How Nigella Lawson Hosts a No-Fuss Dinner Party

Nigella Lawson
Courtesy of Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson
Photo: Jonathan Lovekin

Even if you're a whiz in the kitchen, throwing a dinner party can incite a how-much-maca-powder-is-too-much stress level. First, there’s the question of what to make (and how much). By the time you’ve shopped, prepped, and created the Spotify playlist, you have no energy left to enjoy the evening, much less brush your hair.

Cooking for friends shouldn’t be that hard, and it isn’t, as long as you’ve got a copy of At My Table, the latest cookbook from Nigella Lawson, the OG domestic goddess. Lawson’s eleventh collection of recipes focuses on home cooking—elevated comfort foods, like lamb shanks with dates and pomegranate molasses, that lend themselves to being heaped, generously, on plates.

"When I cook, what I concentrate on is flavor rather than fads and fashion.” —Nigella Lawson

Lawson says she prefers hosting more intimate gatherings. “I’m not much for a big party. I love a group of people around a table,” she says, adding that she tries to do as much as she can ahead of time. “I think it’s important to make food that doesn’t need too much last minute attention. And people never get to the table in time, so it's very important that nothing you cook is so sensitive that it will get ruined if it sits about,” says Lawson. Her number one piece of advice for nailing a dinner party the easy way? “Do large amounts of relatively few dishes, rather than small amounts of a lot of dishes.”

To manage the minefield of guests’ various food sensitivities and dietary restrictions, Lawson says she always makes sure that everyone has something to eat but doesn’t go out of her way to gratify each individual’s preferences. “If a friend of mine is vegan, I’ll make dinner vegan. If someone can’t eat gluten, then I’ll make dessert gluten-free. But I don’t see my job as having to cater for every dietary whim,” she says.

And when it comes to keeping it healthy, Lawson says she’s more about “pleasure than self-persecution” and tries not to venerate some foods and demonize others. “What gets lost is balance. When I cook, what I concentrate on is flavor rather than fads and fashion,” she says.

One of Lawson's party-friendly dishes is coconut shrimp with turmeric yogurt. Keep reading for the recipe.

Coconut Shrimp with Turmeric Yogurt

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  1. Mix the yogurt, turmeric, and salt together and leave to stand so that the flavor mellows while you get a-frying.

  2. Tip the rice flour into a shallow dish and put to one side, then beat the eggs and salt together in another similar dish. In a third shallow dish, mix the panko bread crumbs, coconut, and cayenne pepper.

  3. Dredge a quarter of the shrimp in the rice flour, just to coat them lightly, and then drop them into the beaten eggs.

  4. Lift them out and waggle them over the egg dish to let the excess drip off them a little, then add the shrimp to the panko and coconut mixture, getting your hands stuck in, and turning and pressing them into the mixture to make sure they are well coated. Put the shrimp on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper before dredging and dipping the remaining batches.

  5. Set a mesh ladle or a slotted spoon as well as a large plate, lined with paper towels, near the stove. Pour the oil into a heavy-based saucepan of about nine inches in diameter—any wider and you’ll need a lot more oil—so that it comes about one-and-one-fourth inches up the sides of the pan, and heat it until a cube of bread sizzles when dropped in.

  6. Fry a smallish batch of shrimp in the hot oil until crisp and golden, which shouldn’t take more than a minute or so. Use the mesh ladle or slotted spoon to transfer them onto the paper towels.

  7. Repeat with the other shrimp in similar-sized batches until you have cooked them all. Serve the turmeric yogurt in little bowls, one per eater, to dip into. Or just put into one bowl, with a spoon for people to dollop on their plates.

Recipe Notes

Excerpted from the book At my Table by Nigella Lawson. Copyright © 2018 by Nigella
Lawson. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography
by Jonathan Lovekin.

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