Nigella Lawson’s new book Cook, Eat, Repeat ( 352 pages)
Great Loves with Cook, Eat, Repeat
Three of my great loves centre around food – eating it, cooking it, and reading about it. Food gives me so much pleasure and if you were to tell me that I had to do these three things every single day for the rest of my life, I would be more than willing to oblige. I find preparing food to be relaxing and cooking to be an emotional and highly creative process. I immerse myself in the experience, forget what else is going on in my life, and use it as a form of meditation. I can reach the same state of relaxation with a good book. I become so absorbed with the writing that I easily detach from everything around me. When I come across a book that marries food with stimulating writing, I am in my happy place. I don’t mean a traditional cookbook jammed with yummy recipes, although I love those as well. I’m talking about a book that couples food with life, experience, and fantastic writing to create something so exciting that I struggle to put it down. Nigel Slater is the king of this type of book, in my opinion, and I now grant an equivalent accolade to Nigella, queen of the simile and metaphor.
I don’t eat meat or fish, and there are some recipes in this book that I will not make for that reason, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. I still enjoy reading about anchovies (there is a whole chapter dedicated to those tiny creatures) and other meat-centric recipes; it even encourages me to be super creative by devising plant-based versions. As Nigella herself says, “Cooking, like life, is an experimental art” and one which I wholeheartedly pursue.
I fell in love with the rich and smoky burnt onion and eggplant dip, ‘beautiful in its brownness’ and taken from the aptly titled chapter A Loving Defence of Brown Food. As with most brown food, it’s not necessarily Instagramable, but it tastes divine and travels well. I’ve prepared it a few times and packed it up with some bread and olives before heading to the park for some people watching.
I’m sharing the burnt onion and eggplant dip recipe here; with the caveat that it is much abridged for the purpose of word count and does in no way reflect Queen Nigella’s eloquent and passionate writing style. I’ve also made and love the beet and chickpea dip, another item that travels well and is great for summer picnics. While I don’t have the word count available to share it here, you have even more reason to check out Cook, Eat, Repeat.
Burnt Onion and Eggplant Dip
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 onions (approx. 1 pound), quartered lengthwise with the root intact
- 3 medium eggplants (approx. 9 ounces each)
- 1 head of garlic
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, or kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
- 11/2 teaspoons dried mint
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Pour 1/3 cup of olive oil on a baking sheet with a shallow lip.
2. Take each quarter onion and slice in half lengthwise, and place on the baking sheet.
3. Half the eggplants lengthwise and score the flesh. Place flesh side down onto the baking sheet with the onions and make sure both the onions and eggplant are rubbed into the oil. Turn the eggplant flesh side up.
4. Trim the top off the garlic so that the fleshy cloves poke through. Wrap in tinfoil and add to the baking tray. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, check after 40 minutes, giving a quick shake or stir if necessary to prevent sticking.
5. While the veggies are cooking, mix the salt, dried mint and lemon juice in a small jug and set aside.
6. Remove the veggies from the oven, unwrap the garlic and set everything aside to cool.
7. When cooled, place the onions into an electric blender. Scrape the flesh of the eggplant into the blender along with 1 tablespoon of cooking juices. Squeeze in the cooked garlic cloves also.
8. Add the salt, mint and juice mixture and the tahini, ground cumin, sweet smoked paprika and extra virgin olive oil and blend until smooth. You can do this in a mixing bowl with a hand blender if you prefer.
9. Check the seasoning and transfer to the serving dish. Serve with crudites or warm pitta bread. Enjoy!
I strongly recommend grabbing a copy of Cook, Eat, Repeat and referring to the original recipe to stay true to the book’s ethos. Check out my recent Journal posts for other delicious summer recipes – Hot for Food by Lauren Toyota and Fast Easy Cheap Vegan by Sam Turnbull.
If you make any of the recipes, don’t forget to share your photos on Instagram and tag them @booknbrunch and Jacqui @inspirationalchickpea
With 30 years of general management experience in the global insurance industry and having lived in 4 countries, Jacqui now spends her time between London and New York where she continues to pursue her passion for writing, food, books and travel.
A Reiki practitioner, yogi and huge animal advocate, her home isn’t complete without a furbaby or three. In addition to being a BooknBrunch contributor, she writes for industry publications.
Favourite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Favourite brunch dish: avocado toast with tomato and chilli