As winter creeps in, we look for ways to be warm and comfortable. One of the best ways to do that, says food writer Nigella Lawson, is to indulge in rich, tasty foods, even ones that some might call guilty pleasures. For instance: Why not take a doughnut, and make French toast with it?
Lawson is the author of several cookbooks, including most recently Nigella Christmas.
And as she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, "I'm very, very pro self-indulgence."
For anyone who thinks that kind of indulgence is a bad thing, Lawson agrees — up to a point.
"It is considered bad," she says, "and in a way, you could say that only heightens the pleasure. So, your negativity is not entirely negative."
There are two common causes for that feeling, according to Lawson: First is the fact that rich food may be the opposite of what many diets prescribe; and second, the puritanical urge to view sensual pleasure as a sign of what she terms "moral slackness."
Anyone willing to fly in the face of those concerns might try Lawson's recipe for doughnut French toast. It's rich, golden and crispy — and sprinkled with sugar.
"The egginess and the vanilla come through, and then you put sugar on top, like a doughnut," Lawson says.
If that sounds a bit rich, Lawson says people denying themselves — anything fried, or anything containing butter, for instance — is one of the biggest food problems. Indulging in those things once in a while, she says, makes it easier to balance them with lighter fare, like soups and steamed vegetables.
"I actually feel that I eat very healthily," she says. "My only problem is that I eat enough for five healthy people."
Anyone interested in a more savory treat might try Lawson's cheddar cheese risotto. It's a bit like "a slightly grown-up grilled cheese sandwich."
"There's something about carbohydrate," she says. "You cannot beat carbohydrate for comfort."
Still, Lawson admits to feeling some guilt about making an Italian risotto with the very English cheddar cheese.
Then an Italian friend in Britain told her that every time she goes to her home country, her Italian friends ask her to bring them some cheddar.
Citing Italy's reverence for cheese that has either an interesting texture or a strong flavor, Lawson says, "Cheddar has a strong flavor and also goes gooey, so it's kind of perfect."
The risotto has another of Lawson's preferred qualities of comfort foods: "Anything that can be eaten out of a bowl, with a spoon, is a fantastic self-indulgence. No cutting, no chewing."
Lawson has one caveat about comfort foods.
"There is no point in indulging yourself," she says, "if you are going to persecute yourself at the same time."
It makes no sense to eat foods that will only bring feelings of guilt, not satisfaction, she says. It's much healthier to enjoy food absolutely.
"It doesn't make any difference nutritionally," she says, "but I think the mind is important, as well as the body."