I couldn't wait. I was in London right after Nigella Lawson's newest cookbook was published, so I bought my copy immediately. The only real difference between the UK and American edition, I'm sure, is the measurements (grams versus ounces, etc.) so you get the benefit of the fact I've been cooking from this book for the last several weeks.
This new cookbook, which accompanies Nigella's new series on the FoodTV network (at a really dreadful, inconvenient hour on Sunday), follows in the now-popular "make a decent sit-down dinner in half an hour" theme. Unlike Rachel Ray (to whom I have no objections, but also no particular tropism), Nigella's idea of "in half an hour" is not necessarily in consecutive minutes. That is, if something takes a short time in the kitchen, but bakes for an hour, it's fair game. That works just fine for me -- I telecommute full time, so slow-cooked fast food is compatible with my lifestyle -- but those who rush to the store on the way home from the office and still have a desire to get dinner on the table by 7pm may sometimes be a teensy bit disappointed.
That might, however, be the only real disappointment in this rather exhaustive set of recipes. Because, based on the handful of things I've cooked from this book so far (and a careful reading of the rest of the book), these are just darned good meals. They aren't the special dishes she included in Feast: Food to Celebrate Life -- for holidays when spending all afternoon in the kitchen is part of the pleasure of the meal -- and they take a lot of shortcuts that Nigella admits freely *are* shortcuts. But they're far better than a takeaway meal, and it's good food, fast. (Duh.)
Everything is organized in meals or moods rather than subjects. That is, there's no chapter for appetizers, another for desserts, etc. It works well given the theme of the book -- who has time to construct a whole menu during the week? -- and also because she can tell you that, while the meat is underway, turn your attention to the vegetables. So "quick food slow" collects recipes that can be prepared ahead to save time later; "instant calmer" offers super-fast soul food; "get up and go" is for breakfast at breakneck speed.
So far, as I said, I've made a few things. Orange French toast is pretty simple -- your basic French toast, but with a syrup made with orange marmalade and juice -- but made a special brunch for visiting family. Her prawn and mango curry uses stuff that I mostly have in the house, such as frozen shrimp, a can of coconut milk, cilantro and bottled red curry paste. With some mango, lime juice, and butternut and sweet potato cubes (apparently available in pre-made packets in the UK, though I've never seen such things here)... in about half an hour we had a great dinner. Truly excellent. Her "sausages with sauerkraut" is a much simplified choucroute garnie and... well, that one was okay. It might have been excellent if I had made the trip to the German grocery for better sausages... or maybe some things shouldn't be simplified *too* much.
There's plenty more here to try: chicken in Riesling (looks like under an hour to the table, with half that in chicken-simmer time), Swedish salmon (with dill and mustard, served with a cucumber salad and potato salad). She has lots of quickly-prepared desserts too, but since I generally shy away from refined sugar I don't pay that much attention to them; nothing personal, Nigella.
Great cookbook. Recommended.