Cold Desserts, we do have a couple of her Christmas recipe books. If you’re looking for some last minute Christmas dinner inspiration, we have plenty of Christmas themed recipe books to give you ideas. We also have some  ice-cream recipe books you might like to check out.


For those of you who are interested in the recipe, please see the comments

Food, lust, war, art and wonder: Cool new stuff from our selectors

You can’t deny that war is brutal, but the aftereffects are just as profound. Year Zero: a History of 1945 by Ian Burma contains fascinating insight into the aftermath of World War II. It was more morally complicated than previously acknowledged. Burma’s investigations make fascinating reading. Here is a very good review in the New York Times

Cover of On a beam of lightOn a beam of light : a story of Albert Einstein  Jennifer Berne
A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

Cover of The Life and art of Lynley DoddLife and Art of Lynley Dodd by Finlay Macdonald.  Hairy MacLary has delighted children since the early 1980s and the popularity of these books is not fading. A timely book therefore about his author, Lynley Dodd filled with pages from the “ideas book” that Dodd used to sketch out her plans for Hairy Maclary and his friends, as well as early drawings from her time at art school and political cartoons. A beautifully produced book.

Generation of artists have been captivated by food – from Roy Lichtenstein’s roast fillet to Frida Kahlo’s red snapper. The Modern Art Cookbook by Mary Ann Caws includes the cuisines artists cooked, ate and depicted in their masterpieces, along with recipes, correspondence and diary entries.

The Mistress ContractCover of The Mistress Contract by She and He could be worth reading, if only to create a stir and spark some discussion. A woman and a married man become lovers. She draws up a contract which states she will provide “mistress services” (all “housekeeping duties” and “sexual acts” he requests, the latter “with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers for the duration of time requested”) in return for “adequate accommodation and expenses accrued”. Sounds a tall order but the contact has apparently lasted for 30 years and shortly after the document was signed, she began (rather oddly I think) to tape their conversations which included candid discussions about marriage, inequality between the sexes, and feminism.

Cookbooks and the confusing world of food

Trends in publishing are in a continual flux and cookery is a prime example of how quickly tastes can change.

Noticeable trends at the moment are for all things baking and often goes hand in hand with vintage. See Vintage Cakes: Tremendously Good Cakes for Sharing and Giving

Cover of Find it, Eat it  Cover of Vintage cakes  Cover of Offal the fifth quarter

Organic is still popular but now we have the added thrill of foraging and sourcing local food Find it, eat it : cooking foraged food gathered around New Zealand

Sugar is a no-no, The guilt-free gourmet : indulgent recipes without sugar, wheat, or dairy but struggles when it is associated with baking or vintage.

Cover of The food policeI have also rather frighteningly noticed upsurge in the use of offal: Offal: The Fifth quarter.

How to make you own cheese and bread is still hot, and is now expanding into other areas as well. Food DIY: How to Make your Own Everything: Sausages to Smoked Salmon, Sourdough to Sloe Gin, Bacon to Buns and you could also do a bit of backyard butchering if you are so inclined: The Ultimate guide to home butchering.

As with all trends there is often a backlash. The Food Police: A well-fed manifesto about the politics on your plate proclaims that organic food is not necessarily healthier or tastier, that genetically modified food has not sickened a single person and that fascist food snobbery and the food elite are doing more damage than good!

You aren’t what you eat is less belligerent but is no less concerned with our obsession with food, celebrity culture and our loss of basic instincts. The author suggests that we “throw away the colour supplements and open a can of beans”.

Homeward bound: why women are embracing the new domesticity has a chapter titled “Cupcake feminists, hipster jam canners, and “femivores”: the rise of the DIY food culture” and looks at how this movement has brought together the strange bedfellows of liberals, conservatives, atheists, evangelicals, rural poor and urban rich.

It was a book just waiting to be written and I have been debating for a while if all of this homemade renaissance is a good or bad thing for women.

Read it for yourself and find out!

A few of my favourite foodie things

The Best of Alison Holst at Christchurch City LibrariesNew Zealand Book Month has given me cause to reflect on my fave New Zealand reads. While I’m at a loss to decide which fiction title is my number one, there are three non-fiction works that catapult to the top of my list. New Zealand fiction could be described as dark, raw and cynical but Kiwi cookbooks are some of the most accessible, easy-to-read and downright yummy cookbooks on the planet.

My first cookbook ever was given to me by my mother when I left home. It was The Best of Alison Holst now known fondly as “The Red Bible”.  I’ve used this book as many times as I’ve had hot dinners. My first copy became so splattered and manky after the first ten years it sat oozing oil and shedding breadcrumbs on the bookshelf. Although I knew I had to throw it out, I just couldn’t bear be without it. Fortunately, this best selling legend was reprinted a couple of years back and I grabbed another copy from the bookshop. My new copy is fast becoming as loved and battered (literally) as the first.

When I was going through my yuppy stage, I bought a slim volume called Smart Food for Busy People by Annabel Langbein and this book made a huge impact on me.  From the time I first opened the pages it started work its magic in my kitchen and I loved what it did for my culinary repertoire. The recipes had the new New Zealand vibe I was experiencing in restaurants at the time – crisp textures, emphasis on fresh produce, an influence from Asian cuisine, light and healthy food with flavour. I cooked recipe after recipe and wowed friends and family. Of course Annabel has gone on to host her own very successful television show and produce more quality, up-to-the-minute cookbooks but Smart Food is still my favourite.

Richard Till's Kiwi Kitchen at Christchurch City LibrariesRichard Till opened Espresso 124 on the Strip before it even became the Strip. It was the restaurant on Oxford Terrace around which all the others gathered as the food scene exploded into life in Christchurch in the late 80s. We loved Espresso 124. The food was brilliant, the atmosphere was charged and you could see Richard every Friday night hurling pans around the kitchen and dodging flames as he seared perfect steaks. The man’s a legend. His cookbooks capture his authentic Kiwi style and no-fuss approach to great food.

These are my favourites and there are plenty more – Al Brown, Ray McVinnie, Peter Gordon, Celia Hay, Julie Biuso, Fleur Sullivan … New Zealand has some of the best food writers on the planet. No doubt about it.