IoS TV review: Nigellissima: An Italian-Inspired Christmas, BBC2, Monday
River Cottage: Three Go Mad at Christmas, Channel 4, Sunday
Wartime Farm, BBC2, Tuesday

No one does festive feasting quite like the goddess of cream, alcohol and panettone

The British Medical Journal published a report last week which claimed that quite a few celebrity chef recipes are not as healthy as some supermarket ready meals. The timing was delicious.

The PR teams for Jamie Oliver and Lorraine Pascale cooked up their responses (bland, stodgy). But those wags at the BMJ must have known the super-chefs would be required to issue their apologias in the same week as their Christmas telly specials, which traditionally are booze-sodden, cream-laden rebukes to self-restraint and "healthy eating".

At the time of going to press, Nigella Lawson hadn't publicly attempted to defend her recipes against the report's findings. Which, on the evidence of Nigellissima: An Italian-Inspired Christmas, was probably just as well. This wasn't so much a Christmas cookery programme as a gorgeous waking dream of culinary excess. The photography was as saturated as the fats on display. So deep, rich and luxuriant was the focus that I found myself nodding appreciatively at a generous end credit for the focus-puller. Love your work, Francis MacNeil.

We were transported from Venice, where Nigella groped exotic vegetables at sunset markets, to the gloaming of her kitchen, and then to the notional Christmas party itself, where guests mingled and clinked and wondered where the dimmer switch was. Nigella could have hacked off a finger into her Renaissance salad but under those feeble lights, it would have passed off as a particularly crunchy radicchio heart.

"Seductive" was the well-worn palette here, in case you hadn't guessed, and Nigella sashayed obligingly. The camera, meanwhile, periodically took up position behind a house plant, spying on this domestic goddess in her stainless-steel bower. In this overheated atmosphere, the producers knew how far to push their employer's brand of indulgence. Christmas, we were told, couldn't be Christmas without cranberries/chestnuts/panettone. "I must have them all," cooed Nigella. Only occasionally did this sauce curdle into something a bit ickier. "It looks small now," she said of her cappuccino pavlova mix, "but it really does swell."

It was probably Nigella's Italian Christmas pudding cake that had the authors of the BMJ report reaching for the warfarin: a confection of panettone, mascarpone, double cream and marsala. Frankly, this looked great, and Nigella was unapologetic.

Over on River Cottage: Three Go Mad at Christmas, another of the chefs fingered in the report was overseeing some artery furring of the most refined kind. Actually, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was a little distracted, looking mildly put upon by his three actor guests, Stephen Mangan, Kathy Burke and Mark Heap. In the event, it was one of his underlings, Tim Maddams, who interrupted Burke's preparation of wild mushroom croquettes with fried oak moss: "I could explain how healthy this is – but I'd be lying, ha ha ha!"

Such moments were unfortunate, no more. Less forgivable was the show's collective inability to get in the mood. A bit of festive greenery nailed to the mantelpiece, some plinky-plonk festive music and a-robin-in-a-tree shot does not a Christmas make.

In the face of such Yuletide indifference, Burke's admitted dislike of Christmas at least came across as honest. F-W, you sensed, felt much the same filming this special in mid-October, by the looks of the trees, but he had to grit his teeth. Mangan joshed amiably, and Heap was beguilingly odd. Burke, though, was the star.

Her antipathy seemed to extend to the very idea of F-W's middle-class rural idyll. She wandered, bemused, across fields, swayed on fishing boats, and downed a foul-looking mulled vodka drink. Each time she was prompted for her gushing approval of some part of the programme's alternative festive menu, she would pause, twitch the corner of her lips, and finally offer her agreement. But she kept us guessing.

I wanted to close this review with approving reference to Wartime Farm's Christmas show. You know, ingenious Second World War recipes fashioned from powdered egg and elbow grease. But Ruth Goodman and Peter Ginn looked appalled by their carrot fudge and potato beer. Let's hope there was enough left over for the BMJ Christmas do.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all