In his latest six-part BBC1 series, popular cook and award-winning food writer Nigel visits different communities in Britain to taste, make and share all the glorious variations of some of our best-loved dishes.
While classics like pies, stew and dumplings, roasts and trifles seem quintessentially British, Nigel assures us that practically every other country in the world has a similar version with its own unique identity.
What do you hope to achieve with this latest series?
“As a cook I want to explore these new tastes and flavours. I want to meet the rich tapestry of people who make this country home and find out more about their culture through their food.
“I’m going on tour around Britain visiting the homes of cooks who originated from countries including Iran, Poland, Uganda, Italy and Iraq, to find out what culinary secrets they can teach me.”
What’s your plan?
“I’m naturally nosy and always intrigued to find out about people’s lives. There’s no better way to do that than get an invite to lunch!”
Forgive us Nigel, but surely you need to board a plane for a world food tour?
“Oh, my journey takes me around the world, but I don’t need a passport. This country more than any other has embraced dishes from around the globe and a stroll down any UK high street will give you a taste of so many cultures and cuisines. We truly are the magpies of the food world.”
What does Eating Together – the show’s title – mean to you?
“A great deal as the sharing of food is one of the greatest joys of living. Whether it’s a festive feast or passing someone a slice of cake, there’s no better way of connecting with people.”
Tell us more about the series…
“We start every episode with a firm British favourite, something that featured in my childhood, like my dad's Trifle or a Lancashire hotpot. We then go on to meet distant relatives of these recipes from around the world, trying dishes that share the same basic idea, but with origins and ingredients a long way from our shores.”
Which British classic do you start with this week?
“I cook good old stew and dumplings. Dumplings have gone out fashion – it’s such a shame. I think people have stopped making them because they’re scared they can’t make them as good as their granny! I then go to Lincolnshire to meet Nita, whose variation of dumplings is Pea Kachori and Lamb samosas. Then Liz in Bedford shares her version – an old ravioli family recipe, which keeps a little bit of Italy alive for her family in Britain. As a thank you I invite all the people I meet for a meal inspired by them. I cook apple and stilton dumplings with a red onion chutney.”
What have been the highlights of your food tour?
“I have always been a curious cook and eater and this series has been like no other. From Jamaican fish tea to authentic Thai noodles prepared by an Buddhist ex monk, every day was a fantastic trip into the unknown... The highlight for me was the incredible generosity of people who have made Britain their home. Their stories and often the hardships they’ve overcome have been truly inspiring.”
What was the favourite dish you tasted?
“It’s absolutely impossible to choose. We visit over 20 cuisines, each and every one a treat.”
When did you first know you wanted to become a cook?
“The day I took my first tray of butterfly cakes out of the oven, age eight.”
What food did you love and hate as a child?
“I hated boiled eggs – still can't be in the same room as one. I loved my mum's flapjacks that she made in the Aga.”
Do you have a guilty food secret?
“I love the occasional Big Mac, but never feel guilty about it.”
Who would you most like to cook for?
“I’d love to cook a big dinner for The Beatles; they were my childhood heroes.”
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
“My mother's Sunday lunch.”
Is there a kitchen item you treasure?
“My first cook’s knife that I’ve had since cookery school.”
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
“The deadly Japanese Fugu fish, that if not prepared correctly, can end up being your last meal!”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Taste, taste and taste again.”
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