Here Are All The Best Cooking Tips We Picked Up From Nigella Lawson’s New Cookbook

First up: The one type of pasta Nigella says you should always have on hand.

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Nigella Lawson in red top
Photo, Hugo Burnand.

In her latest cookbook, At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking, Nigella Lawson gives readers a taste of her go-to recipes. Whether simple weekday dinners, holiday spreads or decadent snacks (she has a recipe for Emergency Brownies that sounds essential), these recipes champion the home cook. Along with her delightful anecdotes and deceptively simple dishes (which are more practical than ones found in many celebrity cookbooks), Nigella shares helpful bits of kitchen wisdom. Here are the 10 best tips.

1. Always have this one pasta on hand

Nigella says orzo is a “non-negotiable staple in my kitchen.” That’s because it’s so versatile and works wonders in a variety of recipes, from simple salads to hearty one-pot pasta dishes (like the orzo and meatballs featured in At My Table). For side dishes, Nigella swaps in orzo as a substitute for rice and potatoes.

Pot of mashed potatoes.
Nigella’s garlic mashed potatoes. Photo, Jonathan Lovekin.

2. Don’t pour potato water down the drain

Nigella offers a great multi-tasking tip in the introduction to her delicious garlic mashed potato recipe: Use the water you’ve boiled the potatoes in to make “the best vegetable soup in the world.” She makes hers by cooking 5 1/2 cups frozen peas in 4 cups potato water and then blitzing till smooth. She says you can store the water for up to five days if you don’t want to make the soup right away.

3. And never let your mashed potatoes go to waste

Forget shepherd’s pie, if you’ve got piles of leftover mashed potatoes, press some through your waffle maker for crispy potato waffles. These make a great substitute for hash browns on lazy weekend mornings.

nigella gnocchi recipeRecipe: Nigella Lawson’s Gnocchi Gratin

4. Store eggs on their side for perfect devilled eggs

Devilled eggs are already a crowd-pleaser, but to make yours look even better, Nigella recommend storing your eggs on their side (instead of upright in the carton) the night before you boil them. That way, the yolks will stay in the centre, leading to a prettier plate of appetizers.

5. Use up your frozen peas in an easy sheet-pan dinner

Even Nigella turns to sheet-pan dinners for a quick-and-easy dinner solution, though she calls them “traybakes.” If you have an excess of frozen peas on hand, use them as the foundation layer in your next traybake and place chicken (and other veg) on top of them. “It’s a life changer,” she writes. “The peas become soft and sweet in the heat… And the steam they produce as they bake makes the chicken beautifully tender, its skin crackly and crisp on top.”

6. Make your own rice cooker

Nigella says the best way to cook rice is with a rice cooker. Don’t own one? Just place a tea towel over your pot of just-cooked rice and put the lid back on (the towel absorbs the steam coming off the rice, so it doesn’t fall back on the grains, creating clumps). Leave it for 20 to 40 minutes, and voila, fluffy rice!

7. Put your spiralizer to work and make fries

Since she’s a big fan of comfort food, Nigella never uses her spiralizer to make zucchini or sweet potatoes noodles. She does, however, use it to make seriously snackable shoestring fries, delicious on their own, piled atop sandwiches or even on baked potatoes (for a double dose of potatoey goodness).

Pan of crumbly brownies.
Nigella Lawson’s Emergency Brownies. Photo, Jonathan Lovekin.

8. Tasting as you cook is the most important rule

Even if you follow a recipe to the T, be sure to taste as you go to ensure your food is well seasoned. “You cannot cook without tasting,” writes Nigella. And, she says, don’t be afraid to modify a recipe to suit your own tastebuds.

9. Make a roux for extra-fluffy buttercream

In her recipe for a vanilla layer cake, Nigella reveals she loves the foodie website Serious Eats, especially its recipe for flour buttercream, also known as ermine icing. Instead of whipping together butter and icing sugar, this recipe starts with a stovetop roux. “This roux method creates the lightest, moussiest buttercream you could imagine,” writes Nigella.

10. How to make bread stale (for the best dessert recipes)

Most of the time, we try to avoid letting bread go stale, but in some recipes (French toast, bread pudding, Nigella’s Queen of Puddings), the staler the bread, the better. If you have fresh bread on hand, make it stale by slicing it and leaving it out overnight. Or, put slices in a 220 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Watch: How to make a roasted chicken sheet-pan dinner