Monday, April 11, 2005

Nigella is such a liar!



I was going to blog about the lovely anniversary dinner I had with Per on Saturday, but I can't - I'm too upset. This has, so far, been the cooking evening from hell. And it's only seven thirty.

Started by having the lid of my salt shaker fly off as I was salting the pasta water. Three quarters of the (large) container emerged, most of it thankfully into the water, but a lot also landed on me, my floor and my stove. Enough to find remnants of salt for weeks, I'm sure.

Next was making a birthday cake for my sister. I was going to make Nigella Lawson's Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake from Feast. All went fairly well, until I was going to pour boiling water down the funnel of my food processor. For some reason, I decided to use a metal measuring cup. Not such a great idea. Severe fingertip burn. Hurts.

That hurdle passed, barely, and next came - "line the tin with overlapping clingfilm. Don't panic - it won't melt." Like HELL it won't melt, Nigella! What kind of clingfilm do YOU use? The IRON kind? Let me just say - MINE melted. Which means all the loving labour spent on the cake is probably totally meaningless. Right now, I have a ruined loaf tin (and I didn't use my cheap IKEA one, either) with a chocolate cake in it. It smells delicious (if you can get past the scent of melted plastic, that is) and it's probably completely inedible.


If you look closely, you can see the melted plastic bits.

Oh, and to add insult to injury - Nigella also has you poke holes in the cake with a skewer, and then pour chocolate syrup onto it. I decided to go through with this last step, just in case the plastic magically heals and is not incorporated into the cake. (Still not fit for a birthday, but it might be some comfort.) Two mistakes. First, the chocolate syrups boils with a fury. All over. My salt-splashed stove now also has chocolate syrup on it. Lots. Then Nigella says, "if you don't have a cake skewer, just use a straw of spaghetti!" Oh yes. Do that. And like me, have the spaghetti break in neat inch intervals, lodging themselves inside the cake. Please.

I just feel like screaming. All the way to the UK. Hope she can hear me.

Update August 2007 - this is one of my most commented-on entries. I'm now forced to close the comments, as I'm not happy with getting heaps of abuse about this. Really, it should be taken rather lightly - I'm a big Nigella fan, and while this particular recipe was a dud, I'm very happy with just about anything else I've tried. The recipe I tried was as written in the first edition of the book, and the instructions have been changed in later editions and on the tv show. Apparently I wasn't the only one with problems. Anyway. I even feel a bit eager to try this again!

38 comments:

Jennifer said...

I'm sorry Anne...but I laughed so hard at your cooking misfortunes. Thank you for the good chuckle. Atleast I know that I'm not the only one that has horrible, horrible cooking days! Don't let it get you too down.

Nicky said...

Your post is hilarious!! And I know those kind of days :)
Btw,I have been flirting with Nigella's cookbooks for quite a while , but somehow managed to not buy any of them. Now you gave me a sweeping argument for not buying them in the future...

Sam said...

Anne. On behalf of the British, I would like to apologize. both the spaghetti and the cling film ideas sound slightly on the not smart side to me.

T said...

aww Anne! i feel your pain. dont worry, horrible baking days happen to us all (and why is it usually a string of misfortunes, not just one thing? when it rains it pours i suppose) its ok, better baking days will come

about nigella- most of her recipes are lovely but i remember i made her "fairy cakes" which turned out awfully- perhaps this was my fault or perhaps i expected an American-style cupcake. either way, i am certainly more wary when using one of her recipes now

Culinary Fool said...

I'm so sorry to laugh at your expense but I did! I think we all can identify with the day you've had - when it rains it pours (literally with your salt!)... And I always hate when I know better but trust a supposed expert anyway! What was she thinking??

Nic said...

Oh no, Anne! It sounds like Nigella *really* missed the mark on these recipes. Perhaps where she comes from it's traditional to have toxic, plastic infused chocolate cake with an uncooked spaghetti center. Perhaps she tested one too many of her boozey/drunken recipes before this one...

Linda said...

Kitchen disasters like these are a real downer, but you can take comfort in knowing it made for a good story for your readers. I love Nigella's shows and books but I have read that some of the measuring cups in her line of goods were inaccurate and it took a while for the company to correct the measures to ensure accuracy. So perhaps careful editing and testing of product isn't her company's strongest suit. Good luck with whatever you cook next and hope you have an easier time with it!

Niki said...

That's really odd, because I was convinced that plastic wrap would melt in the oven too, but I tried it and it worked! It stayed solid - it actually became thicker and more solid, if that makes sense. I just used the standard stuff that comes in a roll you tear off. It was so successful that I've been using it as a trick for other cakes, as I've run out of greaseproof paper.
Here: http://esurientes.blogspot.com/2005/01/double-chocolate-syrup-cake.html
Don't say she's a liar just yet!

Anonymous said...

i agree that even if it works, wouldn't it possibly not be healthy and maybe a little toxic? it's not meant to be heated.

Anne said...

Ah, thanks for all the kind comments :) Niki - I'm amazed! You must have seriously better cling film than we do. mine also became more solid - oh yeah, solid all the way into the cake. *sigh* I did try a bit this morning though, the cake is obviously not all plastic-soaked, but I couldn't get it out of the pan in one piece and besides, it was a little too sweet for my taste. Ah well. I have to make another cake this afternoon though! The good news is I have an awesome recipe for walnut-chocolate cake, and I look forward to sharing it with you!

Niki said...

Yes, I thought it was a bit sweet too.
Incidentally, the innacuracies mentioned by Linda would have more to do with the people in the US who converted her recipes from metric into cups etc (which is by its very nature a more innacurate way of baking). I've found success with about 90% of her recipes (her cranberry Christmas morning muffins were horrible though), using the original version with the measurements in weight. I've noticed it's mainly US readers who complain of innacuracies in her quantities - and I think the problem lies there. It's difficult to really acurately convert form one to the other, and hers were written with metric/weight measurements in mind. (just my two cents there!)

Danno said...

Sorry about your sour cooking experience Anne, I won't laugh like the rest of these heartless buggers! :) j/k. Plus, I don't want to pick 1" long spaghetti sticks from my skull! I've had plenty of these days myself, along with every other regular cook on the planet. I've had these kind of days in restaurant kitchens before, Yikes! I have some tremendous cooking outbursts at home from time to time, which my wife can attest to. I always trust the recipe, in want of new ideas, even though my cooks instinct says, No!

Anne said...

Thanks for the sympathy Danno :) I do trust recipes, and actually especially Nigella. She's usually so dependable - which is why I'm so disappointed! Oh well - things like this do happen.. let's just hope it'll be a while before the next disaster hits. :)

Emily said...

aw i'm sorry this recipe didn't work for you! and that you felt betrayed by nigella!! i love nigella and i've tried this recipe and enjoyed it.. although i DID skip the plastic wrap step and used a skewer instead of the spaghetti. don't be discouraged by this recipe!! she doesn't have any bad intentions!! ;) try her dense chocolate loaf cake for redeeming feelings about her. it's fantastic!!

Elise said...

Maybe she is using microwave-proof plastic wrap? Perhaps there is a version that can take the heat? I too have encountered instructions to use plastic wrap but have dismissed them. I remember as a child playing with matches and enjoying burning the stuff up into little melted plastic balls (if my parents only knew!). I just use stick free pans and I line them with butter and flour. Sorry for your disaster. What a disappointment!

matty said...

There I was sat at work discussing just how delicious this cake was with ppl. Searched on the net for a piccy and found this thread. The recipe works and it is DIVINE !! Moist on the inside and crunchy outside.

Now I can't wait to get home to have another piece......I even told my pregnant wife that it had egg in the middle - he he even more for me !!

Anonymous said...

http://www.srcf.ucam.org/~csh33/Cooking/QuadChoc.php

It says, "make sure that you use proper cling film, and not 'non-PVC food wrap."

Anne said...

Yeah, well, Anonymous - I used the sturdiest thing I could find. And I actually don't think that's in the book... but I'm too lazy to go look it up right now. Anyway, lesson learned, don't put plastic in the oven, and just make the cake anyway.

holly_44109 said...

Goodness! Last year I was eating a piece of a cake that my friend made and I bit right into a piece of spaghetti! I was shocked at first and didn't mention it to her for a long time. Now that I think about it, I believe it was a Nigella cake!

Maria said...

I made this cake too a while ago, to bring as a gift to a friend. I must say I had a strange experience which I haven't forgotten! The cling film didn't actually melt into the cake, but I realized half-through the cooking time (by which point it was, of course, too late) that using cling film wasn't such a good idea, that it was probably toxic / unhealthy, and that anyway it might melt.
As I said, it didn't melt, and the cake came out fine, but I became so obsessed with the toxicity / unhealthiness issue, that I immediately baked another plain chocolate cake & so ended up with two cakes! My partner was quite amused by the whole thing & ended up eating most of the quadruple chocolate cake on his own, since I wouldn't touch it.
One other thing- Nigella's recipes, I think, always use too much sugar. I have made it a habit to always use less sugar than she specifies.
Oh, and of course...the spaggheti thing for testing the cake doesn't sound like a great idea :-))

ZZ said...

Maria I agree with you - Nigella uses too much sugar. Try her brownies and believe me I love gooey brownies but these babies are just runny in the middle and no amount of cooking changes the consistency.
I am actually suprised that she allowed the recipe to be printed....

Rick said...

After reading of Anne's misfortune I;m a little concerned. I've just donloaded Nigella's recipe for Damp Apple and Almond Cake. Has anyone had success with this recipe? I'd hate to go through the time and expense of making it if it"s bad.

Anne said...

Rick, I haven't tried that particular recipe - but don't worry, most of her recipes are very reliable. Just stay clear of any plastic wrap or uncooked spaghetti.

CONSUMERISM CAN ONLY TAKE YOU SO FAR said...

I made this last week when I caught the middle of the Nigella Feasts episode because she used the machine and sour cream. I halved the recipe but please try it again because it was amazing for me. My first unequivocable cake success where I knew it was wonderful. This is also my first machine cake. It tastes expensive. I didn't use chips but unsweetened baker's chocolate squares. It is one week later and the last slice is denser and moister . Amazing. I also poured boiling water in but I didn't see her use cling film on the show. She had a loaf pan with tin foil lining. I don't like tin foil so I used my matfer silicone baking mat in my old corning glass loaf pan and it came out cleanly. Please try again. It's a good recipe.

Jules said...

You are obviously a total idiot... The recipe says TIN FOIL you prat!! Not CLING FILM!!!! (pulling dumb face with tongue in lower lip)... Don't diss the Godess!

Jules said...

While I'm here I might as well slate the Americans for not being too proud to start using the vastly superior Metric system. When are you gonna learn that a 'cup' is a rubbish unit of measurement! You even use it for butter; add 1 cup of butter!!! Where's the logic in that??? ... hang on, let me melt the butter down, then pour it in to my 'cup' and then simply place back in the fridge for a couple of hours, the scrape the butter out of the 'cup'.

oh and another thing Anne... It doesn't say poke holes in the cake to allow the liquid to drain into it... it says 'pierce the cake to see if it's cooked'. That means 1 Prick ie... (probably what you think of me right now)!

This is all in jest of course. Your article did make me laugh... but it was half laughing with you... and half laughing at you! Actually i'd say it was 40/60.

Anne said...

Jules, I guess I have to defend myself. Sounds like we have different books... Mine says exactly what I stated - cling film, and poke holes all over so that the syrup can soak through the cake - which is all good and reasonable, it was the dumb idea of uncooked spaghetti that was just.. dumb. I'm a huge Nigella fan, and have all her books - this is the one recipe that has not worked at all for me. :)

While on the subject of measurements - I'm happy with volume measurements for many things, but I'm completely with you on the "cup of butter".

Jules said...

llllllllllovely stuff. Sorry about calling you an idiot. I was only joking. Happy baking.

Lita said...

Hi... I made this cake and it was the first recipe I've ever tried from Nigella. It worked well and it was sooo yummy. I saw her using the aluminum foil to line the loaf tin. Maybe you should try this..

Shelley said...

Anne, I am sorry about your disasterous cooking attempt, but it does help to READ the recipe closely, if you had read her recipe you would see that she does not state anywhere to use cling film, in fact it is greased foil that she uses. I think you should do your homework before ranting about the talents of a wonderful cehf! You should not blame another person for your mistakes nor should you post them on the web without checking your sources.

Shelley said...

Here is her exact recipe out of her book.....

Cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks soft unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or morsels
Syrup:
1 teaspoon cocoa
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

1-ounce dark chocolate (from a thick bar if possible), cut into splinters of varying thickness, for garnish

Special equipment: 2-pound loaf tin (approximately 9 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 3 inches deep), lined with greased foil, pressed into the corners and with some overhang at the top. Alternatively, substitute a silicon loaf tin, no foil lining necessary.



Take whatever you need out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, putting in a baking sheet as you do so.

Put the flour, baking soda, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream into the processor and blitz until a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off, then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips or morsels.

Scrape and pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and put into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. When ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle and a cake-tester will pretty well come out clean.

Not long before the cake is due out of the oven (when it has had about 45 to 50 minutes), put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes, to give a thick syrup.

Take the cake out of the oven and sit it on a cooling rack, still in the tin, and pierce here and there with a cake tester. Pour the syrup over the cake.

Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the foil as you do so. Sit on an oblong or other plate. Sprinkle the chocolate splinters over the top of the sticky surface of the cake

Anne said...

Shelley - you're obviously assuming that I have the same edition of the book that you do. American, yeah? Well, I don't - I have the British edition, the first one that came out. And I'm very sorry, but it does indeed specifically say clingfilm. (And it also says, and I quote "don't panic - it won't melt.") I'll be happy to scan that page for you if you don't believe me. Happy to hear that they've changed the instructions for later/foreign editions - perhaps more people than I had a problem with it?

YOU should not assume that I don't know what I'm talking about - I find your comment really rude. If you've read this blog more, you should know that I adore Nigella - I love her food, and I love her recipes. (And can't wait to get her new book which apparently is in the works.) Except for this particular one, which just didn't work out at all. So - sorry you feel that I'm ragging on Nigella, but that's really not very much the case.

Milly said...

Jeg så Nigella lage denne kaken på tv i går, og kom over bloggen din i søket etter oppskriften. Hun brukte aluminiumsfolie - tin foil, til å kle formen med. Og kaken så selvfølgelig super ut...

Milly said...

...and to your defence: check out this one http://www.srcf.ucam.org/~csh33/Cooking/QuadChoc.php !

Anne said...

Thank you Milly! :) She's obviously changed from the first edition of the cookbook which I have, to using tin foil which sounds a lot better. I'm actually gearing up to try it again, but without the plastic wrap this time :)

angelica said...

Hej! Antar att du är svensk pga alla svenska länkar ;)Tänkte bara höra, vet du hur jag får tag i Nigellas recept på en musli hon gjorde i ett avsnitt? med choklad, äppelmos och nötter? Letar som en galning och hoppas på lite hjälp!Om du eller nån annan som läse de här vet eller har receptet, maila angelicahedstrom@hotmail.com. Förresten, förlåt om det är en hemskt sen kommentar, har ingen aning om hur gammalt inlägget är ;) ha det bra Kram!

Anonymous said...

lisa
i use nigella`s books all the time for cooking and i have never had any problems, you always should slightly adapt to your own ability and it seems that maybe your ability would be to get caterers in! as nigella`s instructions are clear ans simple and very well thought out, i have made some lovely meals with her receipes without any problems what so ever, it is a shame that yours went wrong but i would suggest trying one that is not to complicated for you.

Anne said...

Angelica - I've replied to you in e-mail :)

Anonymous - I'm not sure what Lisa you're addressing, but if you read this blog regularly, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of Nigella and this is the one thing that did not turn out well. She has changed the instructions in later editions of the book, which is probably because more people than I had a problem. I find your tone rather condescending.