Tag Archives: Cook

Gwyneth Paltrow: Notes From My Kitchen Table

Instead of endless insights into the author’s tedious dilemmas, some blogs provide useful information, such as recipes. I haven’t offered any recipes up here, largely because I’m a shit cook. And I’d only be lifting them from Jamie or Nigella’s websites anyway, which frankly you can do yourselves.

But recently I’ve been trying to address the whole being-a-crap-cook thing, because, like every other guilt-ridden mother, I feel bad stuffing Emilio’s face with fish fingers and baked beans and want to give him sepia-tinted memories of home-baked cookies and Sunday-morning pancakes.

So I’ve been buying cookbooks and following the recipes with my finger, like a remedial seven-year-old. But recently it struck me that the books I’ve been buying are not by professional chefs, but pretty celebrities. I’ve got Gwyneth Paltrow’s, Sophie Dahl’s and the other day nearly bought Fay Ripley’s (OK, not quite in their league looks-wise, but still attractive, and not best known as a cook.)

The Gwyneth Paltrow one I’m really into, actually. People give her stick about her aspirational and slightly wanky website, Goop, but I like that, too (except for the boring cod-spirituality section). When we moved to LA I tried all her restaurant recommendations in the low-to-mid price bracket and there was only one dud. So I knew I’d like her cookbook because we have a fairly similar approach to food: She is neurotic about white sugar and industrially produced meat; I am neurotic about white sugar and industrially produced meat. She has kids; I have a kid. I mean, it’s like we’re the same person.

I’ve now made her banana-walnut muffins and basic tomato sauce (I told you I was a shit cook) several times, and can confirm they were a hit. Her turkey ragu, chicken Milanese and take on crumble also worked for me.

In general the book isn’t as mental and health-obsessed as you might expect – there are recipes for French toast and fudgy chocolate brownies, along with a lengthy burger section – but let’s just say it helps if you’re the type inclined to spelt flour and agave nectar. If you’ve ever found yourself trawling the ‘free from’ section of the supermarket, this one’s for you.

Anyway, yesterday I saw it knocked down to £8 (from £20) in House of Books on Moorgate, which I think is a bit of a bargain. I suspect it’s floundering about in loads of discount shops, because people think that she’s a bit of a tosser and they’re better off buying recipe books written by, y’know, trained chefs. More fool them, I say! But seriously, her food is pretty good.


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Filed under House and home, Kids, parenting... Non-mums may want to move along, Yum... Food

Jobs to do in another life

On Saturday I was visiting my Mum in Lewes and popped into Cook to pick up that night’s dinner. If you haven’t come across Cook, it’s a small chain selling frozen ready meals using the same ingredients and techniques you would at home, so everything looks and tastes homemade. Prices are around £3.85 a portion, making it cheaper than buying the ingredients and creating the dish yourself. They’re a complete godsend if you’re ill, a new mother or, like me, too bone-idle to cook.

They also do a party range, where you can buy dishes such as large sides of salmon, honey-glazed gammon with cloves, or puy lentil and aduki bean salad. The salads cost £15.95 for what they say is 16-20 portions (so I will call 15). But even so, that’s a little over £1 a portion, which has got to be worth paying if it saves you standing over the hob cooking lentils for 20. Oh, and the dishes taste great. The chocolate mousses are so good my babysitter pigged both of them.

So, as you can tell, I’m sold on Cook. I was telling the man in the Lewes shop this and he in turn told me that he used to work in the City but, seeking a change of lifestyle, bought the franchise on the shop. It was the best thing he ever did, he said. Obviously the first question I wanted to ask was, how much money do you make? But there seem to be rules against asking that sort of thing, so I dressed it up, saying, “I don’t know anything about franchises, do they give you a good deal?”

He immediately guessed what I was getting at and said, “Oh yes. We far exceeded expectations in the first year, and we’re doing so well we’ve bought the franchise on a shop in Hove.” I then whinged about the fact that all their London shops are South West (they’re all in places like Clapham, West Dulwich and Barnes) and he was very encouraging, suggesting that I tell my friends to buy their own franchises and open branches across the rest of London.

I came away thinking that, since the product is so good and well-priced, it would surely be a guaranteed money-spinner. Admittedly Shoreditch isn’t the right location, and the rents in Islington or the City would probably cancel out any profit, but in somewhere like Queen’s Park or West Hampstead they would be all over this. I would be, anyway.


Filed under Yum... Food