Nigella Lawson recently spoke of her worries about whether she was good enough as a mother, saying: "One is always aware of what one isn't doing right."

Now it appears that any skills she may have as a parent were learned in spite of, rather than because of, the way she was treated by her own mother.

The 52-year-old television cook, who has two teenage children, has revealed that she was physically abused by her mother when she was a child.

A violent and depressed woman, Vanessa Salmon - who was married to Conservative politician Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor - would lash out when her children made too much noise, Lawson said.


She said she faced her mother's wrath because she "just didn't like me".

Lawson, who is married to 69-year-old art collector Charles Saatchi, was 25 when her mother died of liver cancer aged 48.

In the past she's spoken about how her mum inspired some of her signature dishes, including a "praised chicken", the smell and taste of which "says 'family' to me and my siblings, and brings our long-absent mother back to the kitchen and the table with us".

However, she has now revealed that her relationship with her mum was complicated and abusive.

"I never thought I could please her," said Lawson, one of four kids.

"She was funny but depressed and so sensitive to noise. The sound of a plastic bag being crinkled would send her deranged. She'd shout at all of us and say, 'I'm going to hit you till you cry', and so I never would cry. I still don't.

"It wasn't a calculated thing; it was hot-blooded hitting, a thrashing out of things. Once she had to stop hitting Dominic [Nigella's brother] as she hurt her hand.

"She just didn't like me; maybe because I came after Dominic the princeling and I was my father's girl she was jealous, I don't know.


"I would say I'm sorry for whatever it was, some mess, and she'd say, 'Why do you think being inconsiderate is an excuse?'

"It was like children of alcoholic parents who know right away when they've been drinking, we always would know in an instant if it was going to be bad."

Lawson, who studied at Oxford University and is estimated to have earned £15million from her cookery career, had a far closer relationship with her father, who divorced his wife in 1980. She said Lord Lawson was a relaxed parent, who would congratulate her on being a terror at school but well-behaved at home.

He also encouraged the teenage Lawson to have a drink of whisky with him as she studied for her A-levels because he did not like drinking alone, she said.

Lawson has faced plenty of personal tragedy in her life.

Her younger sister, Thomasina, died from breast cancer at 32, and her first husband, journalist John Diamond, died of throat cancer in 2001, aged 41. She had her two children with him, Cosima, now 18, and Bruno, 16.


Dismissing suggestions that she flirts on screen, she said her complicated childhood had led to her developing a relentless need to please people.