Nigella Lawson’s new book Cook, Eat, Repeat is more than just a cookbook, it’s a book about food – the memories and rituals we create around it, the comfort it brings and how recipes tell stories.
Cooking is not something you do, and then it’s finished with. It’s a thread woven through our lives, encompassing memory, desire and sustenance, both physical and emotional. It can never be an end in itself. We return to dishes we love, not just because they mean something particular to us, but also because our hands feel comfortable preparing food that is familiar.
she writes on the first pages.
It’s a book for those who love food and food writing, who want to learn about the inspiration behind a dish and multiple variations; not those who want just a pretty picture and a recipe. For if you only focus on the recipes and pictures you miss out on the magic of those recipes and the stories they tell. Suggestions of substitutions, variations and how to repurpose left-overs are plentiful. I read Cook, Eat, Repeat like a book – savouring each page and marking as many lines as I did recipes. Her brilliance as a food writer was highlighted when I found myself tagging recipes not based on their pictures, as I so often do, but on her descriptions of them.
What stood out to me, along with her contagious love of food, was how freely and happily she doled out credit for recipes and inspiration. I learnt that a recipe cannot be copyrighted – anyone is free, from a legal point of view – to take a recipe, make a few tweaks and claim it as their own. But in the same vein, acknowledging where you got the idea from is important. This is something she does so well and gracefully, pointing to the source and sharing how she’s made changes. It’s the first time I’ve seen this done in a cookbook and it was refreshing, making me feel better about all the times I’ve seen a dish that inspired one of my recipes or new take on it. Authenticity, she says is overused and misused when it comes to cooking, not every recipe published needs to be an original. She prefers honest borrowing where recipes are living, evolving entities that each person who uses it tweaks to their own liking, creating something new.
I laughed at her anxiety over prescribing portion sizes – there’s too many variables to give a definitive answer and I adored the way she chose to give them ‘serves 1, blissfully’.
It’s a cookbook she finished in lockdown and it has that ‘made at home’ feeling. The imagery is simple and feels like Nigella just whipped it up, set it on a board and snapped a picture. It’s comforting, accessible and feels very of the moment.
‘Perhaps,’ she says, ‘over the months of lockdown, many have learned how misjudged our attitude to cooking can be. Yes, it can be a drudgery and it can be draining, but it is also a way to make a substantive difference to the emotional temperature of the days. There is so much we cannot control, but food gives shape to our pleasures and offers both immersion and escape.’
Eat, Cook, Repeat is a cookbook that appeals to both the seasoned home cook and the novice who found themselves stuck at home and cooking for the first time. She provides the assurance of starting at the beginning, knowing that it’s not now or never, but that each meal is another shot at success.’
It’s a cookbook I loved reading, cooking through and one I know I’ll keep returning to. For as Nigella says ‘A bad meal can’t ruin a good day, but a good meal can save a bad one’. For now cook, eat, repeat is one of the easiest ways to derive pleasure out of uncertain days.
The recipe I am sharing is for her Gluten Free Banana Bread, it’s the bread from lockdown 1.0 with a gluten free twist. She uses only two gluten free flours – rice and almond – and it’s texture is one of the best Gluten Free breads I’ve had. The only change I made was using coconut oil instead of vegetable as it’s the oil I prefer baking with. However, when I make it again I’ll reduce quantities of oil, sugar, walnuts and (gasp) chocolate to make it a lighter banana bread.
Nigella's Gluten Free Banana Cake
- loaf tin
- baking paper
- 175 grams rice flour
- 100 grams almond flour
- 2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 large very ripe bananas
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100 gram yogurt at room temperature
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 125 ml coconut oil melted and cooled
- 125 grams light brown sugar
- 150 grams dark chocolate roughly chopped
- 100 grams walnuts roughly chopped
- Heat the oven to 170°C fan and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
- Mix the rice flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside
- Peel the bananas, and in a large bowl, big enough to take all the ingredients later, mash the peeled bananas thoroughly. Beat in the vanilla, then the yogurt and, one by one, the eggs followed by the melted and cooled coconut oil and sugar.
- Gradually add the flour to the wet mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all is combined, and then fold in the chopped chocolate and walnuts.
- Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin - it will come close to the top. Bake it in the oven for 50-55 minutes until shrinking from the sides of the tin and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out cleanish (if you manage to avoid the melted chocolate) with a few damp crumbs sticking to it. Sit the tin on a wire rack, and allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the tin.
Cook, Eat, Repeat was given to us by Penguin Random House and is available here. Penguin Random House nor the author approved or reviewed this piece prior to publication. Opinions are our own. The recipe is reprinted with permission, images are our own.