The beloved cook is one of the few whose recipes can still cause a rush at the shops
Nigella making her sardine spaghetti recipe for Ocado
“I don’t want to eat rubbish, even if I don’t have time to cook,” says Nigella Lawson as we tuck in to her brand new super-speedy pasta dish, a sardine spaghetti that takes just five minutes to prepare. The best bit? You don’t even have to chop an onion. “When I’m really tired, although it’s not hard, it’s the peeling and chopping of an onion that breaks me,” she says, smiling because she knows that while chopping an onion is a small task, it is often a tiny act that ends the best of us at the close of a long day.
Nigella doesn’t look like someone who might be felled by an onion. With her trademark peaches-and-cream complexion, dressed in a lavender dress to match the flower arrangements, she is channelling pure domestic goddess to present her latest recipes at a small lunch.But at 63, her work schedule remains gruelling. She has just returned from a stint working in Sydney – she is a judge on cooking show My Kitchen Rules – and says she found it harder than ever to recover from the jetla
This was compounded by the fact she’d had to leave not long after the death of her beloved father, Nigel Lawson – Margaret Thatcher’s long-serving chancellor who died in April aged 91.
Now, months on, Nigella has written a series of new recipes for Ocado, a retailer in need of a little sparkle.
The domestic goddess is synonymous with easy luxury and guilt-free indulgence. Will Nigella’s sardine spaghetti turn into a cult favourite, as her peanut butter pasta did last year?
Can Nigella save Ocado? The beloved cook is one of the few whose recipes can still cause a rush at the shops. The “Nigella effect” saw sales of goose fat double when Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen first aired in 2007. Her next series, Nigella Express, reportedly led to a 30 per cent surge in Riesling sales to make her Coq au Riesling.
Now Ocado is betting on her sardine spaghetti, hoping it will do the same for sales of its sustainable tinned sardines from Fish4Ever, an independent fish company that can trace each tin back to the spot where its contents were caught.
The online shopping boom has slowed post pandemic; coupled with smaller spends for most customers, it was reported that Ocado’s pre-tax losses soared to £500m for 2022. Then its share price shot up in recent weeks, due to a rumoured Amazon takeover, a move which would seem to conflict with the support Nigella is drumming up for independent suppliers (Ocado and Amazon have not commented on the reports).
As well as her fish recipes, Nigella has also created a venison salad, with meat from Hampshire Game, plums, and a tangy marinade of garlic, ginger, soy and fish sauce.
“They’re not classic flavours for venison, but I can’t stop eating it,” she says, explaining how the salad transforms an autumnal ingredient that we usually slow cook into something you can do at the last minute.
Elsewhere, her thumbprint cookies are buttery vehicles for zinging passion fruit curd and cherry and amaretto jam from Cherry Tree Preserves. “A hundred years ago, when my children were small, I used to make a version of this with lemon curd, which they’d call fried egg biscuits. But the passion fruit curd is one of the great joys of existence.”
These are classic Nigella recipes. She’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, rather show us what’s delicious and how to nourish ourselves. If you’re too time-pressed to wait for spaghetti, she recommends the lemon and olive oil sardines on toast.
Will they save Ocado? We’re lucky to have a thriving British food culture, and wherever you buy independent products, Nigella’s new dishes are a wake-up call to use them or lose them
My attempt at the sardine spaghettiI’m confident my own attempt at the sardine spaghetti will turn out OK given it’s intended as an easy recipe, but I wonder if I’ll get the flavours to sing as much as they do in Nigella’s version. I heat olive oil in a large pan and zest a lemon directly into the hot oil before adding sliced spring onions, which sizzle pleasingly.
I’m timing myself to see if I can complete the sauce in five minutes, but waste three looking for my garlic mincer. Once I’ve given up, I slice up a large clove of garlic as quickly as I can and stir this into the oil – with the pan off the heat – along with salt, dried oregano and chilli flakes (Nigella says you can substitute dried thyme).
All that’s left to do is scrape the whole tin of sardines into the pan, warm through with a few tablespoons of pasta water and a squeeze of lemon juice, add cooked spaghetti and a sprinkling of parsley.
I’m done in eight minutes – along with the pasta cooking time – and am rewarded with a huge bowl of briny, tomatoey, lemony pasta. An instant classic. But enough to give Ocado a boost?