Chatto & Windus, £20 stg
Although I have never seen the cookery series 'Nigella Bites' accompanies, this cookery book is more than able to stand on its own two feet. Nigella Lawson is a sexy earth-mother type with an undeniable talent for cooking and a belief in the restorative powers of good food.
She seductively takes you by the hand and leads you through evocatively-named chapters such as Party Girl, All-Day Breakfast and Comfort Food. Although this Domestic Goddess is more than a little too good to be true, she manages to avoid being as aggravating as Jamie Oliver – but only just. Here, you get pink pashimas trailing over the barbeque rather than a naked chef; ultimately I think I'd prefer to cook from Nigella's offering than tangle with Jamie's moped and haircut. It would all be a little easier to swallow if we weren't being sold so much of her lifestyle as well – we could do without the pictures of Nigella eating her TV dinner, complete with Nana Mouskouri glasses and remote control.
Leaving all packaging aside, difficult though it is, the recipes are great. Simple Lemon Risotto that takes the mystery out of risotto making; a three-ingredient pasta supper; an ice cream that doesn't need laborious beating when half-frozen and chilli-infused vodka for weekend Bloody Marys. A notes section at the end of each chapter gives you the option of scribbling your own comments and additions to recipes – showing that this book is meant to be used, not just read. A working mother herself, Nigella also takes children into consideration, both cooking for and with them.
She has been accused of throwing the cause of feminism back several centuries, wanting women to be confined to the kitchen, but this is to wilfully misinterpret her writing and place more meaning on it than was intended. No one is going to whip out the baking equipment every evening and knock together a tray of cookies or a homemade pizza but, when you do, there is an undeniable feeling of satisfaction. Nigella celebrates that feeling in her books and, if she tempts anyone into the kitchen to try out a recipe, then it's a job well done.