Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Q&A With Sarah

Sorry about the delay.

Here it is.


Hello Miss Sarah. In the beginning of your project you said you had an aversion to pork. Now you have made many pork dishes. My answer has two parts, LOL.

1. how did you overcome your aversion?

Well, my aversion to pork, which started when I was 15, was the result of 2 things – a desire to eat more healthily (excessive bacon does not a healthy girl make), and horror stories I’d heard of treatments of pigs in abattoirs. Now that I’ve gotten older and found that, thankfully, some growers do treat their animals with respect, I was willing to break the no-pork rule. Otway pork in particular, is brilliant.

2. what is your favorite pork dish?

Ham in coca cola! No contest!

(Although I must admit I’ve become very keen on high quality bacon and prosciutto, especially in pasta dishes).


Hi Sarah!
Considering all the recipes you've made thus far, if Nigella were coming over for dinner next weekend, what would you make?
Lisa xoxo

Woah. I’d probably do a whole bunch of dishes in advance, and leave them on the table for everyone to eat, casually. If it were winter I’d make the oxtail stew with mackeson and marjoram, mashed potatoes and pig’s bum for dessert, lots of custard. If it were summer, I’d do that High Summer Al Fresco Lunch menu, with the rhubarb meringue pie for dessert.

I wouldn’t cook anything with any last-minute faffing about because I’d be too busy making sure the house and I look decent, and worrying about how to avoid making an arse of myself in front of the goddess. Then I’d steady my nerves with a good bottle of vodka.

Also, do you have more days where you feel super-accomplished & proud of yourself for taking on this project; or days where you say to yourself, "Holy hell, what have I gotten myself into?!"

In general, the super-accomplished days outweigh the “holy hell” ones. And I know there’s no giving up – I’ve just got this determination to see the project through. There’s something so satisfying about crossing off the recipes on my list.


What has been the hardest ingredient to source?

I would say that the pickled pork was the most difficult ingredient to find that I actually managed to get a hold of! That, and calvados.

I haven’t been able to find grouse at all, or monkfish, fresh elderflower (I have resorted to ordering elderflower concentrate on-line), damsons…

But with all of these difficult-to-find ingredients, I’ve tried to find a way around it, so that I can make the recipe in the end.


1) do you ever wish you had chosen another book (eg Feast) instead of HTE?

Nope. How to Eat is pretty rockin’. I think Feast’s portions would have been too big, Nigella Bites would have been over in 2 months, How to be a Domestic Goddess would have been too many desserts, and Forever Summer would have been fun, but it wouldn’t have lent itself to a good blog title.

I think one of the reasons why How to Eat was the book for me was because it’s a basic book, a “seminal” text, if you like – with no theme other than that of good eating.

2) will you do another book after HTE?

So far there are no plans to do another book; I may do one in the future. But it would have to be a very, very good book to live up to How to Eat.


Have you considered adapting this project into a book?

It has been suggested to me, but I’m unsure. I don’t know if, firstly, I have the writing skills to support an entire book, and more importantly, if the contents of this blog would be interesting for anyone except the hardcorest Nigella nut. But I’m not sure.


How to Eat was the book that encouraged me to do things my way- to experiment if you like. Do you feel compelled yet to throw the book away and cook for yourself?

Not quite yet! But I have had a similar experience to you I think, in that cooking so much from this book has taught me how to experiment, and how to understand food more so that I can cook without slavishly following a recipe. For instance, I can make tomato-based pasta sauces without referring to a recipe, as well as pastry and even custard.


Ok, I'm new to your blog, so I admit I haven't read the whole thing. I refrained from purchasing a Nigella cookbook after an hour of perusing the pages because I just couldn't get past some of the ingredients (quail innards being a prime example!). Are there any recipes you won't make based on ingredients alone, or is that part of the challenge?

No, it’s part of the challenge that I make every single recipe in the book. At the very beginning I was considering delegating all the recipes containing pork to a friend to make, as I wasn’t eating pork at that stage. But now that I’m back to eating pork, I’ve decided to make all the pork recipes. There are some ingredients I haven’t been able to find at all – e.g. grouse, and certain varieties of fish. In these instances, I just substitute the unavailable ingredients with locally available ones, especially in those recipes where it’s the method rather than the main ingredient that is the focus.

But in general I’m very adventurous with food and willing to try new things (as are, thank God, my parents), so I have no qualms about trying quail innards, goose, liver, rabbit and so on.


I wondered too what you will do when you get to the end of it. Will you take a while and cook form other books (nigella or otherwise) or think about a new Nigella project? What's your fav recipe/s and what would you not make again?You have done amazingly well! You go girl!!

Well, my immediate plans following the end of the project are to go overseas! I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Europe over the 2-month winter break (my winter, Europe would be in summer). With regards to culinary plans, however, I think a good, long detox is in order! So for the second half of the year, after I return from my trip, I have no culinary projects in mind, but hope to reacquaint myself with the healthier recipes from my Bill Granger books, my Jamie Oliver books, my Delicious/Vogue Entertaining + Travel/Australian Gourmet Traveller magazines, and of course, the other Nigella books! (Forever Summer is looking particularly attractive right now).

So I wouldn’t be starting a new project until at least 2007.

I do have a lot of favourites (simply check the “Hits” sections in each month’s progress report for evidence), but if I had to pick one…it would be the Rhubarb Meringue Pie.

Generally, I’ve found that you can’t go wrong with a Nigella pie (sweet, savoury, vegetarian, meat or fish), custard, pasta dish, roast or stew (except the pheasant!)

And speaking of unenjoyable recipes, I didn’t like the incredibly feral braised pheasant with mushrooms and bacon, or any of the beetroot based recipes, or the duck-liver pasta sauce.


Dear Sarah,
Which top chef would you bag?!
A Concerned Reader who votes for Gordon Ramsey!

Firstly, Gordon Ramsey? EW.

And I don’t generally find chefs attractive, but if I had to choose one, I’d probably say Tyler Florence, because he is the least unattractive of all the celebrity chefs.

And Gordon Ramsey? EWWWWW again.


Meleyna said...

Tyler Florence has gotten quite chunky as of recent. I vote Anothony Bourdain, based soley on his fuck-you attitude rather than looks.

Sarah said...


I nearly said Anthony Bourdain too! Because he's definitely the coolest bad-ass of the celeb chefs. I've nearly finished reading Kitchen Confidential, which I think is brilliant!

But seriously, looking at his pictures... I think he's a bit too hardcore for me!

xox Sarah

ps A bit of chunkiness never hurt anyone!

Meleyna said...

Haha, that's true. Especially regarding me post holiday season. (Okay so its like two months after holiday season, but whatever.)

Anonymous said...

LOL! This really sounds like a press conference!

re chefs... Bill G's laugh would turn me off, as would Neil P's hair... Tyler is ok really!

Ilana said...

Is it ok to ask another question??? Since HTE doesn't have any pictures, and since you have photographically documented close to 300 recipes now, if HTE ever was illustrated (kinda hypothetical), which picture would you want to definitely be included based on its general aesthetic beauty??

MM said...

Not keen on Tyler Florence ... something about him just annoys me. And Anthony Bourdain is too like me dad .. major eeeuuwww!!!

Not sure if I would ever wanna bag a chef since my dad was one and it's a little too close to home ... but what about that Curtis Smith bloke, Sarah?

By the way, congrats on the article in Gourmet Traveller!