Why Nigella Lawson is obsessed with ‘adobo’, thinks ‘calamansi’ is ‘gorgeous’
As soon as she set foot in the country late last week, celebrity cook Nigella Lawson had local social media all abuzz.
The attractive and chatty TV personality is here as the exclusive endorser of Contadina, a brand of pasta, canned tomatoes and olive oil that, since 2014, has been a subsidiary of the Del Monte company.
Lawson, who has sold over 10 million copies of her cookbooks worldwide, was approached by the local marketing team of Del Monte last year and asked if she wanted to be its endorser.
“We sent her a letter and she replied that she found the brand interesting and asked that we send her the products,” said Justine Monica P. Ferrer, group product manager at Del Monte Philippines, Inc.
“I know Contadina is a brand, an entity that is about trust and flavor,” Lawson said. “I think it is very important to be fully on board, but first I wanted to taste everything. I wanted to cook for friends and family using the products in my own kitchen.”
She did just that, making her meatballs using the brand’s tomato sauce, bruschetta with the canned diced tomatoes, and chocolate olive oil cake using pure olive oil.
“I loved everything,” she said.
Her enthusiasm was palpable at the exclusive press launch organized by Contadina and held on Tuesday. By then, Lawson had been in the country for a few days. She announced her arrival by posting a dish of adobo on her Instagram account.
Over the weekend, she posted another one of sisig, the popular Pinoy bar chow made of chopped pig’s cheeks and ears.
As soon as she sat down, she talked about how “obsessed” she was about our adobo.
“I can’t tell you how many adobo variants I’ve had. There was a pork adobo with belly pork and another of pork and chicken with coconut. There was also one with liver and onions.
I really wanted to go to a Filipino home, because home cooking is where all the flavor is,” Lawson said.
Her interest in Filipino cooking was spirited and genuine.
“I’m completely mad about calamansi! I think it’s gorgeous.”
Lawson was also able to drop by the Salcedo weekend market in Makati where she tasted “an awful lot of food,” including chicken inasal (barbecue).
“There are photos of me biting into a stick of barbecued chicken but those will not be released,” she joked.
At the launch, however, Lawson who was dressed in a figure-hugging red dress, opted not to eat, saying, “I won’t be able to eat in this dress at all.”
She finally gave in with a small piece of bread topped with her “crazy” gremolata and a sprig of fresh basil.
“Look at this,” she gestured at her instant canape, “you can easily serve this at a party.”
Simple and tasty
The celebrity cook is known for her preference for simple dishes that are big on flavor.
“The starting point always has to be the best ingredients,” she said.
While she’s aware that a lot of people now are strapped for time and consider the idea of cooking dinner at the end of a long day irksome, she believes some effort still has to be made.
“I tell people just because you don’t have a lot of time doesn’t mean you should sacrifice on flavor. My cooking philosophy is this: maximum flavor with minimum effort.”
The Contadina range that will be available nationwide on Oct. 7 consists of 18 SKUs (stock keeping units). It includes extra-virgin olive oil and pure olive oil made with olives from Andalusia, Spain; three types of pasta (spaghetti, linguine and penne) using 100-percent durum wheat semolina from Canada; pasta sauces (Formaggio, Napoletana, Arrabbiata, Aglio Arrosito, Pesto alla Genovese) from Italy; and canned tomatoes (diced, diced with Italian herbs, crushed and stewed) using Roma tomatoes grown in California.
We sampled several of Lawson’s recipes using the products like the Mozzarella with Crazy Gremolata (stewed tomatoes); Chicken alla Cacciatore; and two types of pasta, Penne alla Vodka and Squid spaghetti.
“When I cook spaghetti, I prefer a smoother sauce so I use the crushed tomatoes, but penne (tube-like pasta) requires something chunkier so I use the diced tomatoes,” Lawson said.
And she always makes it a point to swirl a bit of water in a just-emptied can of diced tomatoes to get all the little bits of tomato. “I never waste anything.”
She also shared a few tips for weekend cooks and homemakers as well as her recipe for Penne alla Vodka, a dish inspired by one that legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor and beau Richard Burton used to order at a restaurant in Italy.
“When I cook, I use the pure olive oil, but at the end I dribble some extra-virgin olive oil over the dish so you get all the flavor.”
“Pasta is not just a vehicle to put your sauce on. Experiment using different sauces and canned tomatoes for the different kinds of pasta.”
“Take a little cup of pasta water (the water where the pasta is cooked) and add it to the sauce to help it amalgamate. You can choose not to but it reminds me of living in Italy.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.