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Original domestic goddess Nigella Lawson is getting back behind the burners with her new series, Simply Nigella. Based on her cookbook of the same name, Lawson is returning to her cooking and chatting format after a stint as a judge on competition show The Taste.
In Simply Nigella, Lawson takes viewers on a journey around London, poring over local markets for fresh ingredients. The focus is on healthier comfort food, with a touch of Thailand after Lawson’s recent trip there, and use of new ingredients like ginger to spice up recipes. She also keeps her signature running dialogue with viewers, happily chatting about the cooking process as she simmers and stirs along.
“My heart is in the relationship between language and food,” she says of her unscripted, freestyle filming. “I try to describe the food, both where I think it fits into our lives and how I feel about a recipe, and also to try to describe the taste and feel because, of course, you can’t smell through the TV,” she says.
It’s a style she perfected with Nigella Bites. The new Simply Nigella is lighter and brighter, she says, a concept that also applies to the hostess. The set is modeled after her new home kitchen, all pinks and greens, and the style is more modern than moody.
“If I look back on Nigella Bites, I had young children and had a lot going on, and it was more hectic in atmosphere,” she says. Simply Nigella focuses on, well, keeping things simple.
“How do you find a way of incorporating all the different demands that are placed on you in life and still interact with food in a way not just to solve a problem but can actually create joy? So it’s finding the quickest, easiest route to a fantastic supper at the end of a long working day or making it easy to invite friends over without it becoming a stress-inducing nightmare.”
“I suppose we evolve in life, and our food evolves with it,” she adds.
Lawson, who went through a very public divorce and personal trials in 2013, says the book and show have helped her refocus on the food. “People like to say that cooking is therapeutic, but for me it is just a positive engagement with life, and that’s what interests me,” she says, refusing to address the past. “But I do feel very happy in the kitchen.”
“I do feel a great sense of connection with my viewers because they are home cooks like I’m a home cook. When I chop something, it’s incredibly painful to watch, and things might roll off,” she says. “I understand what the difficulties are that a [professionally trained] chef might not. It’s the ‘Oh no, this went a bit runny.’ ”
Lack of knife skills aside, Lawson’s a stickler for rich production values, down to capturing the sizzle and chop — each 30-minute episode takes a week to shoot — and dismisses the rise of YouTube how-to videos. “People need escape, and they want to see something that’s beautiful, that isn’t just someone that’s standing in their kitchen,” she says. “It’s a bit like books; you have an e-book, or you have a very beautiful book with photos. Do you want something straight on a screen, or do you want to have people putting their all into creating something that is beautiful, that gives you a very immersive experience for a half an hour at the end of an exhausting day?”
For all her focus on quality, Lawson admits to a weakness for British bacon-flavored Frazzles. “There’s not a bit of anything real in them, it’s all chemical,” she says. She recently posted a picture of them on her Instagram, which is her favorite social media service. “I came to it a bit late; I’ve only been on about eight months. But I like food, I like talking about it, I like seeing it, and I like seeing what people like. It’s all about connection.”
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