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Sun December 12, 2010
Holiday Recipes

Last-Minute Holiday Guests? Nigella's Here To Help

Originally published on Tue November 6, 2012 2:10 pm

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house ... harried hosts were bracing themselves for an onslaught of in-laws and out-of-town relatives. But chef Nigella Lawson insists that entertaining doesn't have to be stressful, and has some simple solutions for holiday hosts.

Lawson's most recent cookbook, Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home, is filled with inventive recipes. She talks with NPR's Steve Inskeep about the secrets behind some quick appetizers, drinks and desserts that are sure to please the guests.

An Appetizer That Lives Up To Its Name

A dish doesn't have to be complicated to be successful, Lawson says. Take her Sherry-Glazed Chorizo, which requires a grand total of two ingredients. Lawson discovered the dish in a tapas bar in Seville — which she says keeps her from feeling that she's just being lazy whenever she cooks it.

"This is really [just] chorizo sausage," she explains. "You slice [it] into coins, and then cook [it] until it slightly colors and scorches — and then at the last minute I splash in some sherry."

Lawson uses a cream sherry — "which would make some people raise an eyebrow," she admits — but she likes the "extra sweet note" it provides. The whole recipe takes less than five minutes, start to finish.

Sherry-Glazed Chorizo may just be meat on a plate, but it's ideal for company, Lawson says — the sausage is lightly glazed by the sugar in the sherry, and glistens attractively on the appetizer tray.

Lawson loves what she calls the "unholy trinity" of sugar, salt and fat that "makes each mouthful very more-ish."

Moorish? No no, Lawson says — more-ish. "It means you always have to have more."

Peanut Butter Hummus?

Lawson describes her second more-ish (and Moorish) recipe as one of her "greatest discoveries of this year." Her Peanut Butter Hummus substitutes peanut butter for the standard tahini sauce usually used in hummus recipes.

"Tahini's really sesame butter," Lawson explains. "It's just crushed sesame seeds. I used peanut butter, and rather than normal, slightly pale hummus, you get one that's more like [the color of] the brown envelope you might get a bill in — and it's absolutely fantastic."

And simple. "Really all you're doing is putting in a blender some chickpeas, a garlic clove, some olive oil, peanut butter, bit of lemon juice and some salt," Lawson says. She also likes to "whiz it up" with a little bit of thick yogurt and ground cumin.

The result is "the most fantastic puree," which can be smeared into little pita pickets, or presented in a bowl along with breadsticks. "It's quite useful at this time of year," Lawson says. Put it out with some drinks and it's a "friendly mixed-generational snack."

Plenty can be done with the leftovers. "This would be fantastic on toast and great on sandwiches," Lawson says. "It's the sort of thing that you'd want to be eating when you watch TV with a very cold beer in front of you."

Chocolate Cake And 'Filthy Fizz'

For dessert, Lawson recommends the Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake, inspired by traditional Christmas treats. "It's the sort of cake that used to be called in old-fashioned England a 'cut and come again' cake," Lawson explains. "Someone comes by, you take their bonnet and hang it up, and slice them a bit of cake. And they sit with a cup of tea or coffee, and then go on their way until your other visitors arrive."

It's just like a chocolate pound cake — until you add the zest of two oranges and orange juice. "It's quite intensely orange-y," Lawson says. "In England, at any rate, chocolate orange is a very Christmas flavor — that's our idea of a treat this time of year."

There's no icing, and that's OK — Lawson says that every once in a while people need to be reminded that "a plain cake that is not frosted can be a very deep pleasure ... it doesn't have to be over-sugared or over-fancy."

As for serving drinks, Lawson has a plan for that, too. "I have a real weakness for a drink that the chic northern Italians call Prosecco Sporco, which means dirty Prosecco," she says. "I translate it as filthy fizz"

Traditionally, Lawson says, Prosecco Sporco mixes fizzy Prosecco wine with a small slug of Campari — "which is not at all dirty," she insists. "It's a beautiful bejeweled red — very, very good for the time of year."

For a little extra holiday cheer, Lawson recommends adding something extra to the mix. You know those gingerbread lattes you can get at coffee shops this time of year? "Ask to buy a bottle of the gingerbread syrup," Lawson advises. "A splash of that in Prosecco is a wonderful way to go."

And mixing drinks doesn't have to be a spectator sport, Lawson says. "I don't mix an awful lot, so I make [guests] hold their own glass — they've got to do something — I have a Prosecco in my right hand and my splashing liquor of gingerbread syrup in my left. I pour an almost full glass, and then I add a teeny bit of Campari.

Then the drink "fizzes up in delight," she says. "And so does your guest."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you need to have some food on hand for a guests dropping in for the holidays, we have some advice this morning. It comes from a celebrity chef, Nigella Lawson, who's a regular guest here on MORNING EDITION.

You've got something called Sherry-Glazed Chorizo. We've talked about chorizo before and this is bits of sausage, right?

Ms. NIGELLA LAWSON (Celebrity Chef): Well, it is bits of sausage but I feel that since Ive eaten it in a tapas bar in Seville, I don't feel that Im just being incredibly lazy. And this really chorizo sausage, which you slice into coins and then cook until it slightly colors and scorches. And then at the last minute, I splash in some sherry.

Now, I use a sherry that would make some people raise an eyebrow, which is a cream sherry. But I quite like the extra sweet note. It's quite a laidback recipe, because it just takes under five minutes to make and you can use the sherry of your choice.

INSKEEP: As simple as this dish is, and Im looking at a photograph here in one of your books, I mean it's one ingredient - it's hunks of meat on a plate. But it's very attractive and almost glistens, it almost sort of got a glaze on it of sorts.

Ms. LAWSON: Well, it really does because of the amount of sugar. There's a small amount of sugar in the sherry - seems to catch. And I think there is just something about that sort of holy trinity, if I may say so, - unholy trinity -of sugar, salt and fat and that makes each mouthful very more-ish.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Very more-ish. What does that mean?

Ms. LAWSON: It means you have to have more.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAWSON: You haven't heard that word?

INSKEEP: I thought you were talking in geographical terms.

Ms. LAWSON: Well, it is Moorish in terms of historically. But it is more-ish spelled M-O-R-E, as well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Well, let's get a little Moorish with some Peanut Butter Hummus. What is said?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, Peter Butter Hummus is one of my greatest discoveries of this year. It's a hummus that you make, instead normally using tahini, which is really sesame butter, if you think it. It's just crushed sesame seeds. I used peanut butter. So what you get, rather than that normal, slightly pale hummus, you get one that's more like the brown envelope you might get a bill in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAWSON: And it's absolutely fantastic. And really, all you're doing is putting in a blender some chickpeas, a garlic clove, some olive oil, peanut butter, bit of lemon juice and some salt. And then I like to whiz it up with a teeny bit of thick yogurt and some ground cumin. And you have the most fantastic puree which you can either, you know, smear into little pockets of pita. Or you can use breadsticks to dip in.

It's one of those dips that you do keep going back into. But I think, on the other hand, it's quite useful because at this time of year, if you just want to put one thing out with drinks, it is perhaps a more friendly mixed-generational snack.

INSKEEP: Oh, because my daughter...

Ms. LAWSON: Because peanut butter - yeah...

INSKEEP: ...might do something with peanut butter in it, for example.

Ms. LAWSON: But it's really, in fact, it sounds like it's a slightly jokey addition to an appetizer platter. But actually it isnt. It's got a very sophisticated taste. But there's no intrinsic superiority from sesame seeds to peanuts.

INSKEEP: So if I...

Ms. LAWSON: It's just that were more used to peanuts.

INSKEEP: So if I asked if you could spread this hummus on bread and put some jelly on another piece of bread, you would probably slap me or something. You wouldnt be...

Ms. LAWSON: I wouldnt slap. The pity of radio is you can't see the rather stern look I'd be giving you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAWSON: But I - I mean I think that if you're not...

INSKEEP: Im just asking the question.

Ms. LAWSON: If you're not born into it, peanut butter and jelly is a difficult step to take.

INSKEEP: Okay.

Ms. LAWSON: But I certainly - you can make - this would be fantastic on toast and great in sandwiches. And the sort of thing you'd want to be eating as you watched TV, with a very cold beer in front of you, as well.

INSKEEP: There you go. Let's talk about something sweet. Youve got a Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake to describe here.

Ms. LAWSON: Well, I do know this is the sort of useful thing, which is, it's the sort of cake that used to be called an old-fashioned England, the Cut and Come Again Cake. Because someone drops by. You know, you take their bonnet and hang it up, and slice them a bit of cake. And they sit with a cup of tea or coffee, and then go on their way until your other visitors arrive.

It's actually like a chocolate pound cake. But you add the zest of two oranges and the juice of one to it. So it's quite intensely orangey. But in England, at any rate, chocolate orange is a very Christmas flavor. That's our idea of a treat at this time of year.

But I actually think that sometimes it's nice to remind people that a plain cake that is not frosted can be a very deep pleasure. And it doesn't have to be over-sugared or over-fancy.

INSKEEP: And let me just say, there is no frosting on this. It's just cake. It's just a piece of cake.

Ms. LAWSON: It's smooth and it's baked in a loaf tin.

INSKEEP: And - and...

Ms. LAWSON: Or a loaf pan, you'd call it.

INSKEEP: So youve got these wonderful little dishes. We can leave them around on the table. We can serve them and it's something a little less than a full meal.

What should we have to drink?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, I have a real weakness for a drink that they Italians - the chic northern Italians call Prosecco Sporco, which means dirty Prosecco. But I translate it as filthy fizz.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAWSON: Prosecco being the fizzy Italian wine. And...

INSKEEP: What's dirty about it?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, they dirty it with a small slug of Campari, which is very bitter and in fact not at all dirty. It's a beautiful bejeweled red - very, very good for the time of year. But I should also say if you want, I've often been in favor of going to the coffee shop. And, you know, at this time of year they make gingerbread lattes.

INSKEEP: Oh, yeah.

Ms. LAWSON: And then what you ask to buy a bottle of the gingerbread syrup. And that, a splash of that in Prosecco is a fantastic way to go, as well.

INSKEEP: Would you start with this Prosecco Sporco, which is basically kind of a mixed drink and then mix it some more? Is that what you're saying?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, I dont mix an awful lot. I just - no, I do it from the beginning. I pour people - I make them hold their glass - theyve got to do something. I have a Prosecco in my right hand and I have my splashing liquor or gingerbread syrup in my left. And I pour an almost full glass and then I add a teeny bit of, again, I could call it an aromatic.

And then it fizzes up in delight and so does your guest.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: That's really sounds wonderful. And you dont even have to put an umbrella on top of it, to make a nice...

Ms. LAWSON: Certainly not. Perish the thought.

INSKEEP: Nigella, thanks very much.

Ms. LAWSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Nigella Lawson's latest cookbook is called "Nigella Kitchen," and you can find some more of her recipes at NPR.org.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

DON GONYEA, host:

And Im Don Gonyea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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