Tag Archives: Sophie Dahl

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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Food that should be disgusting but isn’t

This weekend I went to a kids’ party where the adults were served, among other things, a watermelon, feta, mint and black olive salad. It sounds odd but was actually delicious, the kind of thing that shouts summer.

I just Googled it and found a million variations on the recipe, so clearly this is something the world has been enjoying without me. What I like about it is that there is no actual cooking involved, merely the assembling of four ingredients. This makes it as easy as a lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad, the difference being that if you serve this people will think you are a clever and imaginative hostess, rather than lazy and cheapskate.

But if, like me, you’re so insecure in the kitchen you need a recipe for porridge – although seriously, if you do, this one is great – I will point you in the direction of Diana Henry’s recipe, because she is brilliant and her book Cook Simple: Effortless Cooking Every Day would be my bible, were I a dedicated enough cook to have such a thing.

The real reason watermelon salad feels like a treat is that people don’t actually buy watermelon very often. This is because they see it in the supermarket marked £2 or whatever and think, ‘Ooh, that’s not a bad deal,’ forgetting that the marked price is per kilo and that the melon in fact weighs the same as a small child. You only need to get caught by that little sting once before you start sticking to oranges.

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