Last night's viewing - Nigellissima, BBC2; Birds, Balls and Brighton, More4; Being Liverpool, Channel 5
Nigella has always prided herself on her adjectives and coinages, but I'm guessing that at least one of those deployed in Nigellissima – in which she reclaims the territory lately probed by young pretenders such as Lorraine Pascale and Rachel Khoo – was a lawyer's grace note. It occurred during her instructions for the Tuscan chips that she insisted were a compulsory accompaniment to her steak tagliata.
Start by dropping your chips in cold oil, she suggested (no, really, trust her on this) and then add fresh garlic and herbs "dropped gently into the bubbling oil towards the end of the cooking". She stressed the "gently" and even more pointedly when she said it again later. The BBC doesn't want a class action for splash burns, you understand, so although this sounded like a classic instance of the blurred intersection between sex and cookery that Nigella has made her own, I think it was actually a rare example of un-eroticised technical advice.
I supposes we're meant to take Nigellissima as meaning something like "quintessence of Nigella". And certainly some kind of distillation seems to have taken place. I don't know whether it's ungallant to point out that she takes up quite a lot less screen space than in previous series or whether it would be ungallant not to mention it. But it's true anyway. She is positively Sophia Lorenesque here, which fits rather nicely with the food – a kind of naturalised Notting Hill version of Italian dishes – a cuisine which, she told us, has been an enduring influence on her since she worked as a chambermaid in a Florence hotel (a biographical detail that I fear may have provoked cardiac arrhythmia in some of her older admirers).
Whether Italian cuisine will be grateful for this compliment is another question, because Nigella isn't exactly a gastronomic purist. For proof, see "meatzza" – a Nigella invention in which oat-spiked mince is substituted for pizza dough (it's essentially a Frisbee-sized hamburger with canned tomatoes and mozarella on top) – or check out her cheesecake, which blends Philadelphia cream cheese with a jar of Nutella (or "chocolate hazelnut paste" as Nigella dutifully called it). "Should I be embarrassed?" she asked, confessing that there wasn't an ingredient in the dish that hadn't come straight out of a packet. "I'm not." That, I guess, is what expands the Nigella demographic way beyond those who go to bed fantasising about her spoon-feeding them tiramisu. Where Gordon Ramsay's version of "easy" is strangely like an army calisthenics routine, Nigella's is easy like Sunday morning. If it's Italian food you're interested in, though, I'd recommend Marcella Hazan.
Birds, Balls and Brighton demonstrated the hazards for a sports documentary of tying itself too closely to a team's result. Notionally an account of Brighton's campaign to break into the Premiership, it was doomed to anti-climax by the fact that they didn't eventually make it. But allowing for that, it contained several nice moments that captured the intensity of football as seen from the terraces. Grant Phillips, a lifelong fan, showed off the club emblem tattooed on the back of his calves and also detailed his pre-match ritual, which extended to ensuring that his Brighton coffee mug was perched "on top of the pile" when he did the washing-up. And there was a nice sequence during the crucial match in which you followed the action on the pitch entirely through the faces of the supporters – hope and disappointment and elation scudding across their faces.
It was a better film, anyway, than Being Liverpool – a new Channel 5 series that brings to its subject all the trenchant revelation of a Hello! double-page spread. I imagine Liverpool fans will lap up the opportunity to see inside Stevie Gerrard's house and watch the team training, but even they should be able to see that we're in corporate-video territory here. The manager even got hero-cam slow-mo, for goodness' sake.
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