Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Good Life, a gorgeous slice-of-life gardening book. 

Sarah O’Neil’s, AKA Sarah the Gardener,  transformation from urban dweller to lifestyle-block lover happened several years ago after she and her husband, Tom ‘Hubby the Un-Gardener’, decided to make the move from an inner-city Auckland suburb with a 24-square-metre triangle lawn to a 3-acre property on the outskirts of Pukekohe. The first thing Sarah did was build a large garden.  Her book, The Good Life, is a funny and inspiring look at the ups and downs of a year in the garden.

Whilst not strictly being a cook book, the book does contain some great recipes to make the most of the produce that grows in backyard, such as fruit ice cream, sundried tomatoes, pickled garlic, gherkin relish, rhubarb muffins,blackberry wine and much more.

Sarah's website is and her blog

The Good Life: Four Glorious Seasons in MY Country Garden
Sarah O'Neill
Harper Collins - $39.99 - Publication March 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


• Free gift-wrapping • An eclectic selection of books on a huge variety of topics (including poetry, graphic novels, crafts and science!) • Friendly, knowledgeable staff • Lucinda the cat • Special ordering service • Free event/book club space upstairs • Regular philosophy club (see website for details) • Audio books • Quality blank journals • Unique gift cards • Regular customer competitions • E-newsletter • Eye-catching window displays • Len Vlahos (American Booksellers Association exCEO) said: ‘The selection, staff, and ambience are lovely’ • UK author Simon Winchester said: ‘I just adored Time Out: one of the nicest bookstores ever’.

Metro Best Bookshop 2009
Penguin NZ Best Bookshop 2008 & 2009
Thorpe-Bowker NZ Independent Bookshop 2004 & 2010 (runner up)

Open 7 days, 24hrs online
9AM to 9PM, retail shop

Time Out Bookstore Ltd
432 Mt Eden Road
Mt Eden
Auckland,  1024
New Zealand

P: 09 630 3331

Auckland Writers (& Readers) Festival Window 2012 

Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward Off Heart Attack and Stroke

The Benefits of Olive Oil: The Times’s Gina Kolata on a study looking at a Mediterranean diet.
 About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.

The findings, published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site on Monday, were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

The diet helped those following it even though they did not lose weight and most of them were already taking statins, or blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk.
“Really impressive,” said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. “And the really important thing — the coolest thing — is that they used very meaningful endpoints. They did not look at risk factors like cholesterol or hypertension or weight. They looked at heart attacks and strokes and death. At the end of the day, that is what really matters.”

Until now, evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease was weak, based mostly on studies showing that people from Mediterranean countries seemed to have lower rates of heart disease — a pattern that could have been attributed to factors other than diet.

And some experts had been skeptical that the effect of diet could be detected, if it existed at all, because so many people are already taking powerful drugs to reduce heart disease risk, while other experts hesitated to recommend the diet to people who already had weight problems, since oils and nuts have a lot of calories.
Heart disease experts said the study was a triumph because it showed that a diet was powerful in reducing heart disease risk, and it did so using the most rigorous methods. Scientists andomly assigned 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, were smokers, or had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one.

 Recipes for Your Mediterranean Diet -A sampling of Mediterranean-style recipes from The New York Times.

Pig Tits & Parsley Sauce

“What’s for dinner? Pig tits and parsley sauce.” 
You wouldn’t hear that in too many New Zealand households, but for budgeting guru Lyn Webster the ‘waste not, want not’ sentiment holds true.

City girl turned sharemilker and solo mother of two teenage girls, Lyn Webster hit the wall financially in 2009, almost losing her hard-won business. To turn things around, Lyn knew that she’d have to make some significant lifestyle changes and, in a radical move, slashed her weekly grocery bill by half to $100. As a result, Lyn saved thousands of dollars, repaid a $16,000 loan and reinvigorated her business, increasing her operation by 25 percent. She also created a successful new business with the launch of website www., which received over a quarter of a million hits in just two years.

Many New Zealanders are feeling the pinch and looking for ways to save money and live more sustainably. Pig Tits & Parsley Sauce offers sage advice on how to live more economically, budget, reduce your household’s carbon footprint and be more self-sufficient. Budgeting guru Lyn Webster demonstrates how easily this can be done and shares a wealth of information about how to shop smarter, make and grow your own food, reduce household waste, recycle, set goals and successfully budget.
Lyn Webster also shows you how to make your own cleaning and laundry products using low-cost ingredients like baking soda, white vinegar and yellow soap. Who’d have thought that you could wash your hair with baking soda?! With more than 30 recipes included in the book, Lyn even demonstrates how to create your own cosmetics and shares delicious and simple recipes that will transform the family meal table and lunch boxes.

Pig Tits & Parsley Sauce is packed full of information about how to involve the whole family in new savings habits, significantly reducing weekly grocery bills and freeing up those hard-earned dollars to be utilised elsewhere – channelling them into savings or to spend on life’s other luxuries. Think of it as a viable alternative to optimising households’ limited resources, empowering consumer s to make better decisions around how they shop, eat and live. Lyn Webster is on a mission to save money and resist marketing pressures to consume expensive, highly refined packaged products. She knows that the ‘Pig Tits & Parsley Sauce’ way of life has not only saved her thousands of dollars, but enhanced her family’s health and wellbeing, enabling them to live more sustainable, eco-friendly lives.

Lyn Webster has worked in the dairy industry all over New Zealand and now lives in Northland. Her newspaper columns have led to TV appearances on Country Calendar, Campbell Live and Good Morning. Lyn is New Zealand’s ‘go to’ person for budgeting advice via her website and social media channels and, when time permits, she makes herself available for speaking engagements and classes, where she demonstrates how she makes her homemade products.

Pig Tits & Parsley Sauce | February 2013 | RRP $25.00 | Penguin 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Junior Bake Off

I notice this is starting on Sky NZ's Food Channel the weekend after next.


 Aspirational and fun, Junior Bake Off gives children who love baking their own chance to become a champion, while at the same time inspiring young viewers to get baking themselves. 
Over the course of 13 episodes, the series follows the young bakers' journeys from the heats all the way to the final.
Their cake making, biscuit baking, pastry and bread making skills are tested to the limit. No matter what the theme, all the bakers must deliver a show-stopping, mouthwatering creation - but who will ultimately be crowned the best Junior Baker?

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Scholastic New Zealand is delighted to announce that Nic’s Cookbook, written by ten-year-old Nicholas Brockelbank, has won the Best Fundraising, Charity and Community Cookbook category of the strongly contested Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for the Pacific region.

His win was announced at the Paris Cookbook Fair on Saturday 23 February.

Nic’s Cookbook was the New Zealand winner in two categories announced December 2012: the Best Fundraising, Charity and Community Cookbook and the Best Children and Family Cookbook.

Previous New Zealand recipients of awards have included Annabel Langbein, Brett McGregor and Jo Seagar.

Nic lives with muscular dystrophy and is the 2012–2013 ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). He and Scholastic NZ are donating half of the royalties from sales of this book to the MDA.

Nic started cooking at eight years old when one of his teachers suggested it might help with his schoolwork. He has since shown significant improvements in reading, spelling and maths.

Nic’s Cookbook was born from Nic creating his own ‘cookbooks’, which were photocopied booklets of his favourite recipes that he sold to family and friends to raise money for charities.

In 2011, he went on to win the TVNZ Good Morning Kids’ Cook Off with his Chicken and Broccoli Pasta recipe, which features in the cookbook.

Since the publication of his book in October 2012, Nic has held a sell-out book launch, made guest appearances on TVNZ Saturday Breakfast, What Now and Attitude TV, and done Whitcoulls in-store cooking demonstrations, assisted by celebrity chefs Simon Gault and Brett McGregor.

Nic’s Cookbook has been a regular feature in the top-10 NZ children’s bestseller list.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Looking back -The year - 2011 - in cookbooks

Wednesday 21 December 2011  

Best cookbooks of 2011
Some of the best cookbooks of 2011 as chosen by Catherine Phipps. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

This year has been spectacular on the book front – it turned up two books from which I have cooked repeatedly. I hardly ever find myself following recipes to the letter but did so again and again with Hawksmoor at Home). They have completely revolutionised how I cook steak and provided me with a host of accompanying sauces (such as stilton hollandaise or poached oyster sauce). The emphasis is on comfort food, whether it's beef shin macaroni or apple pie with a boozy, spiced Tom and Jerry custard. It's a brilliant read, full of whimsy and steakhouse cartoons, Dan Lepard's photography is stunning and all proceeds go to Action Against Hunger. I love it.
Coincidentally, the other book to which I have turned on innumerable occasions this year also involves Dan Lepard. Short and Sweet was one of several good baking books, but for me his was definitive.
Hawksmoor at Home was not the only good restaurant cookbook this year. Bocca has become possibly the best all-rounder in my Italian cookbook collection. Ingredients are given simple and sympathetic treatment with stunning results. My other restaurant standout The Modern Pantry is full of fresh ideas for fusion food from Peter Gordon protégé, Anna Hansen. Unusual ingredients are expertly described and the flavour combinations are exciting rather than outlandish.
Anna Hansen is one of several women who put strong, interesting flavours at the heart of their cooking. Maria Elia's Full of Flavour has ingredient-based chapters and encourages experimentation – refreshing in a cookery book. Silvena Rowe's Orient Express is arranged by exotic flavour pairings – za'atar and saffron, chilli and cumin and, best of all, sumac and fresh herbs.
Sophie Grigson's Spices is a romp through the major players of the spice world. She is on top form here, knowledgeable as ever, riotously funny in places and provides enough unusual recipes to make this a worthwhile buy. If you want to delve deeper, I recommend Sally Francis's Saffron. Francis is one of only two UK saffron producers and her book traces its history, as well as providing some recipes by fellow Norfolk dwellers including Tim Kinnaird's moorish gold, saffron and cardamom macarons.
There were some beautifully produced reissues of some classic works released earlier in the year, and here are a couple more to add to the list. The Constance Spry Cookery Book is a joy, not least because the pure, elegant design of the book does justice to both Rosemary Hume's recipes and Spry's very engaging prose style.

The other is Anissa Helou's The Fifth Quarter, a book devoted to offal. Helou is incredibly well read and this shows in the eclectic and inspirational recipes. Besides delicious Middle Eastern offerings there is an emphasis on classic French Bistro, an impressive rollcall of British writers (including Fergus Henderson on tripe), some historical curiosities (a 1758 Spanish recipe for a sweetly spiced ox tongue pie) and the occasional nod to China with a hot Szechuan pepper brains dish. Interesting offal is becoming more widely available – a good thing in austere times, so there's definitely room also for Jennifer McClagan's Odd Bits, which is also quite definitive. Despite the fact that they can be very tasty morsels, Blandine Vie's book on Testicles cannot pretend to be quite so useful, but it makes up for that by being the most enjoyably eccentric read this year.

This was not a big year for TV chef tie ins, but those we had were great – Rick Stein's Spain was well researched and as engaging as ever. Simon Hopkinson also dipped his toe in with The Good Cook; while there is nothing earth shattering, each recipe is elevated by Hopkinson's unwavering attention to detail and his gentle wit. You will learn something useful on each page.
Finally, a trio of books you will want to curl up with. Kerstin Rodger's Supper Club was just one of a wonderful batch of books by first time authors – it's beautiful, funny and highly original. In At The Deep End sees Jake Tilson weaving together reminiscence, travelogue and references to greats such as Alan Davidson in order to cure himself of a fear of fish and begin exploring the heart of the fishing world. 
Finally, Elisabeth Luard's Cook's Year in a Welsh Farmhouse is full of cleverly seasonal recipes which combine the ingredients fundamental to Luard's old Mediterranean life with those of her present in Wales. However, it is her writing and observations which I love as they make me yearn nostalgically for my own country childhood. The perfect Christmas read.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ebury to publish Bake Off title

21.02.13 | Charlotte Williams - The Bookseller

Ebury Press has acquired a title from the runner-up of last year's series of "The Great British Bake Off", James Morton.
Senior editor Sarah Lavelle bought world rights from Stuart Cooper at Metrostar in the book, Brilliant Bread. It will use step-by-step photos to guide the reader through the how-to of dough-making, shaping and baking, with recipes ranging from loaves, to flatbreads, sourdoughs, buns, focaccia and pretzels.
It will be released as a £20 hardback in August 2013.
Lavelle said: "The key with James' bread book is that, unlike most other bread authors, he is not a professional. He understands what people want to know about making their own bread, makes it accessible and approachable.
"He's a knowledgeable and entertaining teacher, and endeared himself to millions on 'Bake Off'. I'm so happy to be working with him on his first book."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

High Fibre Foods on Facebook !

  • Did you know avocados have the highest concentration of dietary fibre of any commonly eaten fruit. A high-fibre diet has many benefits, including normalising bowel movements and maintaining bowel health, lowering cholesterol levels, helping to control blood sugar levels and aiding in achieving a healthy weight.
    Have you been getting enough fiber in your diet? <3

Julie Biuso's Guacamole with toasted cumin & lime

from Taste Magazine on Friday, February 15, 2013

Guacamole is a classic ‘gotta-have’ with Mexican food as it works with so many dishes providing creaminess without richness, a hot and fresh bite and a gorgeous splash of colour. Serve it with freshly fried taco chips made by snipping corn tortillas into triangles and frying in hot oil, or as a filling ingredient in pork tacos or as a condiment to roasted chicken.

Ready in 15 minutes Serves 8

½ tsp toasted ground cumin (see Note)
¾ tsp salt
½ cup chopped coriander
3 perfectly ripe avocados, halved, pitted and flesh scooped out
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4-6 cherry tomatoes, chopped, cores discarded

Mash chillies, cumin, salt and half the coriander in a mortar with a pestle (or finely chop by hand). Add avocado, lime juice, onion, tomatoes and remaining coriander and semi-smash together, leaving it lumpy. Taste and adjust lime juice, salt and chilli – it should have a good, fresh clean bite. If not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap and chill.

To toast cumin seeds, place in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat. Toast for a few minutes, shaking pan from time to time, until seeds darken slightly and smell fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Store in an airtight jar.

Taste Magazine Facebook page

Taste Magazine Jan-Feb issue

Julia Child gets it right !

  • 'Share' this photo if you agree!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Source of today's visitors to my new cookbook blog

New Zealand
United States
United Kingdom
South Korea

The Gourmand Awards at the Paris Cookbook Fair

The annual Paris Cookbook Fair takes place February 22–24 under the Pyramid of the Louvre Museum, in the Carrousel du Louvre. 

Nigella Lawson's 3 Essential Cookbooks

The Food Network star serves up three cookbooks that have inspired her throughout the years.

photo: Hugo Burnand

I'm not sure—certainly for someone who has a collection of around 5,000 cookbooks—it is really possible to name three essential cookbooks, but these are certainly titles that have influenced, inspired and gratified me, and continue to do so.

The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander
This is a huge book, in ambition, scope and page-length and is an utterly comprehensive, but also lyrical, guide to ingredients and what to do with them. It is not illustrated, but no illustrations are necessary: this is about writing and cooking. I don't believe it is claiming too much to say that every kitchen should have a copy.

The Tassajara Bread Book byEdward Espe Brown
When I first started making bread, I kept a copy of this by my bedside for support and comfort, and another copy provided the same in the kitchen. If you are new to bread-making, this is for you; if you are an old-hand, consider it invaluable, also. It is another volume unapologetically free of photographs, but so full of wisdom.

Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax
For Europeans, there is something exotic, in a counter-intuitively wholesome way, about culinary Americana in general, and baking in particular. The late, lamented Richard Sax's collection of recipes actually has a wider geographical remit, but most of its charm lies in its serious contemplation of, and practical instructions for, home baking traditions, presented in a style that is both charming and elegant.
Nigella Lawson's Nigellissima publishes in the US this month from Clarkson Potter.
It was published by Chatto & Windus in the UK/ANZ last October.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Response from Harper Collins NZ to The Bookman's new blog

"As you know, HarperCollins has a fantastic cook book list, from both our local and international publishing.  Hence the reason we started our FabulousFoodies facebook page, which continues to be hugely popular.

We’ve got a couple of great cookbooks coming out in April, in time for Mother’s day.  Firstly, we’re publishing the latest from Natalie Oldfield, Gran’s Sweet PantryGSP harks back to Natalie’s first two books, Gran’s Family Table and Gran’s Kitchen, which were both hugely successful.  
It’s a truly beautiful baking book, based on a collection of the best recipes from Dulcie May, Natalie’s much loved grandmother and namesake of her award-winning food store, Dulcie May Kitchen, in Mt Eden.

The second book is Cook, Eat, Enjoy from Nici Wickes, Viva restaurant reviewer and star of World KitchenWorld Kitchen (currently in its fifth season) is a fast-paced, cheeky travel and cooking show which now screens in over 80 countries worldwide and premiered on TV3 in NZ, but is currently re-playing on Food TV.
 In Cook, Eat, Enjoy Nici visits Mexico, India, Morocco, Spain, Greece and Vietnam, capturing the flavours of each country and serving up wonderful recipes that bring each country alive.  The chapters are divided by country and each is introduced with Nici’s memories and reminiscences of the country.  As well as fantastic recipes, the pages are filled with stunning photographs.

And finally, next month we are publishing The Good Life, a gorgeous slice-of-life gardening book.  Sarah O’Neil’s, AKA Sarah the Gardener,  transformation from urban dweller to lifestyle-block lover happened several years ago after she and her husband, Tom ‘Hubby the Un-Gardener’, decided to make the move from an inner-city Auckland suburb with a 24-square-metre triangle lawn to a 3-acre property on the outskirts of Pukekohe.   The first thing Sarah did was build a large garden.  Her book, The Good Life, is an inspiring look at the ups and downs of a year in the garden.

Whilst not strictly being a cook book, the book does contain some great recipes to make the most of the produce that grows in backyard, such as Fruit ice cream, sundried tomatoes, and blackberry wine"

Aunt Daisy is back next month !

Coming from Hachette NZ in March is this new book, a collection of over 200 recipes for jams, jellies , pickles and chutney's, from Aunt Daisy, one of NZ's most famous and most loved radio personalities.
More closer to publication date.

Publication 12 March - Hardback  with spiral binding for lie-flat use in kitchen. $36.99

Bread by Paul Hollywood – digested read

John Crace reduces a book about all things doughy to a more manageable 700 words

Bread, by Paul Hollywood - digested read
'I love the word spelt. It’s so sensuously exotic' ... Bread by Paul Hollywood. Illustration: Matt Blease. 

It's time to take Paul Hollywood off the side-plate and put him back where he belongs: in the centre of the table. My book has two aims. First of all, I want to teach you how to groom the perfect "Lady Pleaser" beard. It's no coincidence I'm called "Hollywood". Or "LA" for short to my "Brazilian" friends, if you get my drift. Feel free to lick the breadcrumbs from my "Fifty Shades of Grey" tache as I knead your shoulders ...
And then I want to teach you that Mary Berry is just so over. For far too long, I've had to work in her simpering, smiling shadow, looking on as she reassures some useless Middle Englander that their lemon meringue pie is acceptable. Well, let me tell you right now: there's nothing safe or cosy about baking. No way. Baking is dangerous. Baking is sexy. And it doesn't come any more dangerous or sexy than when you're baking bread with me.

OK. So we're ready. We'll start with something gentle. The bloomer. Take 500 grammes of strong – and I mean strong – white flour. Add 10 grammes of salt, 40ml of olive oil, 240ml water and then thrust your hands deeply into the mix. Manipulate till firm (you, not me) and the dough begins to ooze between my strong, manly fingers. Nice. Then leave to prove – baby, I can prove it all night – before taking a sharp knife and slashing some cuts into the top. Put in the oven for a bit and you have a loaf fit for Greggs.

Let's move on to something a little harder. Rye, ale and oat bread. I first made this during a weekend voyage of discovery at the Totnes Bread and Fairy Cake Summer Solstice Festival, and it went down well with all the hippy chicks. The look of this loaf is important, so make sure you are wearing something appropriately artisan. A T-shirt made of organic cotton and some faded denim should do it. Then do much the same as you did for the bloomer, only add some rye, ale and oats.

Nothing oozes pheromones quite like a contintental loaf. I know it's hard not to associate a ciabatta with the spindly fingers of a metrosexual Italian. But, take it from me, in the right hands – mine – it is a bread that can be both powerfully manly and erotic. Just stretch out the dough to a magnificent 12 inches and then lie back on your banneton and close your eyes as I whisper "fougasse" into your ear. Play your cards right and I might even add a raspberry before I focaccia. Mmm.

And that's about it. There really doesn't seem to be a lot more to say about baking bread, because it's all pretty much the same. Flour, water, yeast, salt and anything else you care to throw in to spice it up. Have I mentioned spelt flour? I love the word "spelt". It's so sensuously exotic. It reminds me of intense orgasms on a lazy Sunday morning in bed.

Um ... I've been told we haven't got quite enough material for a book, so I've been asked to pad it out a bit. So let me remind you that bread need not be the "missionary position" of food. It can also be a French toast. Used creatively, bread can be used in countless other recipes. Here are a few of my favourites. The Ploughman's: take a lump of cheddar, a pickled onion, some Branston pickle and a freshly baked sourdough loaf and you have a meal for a stud.
Then, for when you're right out there on the sexual wire, there's the Doner Kebab. Cut yourself a thick slice of mechanically recovered meat, wrap in a bit of pitta bread, and let the horse juices drip down my chin. Always be inventive. Dangerously inventive. Let your imagination go wild. Make a jelly. Wobbly, but not too wobbly. Place a cherry on top. And when your desire is irresistible and your senses are at near overload, cut yourself a slice of Mother's Pride.

Digested read, digested: Feel the knead in me

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to drink a glass of wine

  • As part of NZ Book Month, the  @[130832663621942:274:HB Williams Memorial Library Gisborne] have invited wine writer John Saker to speak about his book, ‘How to Drink a Glass of Wine’ at @[501267539894161:274:The Workroom]. Spade Oak Vineyard will be offering wine tastings, with nibbles from @[131257283559069:274:Ussco Bar & Bistro]. Tickets are $15 and strictly limited – available now, from the library. Will be a great night – see you there !
    As part of NZ Book Month, the HB Williams Memorial Library Gisborne have invited wine writer John Saker to speak about his book, ‘How to Drink a Glass of Wine’... at The Workroom. Spade Oak Vineyard will be offering wine tastings, with nibbles from Ussco Bar & Bistro. Tickets are $15 and strictly limited – available now, from the library. Will be a great night – see you there !
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Nigella bites back: UK's hottest cook spills the beans on cracking America, THAT dress and horsemeat - in her most revealing interview yet

  • She says she still has the burkini and will still wear it
  • She would never ask her husband Charles Saatchi to stop smoking, even though her late husband John Diamond died from throat cancer
By Caroline Graham

Nigella is on a gruelling ten-day book tour in America to promote her latest publication, 'Nigellissima'. She says the 'wiggle' dress is her dress of choice
Nigella is on a gruelling ten-day book tour in America to promote her latest publication, 'Nigellissima'. She says the 'wiggle' dress is her dress of choice

It is after 8pm on Valentine’s Day and a queue is still stretching around the block. Inside the kitchen store in a suburban Los Angeles shopping mall, Nigella Lawson radiates charm and nervous energy, despite starting her day at 5am with a hangover and having been stuck in LA’s notorious rush-hour traffic for three hours.
Her famous curves are poured into a shocking pink ‘Diva’ wiggle dress as she pouts and poses for pictures and swaps recipes with overweight American housewives, remaining unfailingly cheerful.
Much later, as the last satisfied customer leaves the shop clutching a signed copy of the domestic goddess’s new book, she turns to me and says: ‘I was in a terrible state earlier in the car, a total nervous wreck. I loathe being late. It is the epitome of bad manners. I’d hate anyone to think I was rude.’
It seems extraordinary that a woman who has built an empire estimated to be worth £10 million with her unique, lusty approach to food, still cares so much about what people think.
Yet in our wide-ranging and candid interview, Nigella is typically forthright about that infamous picture of her in a burkini, how she protects her children against the perils of fame, how cooking keeps her sane and why those ‘wiggle’ dresses give her the confidence to face the cameras.
‘Like any woman, I dress for comfort and I find those dresses the most comfortable,’ she says,
‘Everything in my life comes down to basic laziness. I buy the dresses, mostly online, and I’ve learned what flatters my figure and what feels good and is affordable. It’s as simple as that. It’s funny when people pay so much attention to my appearance because, quite honestly, it’s the thing I think least about. I rarely look in a mirror.
‘The wiggle dresses are a uniform. They help me feel confident when I’m working. In private, I’m happiest in a dressing gown and FitFlops.’
We meet earlier at a Hollywood hotel to discuss Nigella’s current quest to conquer America. Her new TV cookery show – The Taste – has earned her millions of new fans here and she’s on a gruelling ten-day book tour.
Curling her legs underneath her on the sofa, Nigella seems blissfully unaware of the mesmerising effect she is having on every man in the room. The waiter hovers hopefully and practically purrs with delight when she bats her long eyelashes and orders water with a spritz of cranberry.
She laughs when I tell her I’d expected her to be ‘more posh’, and says: ‘Yes, I don’t understand why people think I speak with a mouthful of plums. I sound pretty normal, don’t I?’
At 53, her skin is alabaster white; flawless and poreless. She wears no jewellery except a simple wedding band from her husband, art collector Charles Saatchi, and a tiny gold charm necklace also from him. I ask what he bought her for Valentine’s Day.
‘I’m the Grinch of Valentine’s Day,’ she says, ‘I think it should be about teenagers and those who are single. I think if I said I wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day or made a big fuss Charles would think I’d gone slightly mad.’
Happy couple: Nigella, pictured with her husband Charles Saatchi, says St Valentine's day is for young lovers and singletons
Happy couple: Nigella, pictured with her husband Charles Saatchi, says St Valentine's day is for young lovers and singletons

Although it is 80F, outside she shuns the sunshine, preferring to remain indoors. I remind her of that burkini shot when she was photographed on an Australian beach covered head-to-toe in swathes of black fabric.
She rolls her eyes. ‘I still have the burkini and will always wear it because I don’t like the sun on my body. I’d worn it for years and no one ever noticed it was me but then I was shopped by an Australian journalist and those pictures came out.’
She is looking particularly trim. What does she think of the obsession about her fluctuating weight?

Read more: