Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson adds a bit of sexiness to her cooking. It's a style all her own and one that could help make your Valentine's Day meal extra special. She shared her favorite recipe to share with your honey.
Vanilla Mousse with Berries and Pistachios
By Nigella Lawson
I dare say that having a tricolor e dessert is not terribly original, when it comes to compiling a book of Italian recipes, but I just couldn't help myself. Besides, the sharpness of the berries and the aromatic rubble of pistachios provide contrast—of taste and texture—with the light, vanilla-flecked mousse. I say mousse, but this is a simple affair, consisting of no more than whisked egg whites, folded into heavy cream whipped with sugar and the seeds from a vanilla bean. To get the seeds out of the bean, I use the point of a small, sharp knife to make a lengthways incision all along the middle of the bean, and then use the point of the knife again to scoop and scrape all the damp black seeds out. And, if I can do that with what my TV director calls my "borderline dyspraxia", anyone can. Don't throw away the bean, by the way, but rinse and dry it later to put in a jar of sugar to flavor it for baking.
If you want to top these vanilla mousses with a fine dust of pistachio, then you'll need a coffee grinder; otherwise, chop the nuts finely by hand, and you'll probably need the extra spoonful for total coverage. As for the berries that go underneath, to keep to the tricolore theme, I like to use 50/50 raspberries (left whole) and strawberries (chopped to match the size of the raspberries) but, otherwise, a mixture of any berries that come your way would be fine and dandy.
I have so many recipes, as you may have noted, where I use only the egg whites that, these days, I make sure my refrigerator is always stocked with a pasteurized carton of them. In fact, I've got so used to this, I don't even find it strange that they do come in a carton. (And see Note to the Reader on p.xiii on using uncooked eggs.)
2 free-range organic or pasteurized egg whites
1 1⁄4 cups heavy cream
1⁄2 cup superfine sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
8 ounces raspberries
8 ounces strawberries, chopped
1–2 tablespoons chopped shelled unsalted pistachio nuts
6 approx. 2⁄3 cup glasses
Whisk the egg whites in a clean, grease-free bowl until they form soft peaks.
Pour the cream into another bowl, add the sugar and vanilla seeds, and whisk until this mixture, too, forms soft peaks. Fold the whisked egg whites gently into the vanilla cream to make your mousse.
Divide the berries among 6 glasses until just under half-full and dollop the vanilla mousse on top, until every glass is softly peaked.
Chill them in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes. On serving, dust the tops with the ground or finely chopped pistachios.
Pasta with Zucchini
By Nigella Lawson
This is one of my favorite pastas, but I must start with a warning: it isn't as easy on the eye as on the palate; this is a dish made for pleasure not a photo op. In order for the zucchini to acquire the sweet, braised flavor they imbue the pasta with here, they are cooked to a squashy khaki.
This is how I prepare the zucchini: before dicing them, I peel away strips of skin, which gives them a striped look, see the photo on p.22. This habit is a maternal legacy that I don't expect you to inherit, too. So peel or don't peel, wholly or in stripes, as you see fit. I like casarecce pasta, which for all that it means "homemade," is produced by most good pasta manufacturers and indeed is so common that I find it at my local supermarket.
Casarecce are small, loosely rolled tubes with a gap—where the roll doesn't quite meet up along the side—which catches every bit of flavorsome sauce. The more colorfully named strozzapreti ("priest-stranglers") work in much the same way. Please don't be put off making this should either of these shapes elude you. My Italian friends blithely suggest, as an alternative, either penne or farfalle.
8 ounces casarecce pasta
Salt for pasta water, to taste
2 tablespoons garlic-flavored oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 pound zucchini (preferably organic), finely diced
1⁄4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
Small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons grated
Parmesan, plus more (optional) for sprinkling
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
Put a pot of water on for the pasta, salting generously (or to taste) when it comes to a boil, then add the casarecce—cooking as per package instructions, though tasting a couple of minutes before they're meant to be ready—and get on with the sauce.
Put the garlic-flavored oil and chopped scallions in a heavy-based pan (that comes with a lid) on medium heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the diced zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and again. Add the wine or vermouth, letting it bubble up, followed by 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley, salt to taste, then lower the heat, cover with the lid, and cook for a further 5 minutes, by which time the zucchini should be gorgeously tender.
Before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of starchy cooking water.
Tip the drained pasta back into its pot, add the braised zucchini, or add the pasta to the pan of zucchini, along with 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, and 1⁄4 cup of pasta-cooking liquid.
Combine thoroughly and taste to see if you wish to add more cheese or salt or pepper or, indeed, cooking liquid, then stir in the butter and most of the remaining parsley and divide between 2 warmed bowls, sprinkling with the rest of the parsley, and more Parmesan if wished, on serving.