Nigella Lawson

With her recipe books, cookware products, TV shows and more, Nigella Lawson has become quite the culinary superstar. In the new series Simply Nigella, which recently debuted on BBC Two, Lawson offers a pared-down approach to cooking and eating, with easy-to-prepare recipes that she believes nourish the soul and the body. FremantleMedia International has already sold Simply Nigella into a slew of markets, including across the Asia Pacific. The food writer and TV cook talks to TV Real Weekly about what makes this new show, and her presenting style, unique. ***Image***

TV REAL: How is Simply Nigella different from other cooking shows you’ve done?
LAWSON: My series Nigellissima had an Italian feel to it. Simply Nigella has a much lighter feeling—not lighter in terms of food, but a light-filled atmosphere. There is brightness to it. It’s very alive, but at the same time has a sense of calming. This calmness helps protect you against the manic nature of our lives.

With Simply Nigella, I wanted to talk about the types of food that I cook every day that help me in a number of ways. Some days you want food that you can cook really quickly because it’s been a long day. Other times you may have people coming over and you want something you can prepare in advance. For me, what’s always important is that the food I cook makes me feel good while I’m in the kitchen as well as when I am eating it. I want to share that with the viewer. With television you have two ways of expressing that. One is the experience the viewer has while watching the program—the colors we brought to the show are so light and beautiful, soft but not wishy-washy pastels. At the same time, some of the recipes are so simple that you don’t even need to have them written down. You can just see it being made and go make it. Sometimes it’s about taking really basic ingredients and showing [the viewers] how to make something that’s new. I want to give people inspiration from that.

Eating has an aesthetic component. If I look down and I see something beautiful as I am eating it, I feel good. We feed more than our bellies when we eat. That’s why the aesthetic of the program is so important to me.

TV REAL: What inspires the episodes and the dishes you create?
LAWSON: My own life and what makes my life easier. I’m a home cook, not a chef. If I go out and buy a particular ingredient, I want to have other uses for it. So do my viewers—they don’t want to have to buy everything fresh every time.

Inspiration might even come from something I see on someone’s Instagram feed. I might get inspiration from a restaurant, where I’d say, I like that flavor but this is far too fancy. So I would use the same ingredient but in my own way.

Food is a conversation; it can be passed down through the ages—it could be something your grandmother cooked, it could be something you’ve seen on social media. What’s so fascinating about new technology is that it takes you back to the old days of recipe sharing that our great-great-grandmothers would have done. I love that!

When I do a TV program, I’m not scripted. I don’t even know what I am going to say until they call “Action!” It’s more of a real conversation [with the viewers] that way.

TV REAL: Do you think that authenticity is what’s made your shows so appealing to viewers?
LAWSON: I do believe that you need to be true to who you are. I think that having a home cook doing the cooking is very different than having a chef in the kitchen on a show. Chefs are inspirational; I am inspired by them, but I can’t cook like them! It can be intimidating. So there is something [relatable] when you see me chopping ingredients and I’m not doing it perfectly. I will use chicken stock from a concentrate, instead of making it all myself. People don’t need to agree with you about everything, but they need to believe you are telling the truth.

TV REAL: How do your books complement your series?
LAWSON: All the books come first. I’m predominantly a writer. Sometimes when I am working on a recipe for the book, I will think, The director is going to love the look of that! I am also aware that certain dishes that are the simplest to cook don’t necessarily make for great television. It’s not exciting just to watch me stick something in an oven. I do want to show that part, so it does go into the show, but you also want dishes where you can see how they come together in the pan. The simplest recipes just aren’t always the simplest to film. I really enjoy the process [of filming], though. We film in a very old-fashioned way. It’s like a movie: we will do six 11- or 13-hour days just to get a half-hour [episode], but it’s great!