Why Eating Food Out Of A Bowl Makes Nigella Lawson Happy
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We've been flipping through a cookbook by Nigella Lawson, the celebrity cook who hardly needs an introduction. "Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food" includes plenty of food you can serve in a bowl.
NIGELLA LAWSON: For me, bowl food, I suppose it does rhyme with soul food. And it has that same connotation of food that bolsters you. However, I think that perhaps also people associate that sort of food sometimes with maybe blandness. You know, I do want flavor. I want it to be punctuated by heat. I like fire. I like tanginess. But most of all, I do like the feeling of eating when every spoon or forkful is reassuring me the same as the last. And for me, that is one of the most wonderful ways to eat. I mean, I think, really, you know, if I had to I would be very happy if I ate food out of a bowl for the rest of my life.
INSKEEP: Is it also with a bowl on, like, a plate that you can avoid the spoon and just lift the whole thing up to your mouth and tilt?
LAWSON: Well, you can do - I'm very clumsy and that does result often in spillage. But that doesn't matter, does it?
INSKEEP: It doesn't at all.
LAWSON: It doesn't matter at all. And I think actually that when I think of bowl food that I think of foods that are very different. I mean, sometimes I want a salad. And at other times I just do always feel that wonderful slippery tangle of noodles is just what I need. And then of course there are days when chewing feels like too much and then I'm very happy to have soup. But I like sort of traditional foods as well, but maybe with a slight alteration.
INSKEEP: We have so many things to discuss there. We're going to go back through some of those things.
INSKEEP: I want to begin, though, with the food that has one of my favorite food names of all foods - drunken noodles.
LAWSON: Ah, drunken noodles. Well, drunken noodles is a Thai dish. And I've done a very, very simplified version because - back to the elements, which is the noodles and the fire. And I think that the name comes really because they're exactly what you would eat with a hangover.
INSKEEP: Now, there are multiple theories, we have to say. We researched this very thoroughly...
LAWSON: Yes, there are multiple theories.
INSKEEP: ...By looking on the Internet...
LAWSON: Oh, yes.
INSKEEP: ...And found multiple - it's something about the shape of the noodles looking a little drunken - there are lots of things. But you go with the hangover cure theory. Why would it be a hangover cure?
LAWSON: Because the mixture of carbohydrate and heat is, I think, one of the best ways. And I think many people would agree - one of the best ways to knock that slight worse for wear feeling out of your head. I mean, I have to say, I'm not much of a drinker. I'm an eater more than a drinker. So I feel that I don't have to wait to get a hangover in order to eat these. And actually, even though I'm not much of a drinker, these flat dried rice noodles...
LAWSON: ...And then a bit of oyster sauce, which has that teeny bit of sweetness and some sesame oil and fresh ginger and garlic and, again, a zing of lime and red pepper flakes, but - and salt I love, so I have soy sauce and a bit of cilantro. Now, that with a cold beer I can manage.
INSKEEP: OK, so you've got something else here called Indian-spiced shepherd's pie.
LAWSON: I believe I have got an Indian-spiced shepherd's pie.
INSKEEP: And even before we get to the ingredients, I want to mention the color, at least as photographed here because it's yellow in the bowl - kind of yellowish-orange in way that reminds me of potatoes but also reminds me of curry paste.
LAWSON: Well, this is this which is a form of curry, but otherwise the heat comes from cumin and coriander seeds and some coconut oil and red pepper flakes, turmeric. It is like a curry. But of course, it's a spoon-able curry, and it's really like a marriage of Eastern spices with Western comfort food.
INSKEEP: It's mainly the sweet potatoes then that gives it that color that I like...
LAWSON: Oh, no, the color is absolutely the sweet potatoes, pure as they are. And even though there's lime and ginger in them and a bit of cardamom, there is nothing added to enhance the color.
INSKEEP: Can I ask about one more thing because we're...
LAWSON: You can ask me anything.
INSKEEP: Well, there's split-pea soup on your list here...
INSKEEP: ...Of things in a bowl.
LAWSON: Well, I think the split-pea soup with chilies and ginger and lime is like if you thought you were getting the first tickle of a cold, I think this would see it off. And what I like is that balance between something that is sort of hardy and almost bland, which split peas are, and yet suddenly, turning this soup into something that dazzles but not in a showy off way because of such sharp flavors. And I think ginger has a heat, a warmth that is often not fully understood because I think people use a small amount. And if you use quite a lot, you really see that it's like reaching for another form of pepper. And of course...
INSKEEP: Is a lot of it though like a fist in the face - I mean, really, really strong?
LAWSON: Well, it would be in certain foods. But because split peas are almost - they've got a way of blanketing spices, you do have to be a bit more full throttle. And you can spice them quite firmly, and it won't be frightening. It won't be blow your head off time. But, I mean, what I advise to anyone always is you taste as you go. We have different palettes. We want different strengths of heat.
INSKEEP: But I do want to mention the visual again with this soup because when I visualize split-pea soup, I see something in my mind's eye that's a little bland, kind of a weak greenish color, perhaps...
INSKEEP: ...Or yellowish. And this photo is just something quite different, so many reds and greens in there.
LAWSON: Well, it is, and I suppose - you know, I went to Thailand last year, and that influenced me a lot. And I - and, you know, that hot and sour soup...
INSKEEP: Oh yeah.
LAWSON: ...That you eat there, so I suppose I wanted to marry something which is like the Dutch and Scandinavian pea soups, which are often quite sludgy, both to look at and to taste, but in a desirable way. And yet I wanted to bring some of that hot and sour element to that.
INSKEEP: The globalization of Nigella Lawson.
LAWSON: Well, I - yes, it's...
INSKEEP: That could be the name of your next book. You can...
LAWSON: Oh, I hope not Steve.
LAWSON: I hope not. I think it's really about flavor. It's about thinking how can I bring the contrast between texture and flavor in a way that both are enhanced?
INSKEEP: The book is called "Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food." Thanks very much.
LAWSON: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET SONG, "TAKE FIVE")
INSKEEP: Nigella Lawson, and we'll just do a little pause here and give you a few seconds of music so you can run off and get something to eat. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.