Television cook Nigella Lawson has said she describes herself as a "home cook" rather than a chef and said she lacked the knife skills of the professionals.

The culinary legend also revealed that she had an irrational fear of poaching eggs and has eaten better lemon meringue pies than she has made.

Lawson, who has sold 12 million cook books, was speaking during an event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote her latest offering, At My Table.

She spoke in detail about how she had learned how to cook poached eggs having taken advice from a French cook.

“One of the things I was convinced I could never do was poached egg and I had such a fear of egg poaching out of proportion to the task,” she said.

“I have cracked it now. I crack the egg in a tea strainer over a cup and all the very watery bits go underneath.

“I have to say I don’t do this every morning when I have my breakfast. I push it into another cup and I add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the egg white in the cup.

“I put it into the water, which is almost turned off, and I leave it in there for three or four minutes and I sometimes with my slotted spoon sometimes encourage the white to come up in shape.

“I never do anything with the water.”

During a discussion with writer and broadcaster Paul Blezard, Lawson said other techniques involved wrapping the eggs in cling film.

She also said she had heard of restaurants that use scissors to cut off the straggly bits of cooked egg white before serving to customers.
Asked what she was not very good at making, Lawson replied: “I feel I have eaten much better lemon meringue pies than I have made. I hope that will change one day and it made me come up with a very good lemon meringue cake.

“I am not a chef and I don’t try and cook like a chef. I wouldn’t be able to do it and I don’t have any knife skills.

“I’m filming for my new series and I saw the filming of my chopping and I’ve almost got time for a cup of tea between slicing the carrots. I was so embarrassed watching.

“I would say about home cooking is that it is about flavour and not technique. I am not mad about technique-led food.”

Lawson told the audience that as a child she was heavily-influenced by her mother’s cooking and while living and working in Florence after leaving school became inspired by Italian food.

And between writing assignments her cooking is “anarchic” because she does not have to carefully measure ingredients.

“There is something liberating about finishing a book because I can cook without weighing or measuring because until the book goes to press I test and retest each time because there is always ways of simplifying or getting it right,” Lawson said.

“And when I am working on another book I have to be weighing and measuring. In between I am anarchic.”

Lawson said she ignored the presence of the kitchen scales during this period.

“It is quite hard to for me because sometimes I have to cook some things a lot of times and then I have to think how much did I put in?,” she said.

“I have someone who cooks with me a few days a week, Hettie Potter, and her job is really to be Boswell to my Johnson because it is much easier for someone to write down what I am doing for me.

“Otherwise I’ve got to stop and I can’t just do what I want. When I follow my own recipes, like when I do one of my cakes, I know ‘she’ says put two teaspoons of vanilla… but I’m going to put some almond and orange zest and Hettie says to me ‘You do realise this she is you?’.

“Baking requires precision but precision doesn’t have to involve flavour. I bake quite a lot now.

“You have to take a risk that it might not taste as good but that’s the only way to cook.”

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