And then, along came Nigel

4 July 2012
I have no use for celebrity. The word makes me a bit light-headed and I think of vacuous TV and film actors who gain fame more for what they look like rather than any talent they may have. I look for value rather than sparkles. I know there are many "celebrity chefs" sashaying their way around authentic and fake kitchens but I don't like labels, so I ignore most of them and just see the ones I admire. I love Nigella Lawson not only for her recipes but for her indulgent, and very familiar to me, attitude to food. I love Hugh Fernly-Whittingstall because he talks the talk and then, in a very practical and accessible way, walks the walk. Of course, I love Margaret Fulton, and her daughters seem to be very creditable cooks as well, and Maggie Beer, who could not love her. And yes, I know the later women are cooks not chefs, but it's the label thing again; they're irrelevant.

All these cooks have been my favourites for years. Year in, year out, I watch them if they're on TV and I buy their books sometimes. So I surprised myself when I had to make a place in this small group for another cook. I have been reading Nigel Slater's column in The Guardian for many years and then, all of a sudden, he was on TV. I watched, hoping he would be what I wanted him to be, and there he was - calm, precise and intelligent, cooking simple food in a gorgeous kitchen surrounded by a lovely garden. He won my heart.

If you haven't discovered Nigel yet, go here to view last week's show (I'm sorry, it might not work for readers outside Australia) and discover him for yourself. Watch out for the insanely delicious-looking rice pudding with spice and glaced fruits. It has reminded me that glacing fruit is on my to do list.

Do you have any favourite cooks or chefs?

And for the soup fans, here is the Lamb Hotpot recipe I made last week. The inspiration for it came from the new Women's Weekly Country Table cook book. I had it here for a couple of days before I gave it to Sarndra. If you're a new cook and looking for a good Australian cook book, you will be well served by this book. It has all the classic Australian meals such as roast pork, apple pie, pikelets, corned beef and all those good old dishes your grandma or mum used to make. The photos are gorgeous, the recipes are easy to understand and the meals are delicious. I had this book because a lovely Dymocks bookshop owner, Ted, in Toowoomba, asked me to select a book from his shop as a gift. The Country Table was my choice. Thank you Ted.

I don't have the book here now but here is my usual recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 kg/2.2lbs lamb neck or shoulder chops 
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • ½  cup washed pearl barley - this will add flavour and nutrition as well as thicken the soup
  • ½ tablespoon paprika
  • 2½  cups water or stock
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped parsley to add just before serving
  1. Heat half the oil in an over-proof pot or frying pan. If you're using a frying pan, you'll have to transfer it to a pyrex or oven-proof container, with lid, later.
  2. Brown the lamb chops in batches, 2-3 minutes each side. Transfer chops to a plate and continue until all of them have been browned.
  3. Remove all the chops to the plate and in same pan on high,  sauté onion, carrot and celery for about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle on paprika and stir in, if the pan is dry, add a little more oil. 
  5. Add the barley and stir in. Cook on lower heat for two minutes. Don't leave this bit out because this is what develops the flavour.
  6. Put the chops back in the pot.
  7. Pour in water/stock and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste.
  8. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and place in a hot oven 180C/350F and cook slowly for two hours.
  9. Remove bones, bay leaf and add chopped parsley just before serving. Test taste again and add salt or pepper again if needed.
Just a word about the lamb chops. This is a traditional dish of the working class, it is made with cheap cuts of meat like neck chops or shoulder chops. Give them a try, even if you've never eaten these cuts before. You won't be disappointed. There will be fat and gristle on the chops. Cut off the fat but leave the rest because over the long cooking time, the gristle will melt down and produce the most delicious and healthy natural gelatine that is good for you, especially if you have arthritis.  You can cut up the chops if you like, but putting them in whole, on the bone, will provide you with a nice stock while you cook the meal. Bone broth is very nutritious. If they go in whole, the chops will fall off the bone when they're cooked. Before serving, remove the bones. 

This is delicious served with herb dumplings. The recipe for them is here.


  1. I have loved Nigel for a long time. He writes about food that is attainable, as opposed to aspirational. He doesn't nag or dictate, he subtly inspires. A perfect mix of good sense, practicality, charm and whimsy. I have often described him as Alan Bennett in the kitchen.

    His recipes are easy to follow and rarely contain hard-to-find ingredients. One if his signature dishes - White Bean Sausages - is perfect store cupboard fare.

    And how could you not love a food writer who waxes lyrically on the joys of a chip butty?

    Yes, Nigel is a treasure.

  2. Here in Britain Nigel has been on TV for some years. I agree, his calm precise way of describing things draws the viewer in, almost as if you are there sitting opposite him at the table whilst he cooks away and chats at the same time. Not sure if they have shown many of his programmes there yet but there is one particular series he does where he interviews "celebrities" about the food that defined their lives. It was a really fantastic format for a tv programme and in good old Nigel land he only interviewed "credible" celebrities, the kind that had earned their status through hard work and creativity.

    I am so pleased that you like him too. I still have his autobiography Toast on my must read list. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. I am another Nigel Slater fan - the first book I got was his Kitchen Diaries, but then I was given Real Fast Food and Real Fast Puddings, but I have resisted his latest mammoth tomes, Tender - Fruit and veg. He comes over very well on tv, and has done some excellent programmes here in the UK. He did used to have a column in our Sainsbury's supermarket's magazine, but I don't know if he still does that - I enjoyed that when I bought a copy occasionally.
    He is a private person, though, and I find it best to stick to his cookery books and not venture into autobiographical material, as I didn't enjoy "Toast" at all.

  4. It's got to be Hugh Fearnley-whittinstall for me. The man quite possibly steered my life onto the course I'm on now! Trying to produce as much for ourselves as we can.

  5. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks so much for posting the recipe for the Lamb Hotpot. Since our children are on school vacation we have been enjoying together a warm home cooked soup most lunchtimes and I think we will enjoy that lamb hotpot tomorrow.
    I love all the cooks/chefs that you write about. I was asked what cooks inspire me only yesterday and my answer was similar to yours although I did add Jamie Oliver to my list. I love his simple menus of very fresh ingredients and his informal way of serving them with family and friends.

  6. Hi Rhondda,

    Great post and YUM! I really do love Jaimie Oliver. I have a recipe book of his and it's very well used. Recipes that we have always eaten using lots of fresh ingrediants. Once upon a time everything I 'cooked' had some sort of flavouring packet or jar involved. One day we were eating dinner and I said to my husband, I can't eat this anymore, I can't eat this powdered food anymore. From that very day on, everyting I have cooked has been using fresh ingrediants to make the flavour. I don't cook everything from scratch, bread etc is often bought from lack of time. But all my sauces and dinner recipes are cooked from scratch. fresh ingrediants and meat to make the flavour. There hasn't been a packet sauce or jar in our house for 2 years now. Love your blog.

  7. I love Hugh, Kylie Kwong and have also added Nigel to my list...yes, he won my heart...or stomach?....with that rice pudding too Rhonda, my kind of real food. And no competitiveness!

  8. Hi Rhonda. That certainly looks yummy and it looks like a good meal to make on the weekend. Time after work doesn't allow this to be a week day dish unfortunately. My question is could this be done in the slow cooker or is it definately an oven thing? Keep up the good work and have been sending quite a few people your way to read your Blogging stories. Have a great day - Sandra from Brisbane

  9. I love Nigel Slater too ... have done for many years.

    As mentioned earlier, his autobiography, Toast, is worth a read too.

  10. I think we share very similar taste in our type of "celebrity" chef. I too love watching Nigella and Hugh. I have cookbooks of each one you mentioned, some luckily picked up in op shops. All wonderful because they keep it simple, the food is delicious and they make it accessible. No fancy stuff. With personality too, something that it missing in many of the current breed of"celebrity chef".
    Though I do have to add Jamie Oliver to my list. I loved the series on his garden and his determination to get people back into the kitchen cooking from scratch.
    I haven't seen Nigel Slater before, but have heard good things about him. I look forward to checking out that link with a coffee in hand later. Thanks Rhonda.

  11. I think this is the first time Nigel has been on TV here.

    Sandra, this hotpot is excellent in the slow cooker. Just do the browning process in the frying pan, to develop the flavours, then transfer it all to the slow cooker.

  12. Our son, a chef, has given me a couple of Nigella's books (he likes her too LOL), and he also is a fan of Hugh's, as am I (I have his Everyday book). I like Jamie Oliver, though I don't own any of his books yet (though they're frequently here from the library - loved Jamie's Great Britain and Jamie's Dinners). I especially like his encouragement for everyone to cook simply and nutritiously at home. A Canadian favorite is Laura Calder, who cooks with a French flair, and cookbooks from Canadian Living magazine. One of Nigel's books is on my library holds list - I'll review it later :)

  13. Hi Rhonda,
    The link to the Guardian website is incomplete, the first H of http is missing.
    Cheers, Marijke

  14. Hi Rhonda,
    I have to agree – I love Nigella for her sumptuous, fun and frankly, sexy approach to food; she makes everything look so easy and tasty; Hugh for his inventive and generous approach to local and seasonal food in a simple/ frugal way and Nigel for his homely, nostalgic food that takes all the delicious recipes from your childhood and serves them anew for adulthood. Another favourite is Jamie Oliver – simple and family friendly food with taste. It’s great when a TV chef is famous because they cook well rather than just being famous for being a celebrity. I guess the test is whether the cook celebrates the food rather than themselves.

  15. I LOVE Hugh. I think I have a bit of a crush on him ;-). He got me baking my own bread and for that I will be forever grateful. I love Nigella too. I have her Nigella Express book and use it regularly. It's great for my hectic work days. Nigel is new to me as well, watching him for the first time on the weekend - looked good. There is a great ABC app called Foodi - full of recipes from their chefs including Maggie Beer, Poh (another one I enjoy watching - because she is fun) and heaps more. You never know we might see Nigel on there too - they add new recipes frequently.
    Happy cooking all!

  16. I think you can't go past the current series of CWA recipe books. They are tried and true.Another winner is "The Country Show" Cookbook. THis contains award winning recipes from country shows around Australia. The carrot and Banana cakes are so moist, and the recipe I habe always wanted. This book is a must try. Also the Date and Nut Loaf is stunning.

  17. As you know I'm a great fan of both Hugh and Matthew Evans, I think because they cook real food with real ingredients and they are both no nonsense sorts of blokes. I love Nigella's approach

  18. Hi Rhonda. My favourites are Maggie Beer - her love of homegrown & Australian (especially Barossa Valley) produce is so inspiring. And Jamie Oliver as well. I don't necessarily like his foul mouth but his love of fresh organic produce is something I admire. I have his app on my ipad and I use his recipes a lot. Thanks for the recipe posted above - will be one I will save now in my repertoire!

  19. Thank you for the recipe Rhonda. I think it will be tonight's tea. I have a freezer full of lamb - roasts, chops etc - courtesy of a friend who gave it to us in thanks for helping him. As if we minded. Will check out Nigel too - he certainly sounds interesting.

  20. I stumbled across Nigel's programme a few weeks ago and loved it. The ABC likes to put cooking shows on a Saturday for some reason and I've missed the last few as we were out. Thank you for the reminder of being able to watch them on iview Rhonda. Have just watched episode 3 and I am going to harvest some lemongrass to make that curry. And the rice pudding.... I feel like some right now! Wish I could find proper pudding rice in Australia or even short grain rice. I use arborio rice as a substitute. I am learning so much about flavours and how to combine them from this show. It's a similar format to Annabel Langbein's Free Range Cook programme with fresh ingredients, simple recipes and a lovely backdrop - I love his kitchen which opens out onto that deck and courtyard brimming with greenery and I want to browse the bookshelves and look through that pantry! It would be such a pleasure to cook in don't you think? My other favourite cook is NZ's Jo Seager. It was thanks to her 'easy peasy'cooking shows in the 1990's and recipe books that I actually learned how to cook and I still use her recipes today.

  21. I discovered Nigel last week while browsing ABC iView and loved his show and cooking style!

  22. I will have to check out Nigel's show, it looks interesting. I have the same Country Table cookbook too. I love it, the pictures make the book, along with the recipes...I have it sitting in a book stand on the table in the middle of my kitchen. Can't beat country cooking!

  23. Love the hotpot recipe...i usually do it in the slowcooker, but haven't made dumplings with it before, i seem to save them for my beef stew for some silly reason!
    I have heard of Nigel but not really read many Hugh and recently got a few of his books from the library which was lovely. I do absolutely love Maggie Beer though...she just has a way of explaining a recipe and making me want to give it a go!
    That cookbook looks like just the sort i love....i go back to my Flo Bejelke peterson Home Cooking so many times perhaps i need a new favourite. I just love rediscovering all those old recipes i grew up with and now passing them on my teen and the twins!
    Thanks for writing out your recipe Rhonda x

  24. Hugh is one of my favourites, and of course Nigella, but not necessarily only for her cooking! My favourite tv chef is Rick Stein.
    I have gone off Gordon Ramsey. Even for me, an old sailor, his swearing has become boring.

  25. I made the lamb hot pot recipe on the weekend. I used necks the cheapest cut of lamb and the meal was so so good.

  26. Hi i love home cooking, can anyone give me a great recipe for banana bread.I watched a 2010 better homes and garden and there was a great recipe for a chocolate banana bread there but i lost the recipe any help would be great thanks Linda

  27. I'm a Nigel lover too....loving this series kitchen opening onto the garden. Love his Simple Suppers series made up mostly from left-overs and pantry provisions. Also love Two Greedy Italians was on sbs earlier in the year....fabulous food there.And of course Hugh sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs

  28. I am completely in love with Jamie Oliver's cookbooks-unashamedly so....we are currently cooking through his 30minute meals as a way to teach the kids some "fancy" meals for their own homes one day and loving even one we have made so far!

  29. I am a fan of Nigel Slater too. An online search for what to do with my surplus end-of-season green cherry tomatoes came up with Nigel Slater's Green Tomato Chutney. I made it and it was fabulous, and has received many compliments.

    I am saving up for his two books based on recipes from the vegetable garden and orchard... "Tender" I and II. I read his "Kitchen Diaries" like a novel when I found it at a friend's house (wish I could own it), and also enjoyed "Toast", his painfully honest autobiography.

  30. What a lovely post - your recipe is almost 'Lancashire hotpot' - All your classic favourites are so English, then you throw in a crazy place name like Toowoomba! I love it!

    I'm not a fan of the celebrity chef but I have followed HF-W since the beginning - he did a series very early on where he went to peoples homes and helped them prepare a dinner or party - the most memorable being a 'placenta' party. You can guess what the main ingredient was.

    I have to say one of my favourite cook books is a Readers Digest one "Farmhouse Cookery" - it reads like an historic novel!

    All the best

  31. I decided celebrity chefs weren't my style when somebody bought me a Gary Rhodes cookbook and I realised it would take half a day to make Macaroni Cheese. I'm sure it was delicious, and it had bacon and leeks and all sorts in it, but not for me!

    I've always loved Nigel Slater's cooking- as a student I bought the Marie Claire cookbook (he was food editor of the magazine at that point) and haven't looked back. (DH would say I have a bit of an addiction, but I have lots of food history books too. Honest!) I've resisted Tender, etc, but highly recommend Appetite, Real Fast Food, Real Food and Real Cooking.

    Hugh F-W (known as Hugh Fearlessly-Eats-it-all in this house) is fab and I like his recipes. If I'm not sure what to do with a cut of meat I look in his Meat Book first.

    I like Nigella's early stuff, but some of the later books are a bit repetitive and she's become a caricature of herself on TV; I can't watch her anymore! How To Eat is probably the most well used book on my shelves.

    Tamar Adler is everywhere on the internet at the moment, but with good reason, in my opinion. Rhonda, I think you'd enjoy An Everlasting Meal. It's a book to read with recipes, rather than a recipe book.

    Two (UK based) suggestions are Darina Allen (especially Forgotten Skills of Cooking) and Rose Prince (I use The New English Kitchen a lot). Darina Allen runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, which my eldest dreams of attending. A friends daughter went and had a wonderful time and the course was highly rated when it came to getting a job.
    Rose Prince is (early) Nigella without the hyperbole! The NEK is all about buying good quality ingredients and then getting maximum use of them. Both cook seasonally and with ethical considerations; perfect!

  32. Here in the UK we watched Nigel's programmes a while back and absolutely loved them. He's very calm and not an 'in your face' or 'show offy' individual, like some of the others. His books aren't 'flash'. More of a good read rather than a comic with plenty of piccies. I really like him..and his garden is lovely.. Plus, he has a cato)

    Hugh Fearnley-Wotshisname I like, too. He's more jolly and outgoing and got me into making soda bread as his instructions were so clear. He cares about animal welfare and had a go at one of the supermarkets re chicken welfare. His Pear and Almond pie recipe is LOVELY. It's in his River Cottage Family cooking book.

  33. I love Maggie & Simon on 'The Cook & The Chef".... they're so entertaining as they bounce off each other whilst they create & taste their dishes. Oh, & I love Kylie Kwong too.

  34. My favourite is Simon Hopkinson from the UK. A wonderful storyteller and writer as well as chef. He cooks slow, delicious everyday things and I love the way they cut away during the show to him sitting on his couch with a book or magazine while he's waiting for things to cook in the oven. His kitchen looks inviting and everything I've made from his books turns out great. Another one of those shows that the ABC popped on last summer on a Sunday afternoon at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Nigella is wonderful, especially the late night forays to clean up the leftovers!

  35. I like Nigel Slater too, but I do think Nigella has become a bit of a caricature of herself with her suggestive remarks and looks, and sometimes laughable ingredients ... over here in the UK she's become a popular subject of of the comedy impressionists. If you want more real, unpretentious and down to earth food, 'just like mother made' have a look at the 'Hairy Bikers!' and

  36. Juicy Fig, I've watch Hugh for many years too and saw that placenta pate program. I often tell people about it. LOL

  37. i have one of nigels books and have been watching him on the abc too, i love his approach to food, i love that he is so relaxed and moves slowly and purposefully x

  38. I too love Nigel.....the cook books that I use all the time are - Nigella Lawson - How to eat, Stephanie Alexander - the cooks companion, Jamie Oliver - The ministry of food....and I have been doing a lot of recipes from the SBS food magazine Feast

  39. In early summer a local cherry grower gave me 30kgs of seconds cherries, froze about 10kg and have just finished processing them into Glace cherries. I use them in fruit cakes, homemade museli and fruit - nut mixes for snacks. I'll do a few kgs of citrus peel next. The recipe I use is......
    Day one: For every kilogram of pitted cherries add 300grams sugar and 250ml water.
    Combine sugar and water, heat gently, stir to dissolve sugar. When it reaches 82 deg celcius add the fruit, bring back to 82 deg, take off heat to cool, stand 18-24 hours
    Day two: Remove cherries. Add 600grams sugar per kilo of cherries to syrup, bring to boil, add fruit and bring up to 82 deg celcius. Take off heat to cool, stand 18 - 24 hours.
    Day three: Same as day two
    Day Four: Same as day two and three but only 300 grams sugar.
    Day Five: Remove cherries and dry on trays. They become a little duller when dry enough, you want them to have no liquid around the outside, sticky is ok but not wet.
    The left over very sweet thick syrup I bottle (can) and use as ice cream topping, milk shake flavouring and to replace the sugar and water in dark fruit cakes.
    Made 5 kilograms last year and still have about half a kilo left but I was rationing them. We have a lot of people in the house at times and it's amazing just how much they can eat, hopefully I can make this batch last through till the next!

  40. wellrounded, thanks for the instructions. I wanted to do it like this, with a stepped process over a few days. I want to do pineapple, oranges and lemons and if I could ever find cheap cherries, I would glace cherries too. Enjoy yours!

  41. Thank you, Rhonda. I have just sat and watched Nigel Slater's Spicy & Cool Episode that you linked to. He's a wonderful cook to watch and I loved the music from the show too. The Coconut Chilli Chicken will become one of our favourite meals I think - so simple and fresh.
    I look forward to watching his show tonight on ABC!

    Cheers - Joolz

  42. Yes I just adore Nigel ! Thankyou for this is just like my mum used to make with a good helping of mash and peas .....very comforting :)Debbie

  43. Hi Rhonda. I haven't followed Nigel Slater up until you mentioned him, I now have his book from the library "Toast", they got it for me in a couple of days. I am falling over laughing, such a good book. And then would you believe it I switched the ABC on at 6pm yesterday (Saturday) and he was on for half an hour. I am now a big fan,

  44. I completely agree with you, firstly about 'celebrities' and also about Nigel Slater. I have long felt that the worse word in the english dictionary is the word 'celebrity' and am not seduced by those in the public eye who seek and are buoyed up by the adoration of the general public. There are those who genuinely deserve our gratitude, or thanks, or admiration, but they are those souls who are genuinely humble and are typically not seeking it and are not showy or self-seeking,just getting on with their lives/jobs to the betterment of us all.

    Now, Nigel Slater! Well, he doesn't seem to be show-offy, but he can cook well, quite often making meals out of nothing almost, just what he has in the fridge/cupboard, a proper cook. I enjoy his television programmes immensly (?) and have his book 'The Kitchen Diaries' which is a good read, and has some good recipes in it.

    Thank you for this blog, Rhonda. I have just re-found you, and am finding a lot of inspiration here.

  45. Isn't he wonderful? His Real Fast Food is my very favourite cook book. It is a tiny paperback falling to pieces from constant use over 15 plus years. Such a thrill to be able to watch his program. It is so understated, appealing and really makes you want to start cooking immediately.

    So glad you are a fan too!!

  46. I also love Hugh F-W, and, I enjoy watching Kiwi, Peta Mathias too - as much for her flamboyant, colorful garb and hair, and her exotic locations, as for the actual recipes.
    When the ABC recently showed Nigel Slater (of whom I'd never heard), my first reaction wasn't very complimentary, but it did not take long before I was avidly watching and reading all I could of him and his food and garden! What a lovely writer - and a breath of fresh air in cooking shows and styles. No wonder he is a firm favorite of other chefs and celeb cooks.
    Now that "Simple Cooking" has ceased airing, I wrote to the ABC asking for MORE NIGEL, only to be told they have no plans for more - but they do have one of his books for sale. Not good enough, Auntie!

    Guest, Ricki


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