Plus more tips and insights from the cookbook author and TV host's Twitter Q&A.
LONDON - JUNE 1: Chef Nigella Lawson poses for a portrait on June 1, 2005 in London. (Photo by Francesca Yorke/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Nigella Lawson
2005 Francesca Yorke
| Credit: Francesca Yorke

If you've ever had a burning question you'd like to ask your favorite celebrity chef (hopefully burning in the "need-to-know" sense, not the "currently burning your dinner" sense), it's probably going to be difficult to get a direct answer. But with social media and personal appearances part of the job for food personalities these days, occasionally the playing field is leveled and the fans get a chance to pose their queries to their favorite culinary stars. To that end, author and TV host Nigella Lawson (who is promoting her new cookbook At My Table) took part in a live Q&A at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on Monday, and the exchange brought out some interesting tips, including her secret to more robust chili con carne.

"Do you have any tips for a rich and flavourful chilli con carne? Mine are always really bland," a fan named Taylor tweeted. Lawson's advice? Layer the chili flavor with variety: fresh, dried, and smoked. "I also like to add a teeny bit of dark chocolate," she reveals.

And she's in good company with that tip. Chocolate is a key ingredient to making Ohio-style chili, as evidenced in Cincinnati's Skyline Chili's recipe (you can even use chocolate ice cream), and, of course, you can't make a mole-style chili without it. Aside from savory applications, spicy chiles and chocolate are a match made in dessert heaven, too.

Here are a few more noteworthy bits of advice and Nigella Lawson trivia:

What's always in her pantry?

Lemon, garlic, ginger, tinned tomatoes, high-quality sardines, pasta, olive oil, butter, parmesan, and bacon. Well, that's a meal right there!

The trick to cooking restaurant-quality gnocchi at home:

When buying potato gnocchi from the store, Lawson recommends frying them or putting them in a gratin rather than boiling.

Risotto as meditation:

Lawson admits that she finds "solace" in stirring the creamy rice dish.

Gas or electric stove?

Gas, of course. "I'm primitive, I need to see a flame," she explains.

Her go-to dish for guests:

Nothing fancy (which she insists friends don't need to aspire to when cooking for each other), just a roasted chicken.

Pefect dinner party cockatil:

Negroni sbagliato which replaces the gin with prosecco.