IOL Lifestyle food and drink writer, Megan Baadjies and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. Picture: Megan Baadjies

It's hard to believe that one of the most recognised faces in the culinary world never enjoyed mealtime.  

As a child, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson would much rather avoid food. It wasn’t until she had to cook for herself when her interest in food started. 

Several years on and the British culinary queen has hosted several cooking shows and has no less than 11 cookbooks under her belt. She recently launched her new book called At My Table which is a celebration of home cooking through a collection of stories.

“I became interested in food in my mid-teens, when I was at university I was the queen of onion soup,” she says. “I suppose cooking on a budget is a great way of learning how to cook.”

Lawson admits when she had to be writing essays, she was cooking instead. 

“Even when I was a journalist I cooked because it would help me think about what I was going to write. I came from a very food obsessed household, which I resisted for a while and then I became worse than them."

The 57-year-old domestic goddess says her relationship with food now is “a very healthy and happy making relationship”.  

This happiness is evident on her several television shows when her face lights up and her smile broadens whenever it’s time to dig in. And who can blame her?

“I would describe it as maybe even a slightly obsessive relationship,” she says. “I enjoy food in all its aspects I like thinking about it, I like writing about it, I like cooking it and I love eating it. It is a very central part of my life.”

Lawson was a guest speaker at the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) conference in Cape Town last week. 

A noticeably slimmer Lawson, looking radiant in a bright red dress during a press conference and book signing, also had a taste of South Africa during her short stay. 

“I have eaten boerewors, biltong and Mrs Balls (chutney)," she says. "Someone once made me malva pudding and bobotie. A friend of mine who is South African makes (bobotie) in a different way, she makes it with greek yogurt.” 

Lawson has also put in a request for bunny chow and chakalaka. 

“I (also) have tasted some fantastic produce like tomatoes that just tasted of the sun and some wonderful fish from Franschhoek and obviously wine. The kind of produce here makes me want to itch to cook with it.”

Not one to obsess over every new food trend, Lawson says anything that’s sold as “the answer” is just overrated. However, she says some of the most underrated foods are dishes that aren’t visually appealing yet taste good. 

“Sometimes I would make a bowl of food that is just brown, but tastes absolutely delicious. Food isn't always designed to have it’s photo take- it’s designed to be eaten,” she says.