The kitchen is my favourite place, the heart of the home. A place of warmth and nurture where different members of the family can come to sit round the large, scrubbed table to talk about their day, to craft, do homework, help to chop vegetables or grate cheese while I stand at the stove stirrring a pot of something fragrantly simmering. 

Who am I kidding? Other people in my kitchen while I'm cooking! You've got to be joking! Husbands, fathers and fathers-in-law please don't come and stand in the kitchen and talk to me, you are IN THE WAY. Children you will know what's for tea when I give it to you. Go away and let me get on with it in peace and take your glue, paint and homework with you.

 Luckily I don't have a table in my kitchen so people are not encouraged to linger.
I do consider my kitchen to be the heart of my home despite my less than welcoming attitude towards the rest of my family being in it. The things I create in my kitchen are what make my home a home. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Nigella Lawson in her new book Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home agrees.

It's a substantial book.

Plenty for family cooks.

Witty and practical.


I love it and don't regret its purchase one bit. My only criticism is that I was unable to find many recipes I could make without a shopping trip. Nigella does seem to use a lot of ingredients I don't routinely stock. I'm not sure if this is a a shortcoming of mine or hers. I don't really see it as a hindrance to my using the book though. I've already been inspired by her risotto bolognese to try an orzotto bolognese making use of the barley I always have in instead of the risotto rice which I rarely have. If you like to shop for a specific recipe then you will like this book, if, like me, you like to cook with what you have then you will be inspired by this book.

To christen the book I made these blondies. Yes, they required two ingredients I didn't have -condensed milk and chocolate chips- but I was  shopping anyway.

Very easy to make. Nigella's instructions are always so clear and detailed.
Oaty, chewy, chocolatey and dense. Filling but delicious.

Damson Gin
Nigella has a recipe for blackberry vodka in her new book which she makes in exactly the same way as I make my damson gin.

My damsons were from the freezer. I stabbed each one with a skewer once they'd softened a bit. This lets the juice flow into the gin.

1 lb of damsons, 8 oz of sugar and a 70 cl bottle of gin.
Cheap gin is absolutely fine and do remember to keep the empty gin bottle to decant the finished gin back into. I made twice this much because if one bottle of damson gin is good two is better.

I threw in a couple of cinnamon sticks and a few cloves. I'm told they work well with damsons.

Shake it up to dissolve the sugar a bit. Put it somewhere coolish and darkish. I put mine in the garage. Give it a shake as often as you can -at least once a week. I walk past mine often so it is easy to remember to do this.
It will be ready to drink by Christmas.

If the place in which you are keeping the gin gets very cold make sure you let it come to room temperature before you strain and rebottle it. If you don't it will explode while you are in the middle of cooking Chinese pork with peas causing you to shriek with fright and burn yourself on the frying pan. Purple liquid will spread itself all over the top of the fridge (where you put the bottle), drip down onto your CD player and speakers, and cover the ENTIRE kitchen floor. You will be really really furious because you only managed to sample the 50 ml of gin that wouldn't fit in the bottle. Then you will cry.
Just saying.


  1. Hello Mrs Quince. You are one funny lady.

    Yes, I agree with the adage(?) that there's no point crying over spilt milk. However, gin is an entirely different matter altogether.

    Love the photos, but especially the one with the cinnamon sticks and the little bobbing clove. Ax

  2. I love Nigella and didn't know she had a new book. Thanks for the info..I am going to put it on my blog "The Kitchen Calls" and will link back to you. Thanks again and have a good day.

  3. I have been umming and aahhing over whther to purchase it (I have all the others, but my Nigella phase has more recently waned). However the Blondie recipe has convinced me - I willbe hitting the bookshop this Friday.

    (And the Damson Gin sounds like the sort of thing I would do.....the toffee vodka I made fortunately did not explode.)

  4. Anonymous5:48 pm BST

    Ha!! Now that's funny - I hate other folk in the kitchen with me too - bog off and let me get on with it I say!

    I also agree with you on Nigella's ingredient requirements at times - unfortunately we don't all have a few squillion quid in the bank to buy half the stuff she thinks are necessities. However, I do LOVE her books and have all her others so this will be another purchase! (Although I think her last couple of TV series have become a bit off putting with all the "come hither" looks - I get a little tired of it - show me the food not those silly looks!!)

  5. Awww the NB made me giggle, sorry! Your blondies look just yummy - I may have to buy and try! x

  6. I take it the NB is written from experience!

  7. Mmmmm, the blondies sound yummy. I really don't need yet another cook book though but perhaps I'll not tell Santa that...

  8. Anonymous7:10 pm BST

    What a hoot you are! I mean that in the nicest possible way. I'm loving your blog Sue. I don't blog myself but I find yours infinitely inspiring. I tried an orzotto the other night after seeing one on here. (Yummy) Looking forward to the next post. Many thanks. Julie Ratcliffe

  9. Oh dear, I would cry too. I want the Nigella book too, very annoyed about serialisation in the Sunday magasine. Ho hum. Lovely photos.

  10. Hi Sue
    I hope your're going to be trying lots of the Nigella recipes and sharing them with us!
    I've just picked and frozen my damsons too so your recipe and experience was perfectly timed!!

  11. I bought the book on Monday using Nectar points, and have been drooling over it ever since! Gorgeous pictures - and her "sampler" pictures reminded me very much of yours. Must get the elder daughter to give me another tutorial on those!!

  12. Aaahhhhhh....you caved!! Good for you though I've only read a chapter, but we did make the beef casserole the other day - yum, yum!!

    Nina xxx

  13. Anonymous8:18 pm BST

    Just got the book yesterday as a present and made the Guinness Gingerbread today! Yum! :)
    Vivienne x

  14. Oh no! A wound, a mess and a tragic loss of pretty-coloured booze. Not a good day! I hope you have receovered - perhaps by scoffing that substance you made there.

    Top book by the looks of things.

  15. This did make me laugh. I'm like you - I truly want to be all Little House on the Prairie in the kitchen, encouraging the boys to stir things and roll stuff but I would just end up growling with my eyes glowing red. I have to set aside designated 'Cooking with the Boys Time' . How sad is that? Also my kitchen is tiny and once me and the cat are in there, it's a bit cosy

  16. Oh no! Am laughing about the damson gin, but feel I shouldn't be! I ordered the Nigella book yesterday from Amazon and am eagerly awaiting its arrival tomorrow. I love her books so much - always both inspiring and foolproof.

  17. Oh my I wouldn't know where to start cleaning that mess up. A bottle of pasta sauce being shaken and the top flying off is enough mess to clean without a wound to worry about too. It did make me laugh tho', you have a way of writing something that makes it sound funny.
    Thank you for another great post, I do look forward to reading them.
    Hugs Sandi xx

  18. You had me going there for a while - feeling like I was an awful person, not a good wife and mother!
    Then the real you appeared and now I feel OK. I'm just like you so that can't be bad can it?

  19. Ha ha ha! This is one funny post! You had me going there at the start... Just like Helen just said above - I was thinking to myself "This woman is NOTHING LIKE ME and must be completely NUTS, either that or I must be just THE worst mother..." LOL So glad to see I'm not the only one who feels that way when cooking dinner!

    By the way I'm a huge Nigella fan, too. My favourite book by her is Feast and I use it all the time.

    I don't have any damsons, but if I ever do, I will remember to let them come to room temperature when rebottling my damson gin - especially if I'm cooking Chinese pork with peas. ;-)

    Hee hee, you are one funny writer, Sue. :-)

  20. Oh poor you, Sue! I would have cried too. Reminds me of a bottle of sweet chilli sauce that I accidentally swiped off the table, it smashed into smithereens; glass and sauce reached every corner of the kitchen. Oh and the big bowl of jelly I spilled when I was putting it in the fridge to set. Jelly sets very quickly when it's all spread out over the fridge shelves and their entire contents. I can laugh now though...!


  21. Ha ha , you made me laugh out loud!

    I too would love to be the cool, calm mother who has that stuff going on in the kitchen whilst i'm preparing all the cherubs meals, but in reality, I too say get out and leave me in peace!

    I don't have one Nigella cookbook yet, so have just put that on my list of wants...

  22. I love damson gin. Just the thing for a winter tipple. I love buying cookery books too, although I get just as much pleasure just reading them as cooking from them. I'll have to investigate the new Nigella one a bit further. Oh dear I think I hear the bookshelves groaning again!


  23. Love the post, could imagine being there. Keep up the good work.

  24. Reading the end of your post did make me laugh!! At least you know not to make the same mistake again!! I'm not a fan of gin, but your photos make it look rather tasty indeed!!

  25. Lovely - think I may have to try this one!


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