Gah. Food. It’s everywhere at Christmas. If you’re not eating it, you’re watching it. Or watching someone eating it. Or eating it whilst watching someone eating it whilst watching it. Basically, we’re going to spend the next seven days with our mouths open. So I suppose we might as well put something good in there.
This is where Nigella comes in. I love Nigella for several reasons; she was married to the late journalist John Diamond; she has the look of a forties film star and the appetite of John Prescott; she has survived the indignity of being called Nigella. If anyone can make Christmas go smoothly, this woman can. All we need to do, she says, is follow her “plan of action”.
“My countdown begins on Christmas Eve with a large plastic bucket, several litres of water and the turkey.” Right, so she drowns the turkey herself? Ohhhkay. Oh, no, hang on, it’s already dead. Phew. She’s just giving it a spice bath so it’s nice and moist for the eating. That’s…erm…lovely. And kinda creepy.
The next step, according to Nigella, is to make the gingerbread stuffing. This is where you begin to see what separates the likes of Nigella from the likes of you and me. Not only does she possess an endless supply of large plastic buckets for bathing fowl, but she has invented her own stuffing which, if my eyes didn’t deceive me, was largely made up of McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake. Inevitably, it will go down a storm. Unfair, really, since I tried a similar thing a few years ago with a chicken and a jam roly poly and had nothing but complaints.
Nigella then tells us how to make the perfect roast potatoes. I was paying very close attention here because I love a crunchy roast potato more than life itself. But despite eyeballing the TV with quite some concentration, I somehow managed to get bamboozled at the part where she was telling us how to cut the spuds. Triangles? Long sides? What?
Since I am the kind of person who needs ridiculously explicit instructions when it comes to cooking (“Cut into cubes you say? Would that be Oxo? Or Rubix?”) I can’t help but notice that the recipe element of the recipe programme seems to have disappeared these days.
It’s all “add a good chunk of” or “splash in some” with scant regard for measurements or, indeed, measuring. Knowing viewers will probably buy the book/check the website, programme makers spend the airtime previously used for practical details, delivering various sploshing and squelching sounds interspersed with footage of some kids playing Buckaroo.
The upshot of this is that Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen makes preparing Christmas dinner look like one long Marks & Spencer ad, when we all know that, in reality, Christmas Day is a bit more ‘Iceland’, with each family member taking it in turns to have a Kerry Katona-style meltdown and run at one another with a King Prawn Spoon.
Hence by the point at which we normal folk would be wondering if it’s okay to replace the brandy with Baileys and the breadcrumbs with beta blockers, Chez Nigella all is calm, all is bright. A bit more sploshing, some gratuitous use of butter and lo! Christmas dinner is done.
I’ve still no idea how to go about making it but, thanks to Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen I am fully cognisant regarding how to put an X in a sprout whilst leaning over in a red satin robe and how to balance a saddle on a donkey without tipping it over.
But then, this sort of programme isn’t instruction, surely, so much as fiction. Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen is, for lovers of the festive time. It’s what a Mills and Boon novel is to a hopeless romantic. You know it’s never going to happen like that in real life, you know it’s raising your expectations horribly, but somehow you just can’t help being seduced.
Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen, Tuesday, 3.05pm, Wednesday, 2.30pm