Nigella Lawson returns as a guest chef in season 11 of MasterChef Australia. Supplied by Channel 10.
Nigella Lawson returns as a guest chef in season 11 of MasterChef Australia. Supplied by Channel 10.

Nigella Lawson serves up a perfect MasterChef entree

Why feel bad about indulging over the holidays? Nigella Lawson certainly doesn't.

As many of us finally work all of that Easter chocolate out of our systems and prepare to pamper our mums this weekend for Mother's Day, perhaps we should take a page out of the domestic goddess's book.

When I talk to her over the phone in January, she's just arrived in Melbourne to film her third Nigella Week on MasterChef Australia.

"I don't feel bad about what I ate. I think about all the very nice things I ate,” she says, referring to the bounty of the festive season.

"This is my New Year's treat. There's nothing like going from bleak mid-winter into this dazzling sunshine.”

Starting off the year Down Under has become a bit of a regular thing for the best-selling cookbook author and TV presenter.

This will be Nigella's fourth year on MasterChef after she made a fleeting one-episode appearance in the popular reality cooking show's eighth season.

"I have to say it feels like a very positive start to the year,” she says.

"Even though I don't make New Year's resolutions and so on, there's something about feeling like you're doing something both familiar but exciting. It feels like it sets the tone.”

After just two full weeks in the competition, this year's new crop of wide-eyed amateur cooks will be safe in the hands of this velvety-voiced champion of the home cook.

The food writer, whose level of celebrity in Australia rivals that of the UK, has never had any formal training in the kitchen.

Instead, the self-taught home cook has let taste and pleasure be her guides, living by the rule 'You have to please yourself to please others'.

Since her cookery book How to Eat shot the then freelance journalist to fame 20 years ago, Nigella has fronted 10 of her own cooking shows and penned a dozen books.

"It makes sense for me to be on MasterChef towards the beginning because what help I can give is at a more basic level,” she says. "I'm not in a position to tell people how to turn a tomato into a gel, not that I'd want to.”

Expect this year's Nigella Week, which starts tomorrow, to be full of classic flavours, decadent desserts and even some historical recipes.

Nigella filmed her four episodes before embarking on a speaking tour, which drew more than 20,000 fans across Australia and New Zealand.

The tour was a roaring success, with the 59-year-old candidly opening up in a Q&A-style format with audiences.

"I don't have any pre-made-up answers to anything - and that makes it interesting, fun and sometimes everyone's having a laugh and sometimes it touches on darker things, you know, loss, because I think that's a huge part with food,” she told The Courier-Mail back in January.

"Often recipes or cooking (are) linked to people who are no longer with us, so I think (the shows) have a very free-range feel about them and that's all to the good.”

Nigella has experienced her fair share of tragedy, losing her mother, sister and first husband to cancer.

In 2003 she also went through a highly public divorce from second husband Charles Saatchi and the intense tabloid coverage of the fraud trial of her former assistants.

Despite the intense glare of celebrity, the mother of two has managed, for the most part, to keep her personal life private. She is careful to talk about her children - Cosima and Bruno, both in their 20s - only in food terms.

"I always love feeding my children whenever they come home - I love that - and their friends, that always gives me pleasure,” she says.

MasterChef's Nigella Week starts tomorrow at 7.30pm on Ten/WIN.

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