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Nigella Lawson in London. (Getty Images)

Beat The Winter Chills With Nigella Lawson

Jan 26, 2009 (Morning Edition)

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It can be hard to escape the chills of winter. But Nigella Lawson says she never complains about it — instead, it's a great excuse for her to indulge in warm and hearty comfort foods like soups and stews.

They're not all complicated to make, she tells NPR's Renee Montagne. Take sweet corn chowder. It's based on a bag of frozen sweet corn that can be defrosted by pouring very hot water over it.

Instead of making the soup from scratch — and having to blend it over and over — Lawson processes sweet corn with some scallions and garlic. "Then it's really just a question of cooking that with some hot vegetable stock — and I don't make my own, I must own up, and I'm not ashamed of that," she says.

While that mixture cooks, Lawson takes a few tortilla chips, tops them with some grated or sliced cheese on a broiling tray, then heats them in the oven until the cheese has melted. When serving the soup, these hunks of tortillas and cheese go on top of the bowl, slightly submerged in the soup.

"I suppose you could say it's a North American version of French onion soup," she says.

Lawson also turns to savory pies to fight winter's grip. Her chicken pot pie is made with an all-butter puff pastry, mushrooms, bacon, floured chicken strips, dried thyme and stock — and often a touch of Marsala, the Italian wine.

That may sound fancy, but it's not, Lawson says.

"Mine never look terribly elegant," she says of her pies, "because they puff up in a rustic fashion."

A few may look like beautiful, ruffled French pies, she admits — but some resemble "a rather fantastic toadstool that might have been found."

Of course, dessert is nothing if not a comfort. To that end, Lawson makes a chocolate pear pudding cake.

"Certainly, a very old-fashioned English dessert," she says.

To make it, she turns to a modern cook's aid: canned pears. They're more likely to have the proper texture and juiciness than fresh ones, Lawson notes. The chocolate sponge cake absorbs that juice and makes a soft, almost sauce-like texture as it cooks. It can be served with heavy cream, a dark chocolate sauce — or all on its own.

"I can't think of a bad way to eat it," she says.

As for what she'll be eating tonight, Lawson says she's making her version of Thai curry, with shrimp and salmon.

"If a bowl of curry doesn't sort my cold out," she says, "nothing is going to."

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