~post by Julie W.
It must be fall because my kitchen is calling. These last few weeks, as central Texas temperatures have descended from their 90 degree heights and we’ve turned off our air conditioners and opened our windows, I’ve broken out the slow cooker, the rice cooker, the recipes that call for preheated ovens and long, slow nights chopping root vegetables and stirring stews. ‘Tis the season for cookbooks. One of the new cookbooks I’ve been looking forward to this year is Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food by the domestic goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. In honor of its nationwide publication this week, and because Lawson will be here at BookPeople next Tuesday, November 10th, I jumped in and started cooking a savory fall meal from Simply Nigella the day it arrived. (A good bookseller prepares for an author visit, after all.)
For fun, I shared shots of my culinary adventure on our instagram feed (@bookpeople) as I cooked. Here are the highlights. Enjoy!
On the menu: Middle-Eastern minestrone & Soda bread rolls with fennel seeds and cranberries.
First steps for the Middle-Eastern minestrone were to chop red onion and cube a butternut squash. I learned how to cube a butternut from vegan chef Isa Chandra’s cookbooks. You cut the squash in rings, slice off the sides of the rings, and cube away. I’ll confess that half the reason I chose to make this soup was because I’m still proud that I can reduce a mighty butternut squash to miniature squares….
Part of what also drew me to this recipe are some of the fragrant, flavorful ingredients it calls for: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, preserved lemons. Part of the organizing principle of Simply Nigella is to provide an “antidote to our busy lives: a calm and glad celebration of food”. Bringing these ingredients into a weeknight supper definitely felt like a celebration in the midst of the busy work week.
As Nigella Lawson writes in the intro to this recipe, this Middle-Eastern minestrone is by now means an authentic Middle-Eastern dish, but it does work with the flavors of the region to reinvent a classic minestrone. The scents that wafted out of the pot as the cumin and coriander got to know the lemon and onion were layered, interesting, and made me very hungry.
On to the soda bread rolls! Full disclosure: I am not a baker. Additional disclosure: I don’t eat milk or butter, so I traded out the butter in this recipe for Earth Balance and replaced the yogurt it calls for with a coconut-based yogurt. I was concerned this might prove my downfall with these rolls…..
Hooray! Five minutes later, we had dough, complete with fennel and cranberries! This mixed up in no time. I’m still impressed by how fast this came together.
After mixing the flour with the other ingredients, I transferred the ball of dough to a floured surface, cut it into eight equal pieces and popped them in the oven. I could make these every day…..
The finished product: soda bread rolls with fennel seeds and cranberries, fresh out of the oven. Unbelievable how quick we went from flour to finished roll. So glad to have this recipe in my repertoire.
Dinner is served! Middle-Eastern minestrone soup and Soda bread with fennel and cranberries, courtesy of Nigella Lawson and Simply Nigella. I’ve been enjoying the leftover minestrone all week. The flavor only grows deeper the next day.
So happy to have this cookbook on hand as I head into the fall season. (PS – the soda bread came out so well with the non-dairy yogurt and butter! Huzzah! And three cheers for butternut squash!) I can’t wait to have Nigella at the store next Tuesday, November 10 at 7pm. Books and tickets for the signing are available. Hope you can make it!