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Nigella: Inspired By A Coke, And Pasta In A Pinch

Nigella Lawson's appeal, like that of many great chefs, is her willingness to take chances.

For example, Lawson's mother always cooked ham with hard cider.

"Even the word 'recipe' is a bit too grand for it, because it's just the way she cooked ham," Lawson tells NPR's Renee Montagne.

But Lawson decided to experiment, thinking if ham and cider is a good pairing, other drinks might work, too. She made a bold move toward Coca-Cola and ham.

"And then I went really mad ... and took this a step further and thought, I'm going to do ham in Cherry Coke," she says.

After all, Lawson reasoned, "There is a very long tradition of cooking ham with fruit — ham with pineapple, a great '70s classic — and you cannot tell whether a recipe's going to work or not until you try cooking it. The worst that can happen is that you don't have the best supper of your life. And the best that can happen is that you feel thrilled and excited and gratified by the fact that it's worked."

In addition to evolving recipes from family classics, a great mother of invention for Lawson is time. She saw a lemon and risotto recipe once that she realized would work just as well with pasta, and voila: linguine with lemon.

And even though she invented that recipe, Lawson says, "What ends up in the book is probably not my first attempt."

And Lawson wants readers to remember, "What's the perfect balance for me may not be the perfect balance for the person using the recipe. In the end ... it's about taste."

And practice, practice, practice is how you find your taste, Lawson says.

"The best way of finding out what works ... is by experimenting when you're cooking just for yourself. You're not fearing someone else's judgment."

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