Once the thinking man’s bombshell, all dangerous curves and joyous wiggle, Nigella Lawson is a slender shadow of her former self.

Not that the new slimline Nigella is in the public eye that much. At 60, she has all but dropped from view.

During the initial freedom years after her distressing split from second husband Charles Saatchi in 2013, you would see her at parties in London, hopping in and out of taxis and dining with literary friends such as Salman Rushdie. But, sadly, no more.

Christmas this year was spent in Cornwall with old friend and former Vogue executive Fiona Golfar and her family.

She then returned to her house in London for a quiet New Year’s Eve.

There hasn’t been a new book or TV show since At My Table in 2017. That was preceded by Simply Nigella. Neither were big hits.

So, although Nigella once said that she needed to do a show ‘every other year’ to keep her head above water financially, she has opted to take a break instead.

There hasn’t been a new book or TV show since At My Table in 2017.

Last year, she launched a food photography app, Foodim, and posts regularly on Instagram — where she has 1.8 million followers — but there has been nothing else new of late.

A friend said: ‘As far as her career goes, Nigella’s view is that she’s done it, really. She doesn’t feel any need to reinvent the wheel. The fact that her last two books were essentially a re-run of her previous books kind of says it all.’

There is a sense that Nigella, worth around $19.6 million, no longer wants to capture the zeitgeist.

Lucrative endorsements, such as plugging Typhoo tea, have been allowed to lapse. Kiera O’Brien, The Bookseller’s charts and data editor, said: ‘She is still a big name, however she is obviously selling an awful lot less than she used to.’

PR guru Mark Borkowski comments: ‘Nigella has not successfully found a new image to inhabit. The food market is changing all the time and her big ideas are probably not big enough.’

In 2018, she concentrated on the relaunch of all her books, publicising them with some ‘Audience With’ shows in London. But Nigella has always claimed she is ‘shy’ deep down and that her coquettish screen manner is her trying to cover it up and gain the courage to perform.

“Nigella has not successfully found a new image to inhabit.”

It is telling that she has never watched her own shows on television. Who could blame her, then, for being reluctant to put herself out there again?

She told friends she was writing recipes for a new book last spring, but there is no sign of a deal. And in an Australian interview last year she said: ‘I never want to write a recipe for the sake of filling a gap. I have to want to cook it myself.’

She added that her previous success was ‘fear-driven’.

Indeed, Nigella says she is at her most comfortable out of the spotlight. ‘In many ways, I feel I didn’t choose this life, but I guess that’s what happens if you go on TV.’

She said last year that she was ‘interested’ in the idea of abandoning cookery altogether to work with the terminally ill. ‘It really interests me, that sort of work.’

Nigella nursed her mother, sister and first husband John Diamond through tragically early deaths from cancer. Mum Vanessa died aged 48, sister Thomasina at 31, and John at 47.

So what has Nigella been doing recently? She took up pottery, doing a course in ceramics at West Dean College, Sussex, and has been reclaiming her old pre-Saatchi life.

Despite walking away from Saatchi, who is worth $183.3 million, with nothing more than the contents of her kitchen, she is wealthy enough not to work.

She has joyfully returned to her passion for reading and says that her greatest delight is to be tucked up with a pile of books by 7.30pm. She said: ‘If I’m not suitably banked by books, I start twitching. I am a binge reader.

‘Now that my children are grown up, I regard the weekends as reading days: if I get anything less than six hours’ reading time a day, I feel it’s a waste of a weekend.

‘And if I don’t have two early nights (and by early I mean I’m already prone by 7.30) with a book during the week, I get antsy, too.’

“If I get anything less than six hours’ reading time a day, I feel it’s a waste of a weekend.”

In the Saatchi years poor Nigella, an Oxford medieval and modern languages graduate, complained she had to read books in the back of taxis because when they were together, he wanted her full attention.

Sometimes there are parties — apparently she was girlishly thrilled to meet pop star Harry Styles at a bash thrown by Jimmy Carr late last year — but she no longer drinks alcohol, finding that it exacerbates her long-standing issues with anxiety.

She told a podcast in 2018: ‘I’m quite an anxious person and drink can really exacerbate that anxiety. It gets rid of it at first, but then, afterwards, that horrible tight feeling of worry and generally not feeling quite right.’

She lives alone in a delightful $6.5 million semi-detached home in Central London, with children Cosima and Bruno, now in their 20s, having flown the nest.

The house, bought with a mortgage from Coutts, has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two reception rooms, a study, cellar, garage and 30ft garden. She spent several months having it redecorated to exactly her tastes.

Her collection of nearly 4,000 recipe books line a living room wall from floor to ceiling.

The kitchen splashback is a spectacular mirrored glitterball-style affair. Some of the kitchen units are in a green-blue, others are Calpol pink.

It is worlds away from Saatchi’s uber-grand $32.7 million home among the oligarchs in Eaton Square where, apparently, she found it so stifling that she didn’t even want to cook in it.

There is no grand love affair — Nigella has barely dated since Saatchi. That he has been dating fashion expert Trinny Woodall apparently leaves her unmoved. I’m told: ‘Honestly, truly, she could not care less on any level about either of them.’

There is no grand love affair — Nigella has barely dated since Saatchi.

Although there was a liaison with writer Ronan Bennett, widower of her close friend, magazine executive Georgina Henry, it seems their friendship has not blossomed into a love affair.

Life coach John Whittington has been advising perennially anxious Nigella about confidence in her personal and professional relationships. She’s also said to be a great fan of readings from psychics, and has also reportedly had hypnotherapy.

She has maintained her trim figure by conquering her habit of ‘anxious eating’ — it should be no surprise that the weight fell off when she left Saatchi.

She told an interviewer in 2008: ‘I’m always so envious of those people who don’t eat when they’re anxious. I only have to be a little anxious and I overeat.

‘It’s like someone’s taken a bicycle pump to me and I inflate. When my mother died, everyone said, “You look very well” and I felt terrible, but I looked, um, round-faced.’

There was no diet. She just ate less and took up exercise, mostly to try to strengthen her bad back.

She said in 2015: ‘I have never been on a diet to try to lose weight. I feel like I haven’t lost weight, but I’m possibly in better shape.

‘As you get on in life, you value feeling well as opposed to looking well. Yoga certainly makes you feel great and you want to carry on feeling great.’

She has a long-standing passion for Reformer Pilates — exercises performed on a low bench strung with belts, pulleys and springs.

Sources claim that she has her own Reformer machine, at a cost of around $7,900.

David Higgins, an Aussie living in London, is said to be her guru. As well as Nigella, he has trained Jemima Khan and model Claudia Schiffer. Nigella also does Iyengar ‘slow yoga’ at home with a personal trainer, three times a week.

But emotionally, it has taken her a considerable time to recover from the horror of the split.

Saatchi was pictured grabbing her by the throat while they ate at a pavement table at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair in June 2013.

The marriage collapsed, and was followed by the sensational trial of their former assistants, the Grillo sisters, who were found not guilty of fraudulently using company credit cards.

Saatchi was pictured grabbing her by the throat while they ate at a pavement table at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair in June 2013.

Nigella said Saatchi was a controlling monster who had practised ‘intimate terrorism’; he claimed she was a spendthrift and user of cocaine and cannabis, calling her ‘Highgella.’

Her new life has involved some rationalisation of her assets. In March 2016, she voluntarily wound up her company Pabulum Productions, which had been running since 2001. There was a ‘return of capital’ of just over $3.9 million.

In 2017, she sold the house in Shepherd’s Bush which she had shared with late husband John. The property in Goldhawk Road, which she left to move in with Saatchi, was sold in November 2017 for $2.6 million.

Nigella continues to make a tidy sum from book sales — estimated at around $196,000 a year.

Over the course of her career, she’s thought to have earned around $15.7 million from book sales, after tax.

She reflected last year: ‘I always wanted to write that great big novel. I realise now though that I don’t have it in me. It is so much easier to write about food.’

At last the nation’s favourite kitchen sexpot is living the life she wants on her own terms.