THINK of Sophie Ellis-Bextor and you’ll probably start humming the early 90s hit Murder On The Dancefloor, or remember the unadulterated joy she brought during lockdown with her ‘kitchen clubbing’ live on Instagram: performing tunes with sequined outfits in her family’s playroom, often walking around. about toys, children and cables.
But you may not know that your talents extend to the kitchen as well.
In fact, when she met her husband Richard Jones (bassist for pop band The Feeling), their mutual love of cooking was one of the things that bonded.
“We really court each other with food,” says Ellis-Bextor. His ability to cook a large piece of meat even convinced Jones to leave the pescatarian wagon at an early date in 2002 (“I kindly persuaded him to start eating meat…”). .
“She cooked me duck,” Jones interjects.
“Since I was already eating fish, I thought maybe we could go to the surface of the water,” the 43-year-old singer laughs.
For their first Valentine’s Day together, Jones made a lobster casserole. “We like to cook for each other, but if that happens, [Sophie] he doesn’t like me touching anything he’s cooking,” says Jones.
“No, that’s annoying,” jokes Ellis-Bextor.
“It’s a bit like we’re DJing together and she’s doing a mix and I’m going to stretch out and tweak it a little bit, she’s like, cut it out,” Jones continues.
Still, being a good cook isn’t that different from being a good musician, Jones insists. “Putting various elements, like drums, bass, percussion and vocals when you’re building a song, a meal is very similar, you’re building around the palate from the bottom end and the bass notes to the top end, where the voices are in the spices, the acids, the vinegars and the lemon juice”.
“Are you saying that my voice is like vinegar?” Ellis Jones interrupts, laughing.
“Like a fine wine,” Jones reasons with a smile.
Naturally, music is always playing in your kitchen. They’re definitely not yours, though: “That would be like having a mirror in front of you while you cook,” says Ellis-Bextor. But her debut cookbook – Love. Food. Family. – comes complete with playlists they love to cook with.
They married in Italy in 2005 and became parents soon after. They now have five: Sonny (18), Kit (13), Ray (10), Jessie, six, and Mickey, three, so there are plenty of mouths to feed.
“As everything evolved and we had more and more children, [cooking] it became part of our family, like how do we feed this massive family every day? says Jones, adding that “both find cooking relaxing and therapeutic.”
Large, generous and easy-to-prepare family feasts are the main theme of the cookbook.
“I think the more mouths you are feeding, the less coffee you can manage. I’m not cooking different things for different people,” says Ellis-Bextor. “We have a vegetarian one, so we always have to make that adjustment. Other than that, we have to make something that we think will eat as many people as possible.”
They have also had their share of picky eaters. “For us, a successful meal is when most people eat most of the food. It is quite unusual to have something that absolutely everyone eats. Kids can love something one week and decide the next day it’s not their thing anymore.
“You really have to let a lot of things roll off your shoulders, but when I cook for the kids, if they don’t enjoy what I’ve made, I take it like a little dagger to my heart,” she adds with a laugh. she laugh. “Richard is much better at saying, ‘Tell me why you didn’t like it,’ and, ‘How about I do it this way?’
“We’re just trying to make them understand that it doesn’t always have to be in their top five meals of all time. Sometimes it’s going to be, ‘That worked and it was delicious.’”
The cookbook is a true reflection of how the family eats at home (think easy tray-baked sausage, chicken stir-fry, spag bowl). Some recipes are heirlooms from family members (Nanny Claire’s Yorkshire pudding and Grandma Janet’s spatchcock chicken), and many are inspired by family vacations abroad (pistachio baklava with honey and orange syrup, or borscht).
Jones calls traveling with five kids “a logistical nightmare,” and the vacation hasn’t been without its little disasters. “On our last trip, when we landed, we realized we had left not one, but two of the kids’ entire wardrobes at the airport,” recalls Ellis-Bextor.
“You have to learn to relax when the family grows,” he adds. “You have to stop being on the other side of everything, because it’s not really physically possible. My motto is ‘something is going to happen’, so as long as the big headline of everything is happy and healthy it’s there, it doesn’t matter”.
The same is true in the kitchen, especially when five children are involved. The musical mom believes that a passion for cooking can be instilled from a young age: “If you’re cooking in front of them and talking about the food and showing it to them, you’re getting them interested in the alchemy of making things.
“If there’s a little spark of passion there, just build on it. Even my three-year-old son, I can’t start doing something without him saying, ‘I’m going to help.’ On Saturday I make pancakes, and obviously he’s not going to be much help, but I give him his own little mixing bowl, his own flour, his own egg to crack and [let him] Have some fun.”
Her cookbook has a section devoted to dishes kids love (and might even cook themselves): the best “you should be in bed” fish and tomato toastie sandwich. Homemade pizza nights are also a staple in her home. “Instead of pre-preparing them, it’s so easy to roll up the dough and get them involved, choosing your ingredients,” says Jones.
Kids also make their own Japanese-inspired maki rolls. “Our maki is really weird and weird looking, but the kids have a lot of fun rolling it up and it tastes just the same,” adds Jones. “Anything like that, where they can get a bowl out and play, it turns into game time.”
And the mess? That’s unavoidable, she says. “Sushi rice everywhere.”
Love. Food. Family: Recipes From The Kitchen Disco by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones is published by Hamlyn priced at £20. Food photography by Issy Croker. Here are three recipes for you to try at home…
Cod and Chorizo Stew from Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones
COD AND CHORIZO STEW (For 4 people)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 200 g cooking chorizo, chopped into small pieces
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
- 400 ml of red wine
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
- 2 cans of 400g of chopped tomato
- 1-2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
- 200g couscous
- 1 cube of vegetable broth
- 300 ml of boiling water
- 400g cod fillets
- 1–2 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- salt and black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo. Saute for a few minutes or until it begins to release a little of its oil, add the onion and garlic and fry for five more minutes.
Add the celery and peppers, along with the coriander and fennel seeds and fry for another five minutes. Pour in the wine and let it evaporate a bit, then add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and dried chili flakes and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring the kettle to a boil. Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Place the bouillon cube in a measuring jug and pour over the measured boiling water, then mix well. Pour 200 ml of the broth over the couscous and cover or place a lid on top. Let steam for five to eight minutes.
Pour the remaining broth into the tomato saucepan and bring to a boil. Carefully place the cod fillets into the sauce so they are mostly covered, then cover the pan and simmer for five minutes.
Fluff the couscous with a fork. When the fish is delicious and flaky, serve the stew with a sprinkle of parsley leaves, with lemon wedges and some fluffy couscous on the side.
Tiramisu at the wedding of Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones
WEDDING TIRAMISU (8 servings)
- 2 free-range eggs, separated
- 100g powdered sugar
- 450g mascarpone cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 150ml double cream
- A splash of fresh lemon juice
- 300 ml of freshly brewed coffee (lukewarm, not hot)
- 100 ml of dessert wine
- 200 g biscuits or Savoiardi biscuits
- 50g hazelnut chocolate, finely grated
- cocoa nibs (optional)
Separate the egg whites and yolks into two large mixing bowls.
Add half the sugar to the egg yolks and beat until smooth and slightly paler in color. Add the mascarpone and vanilla paste and beat until smooth. Pour in the cream and continue beating until fully incorporated.
Squeeze some lemon juice into the egg whites and beat until soft peaks form. You can do it by hand or use an electric mixer. Add the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture and mix until well incorporated.
Pour the lukewarm coffee into a deep plate along with the dessert wine and remaining sugar. Place two tablespoons of the mascarpone mixture in a 25 × 15 cm plate and turn it over to cover the base of the plate.
Soak a few biscuits in the coffee mixture for 10 seconds, or until slightly soft but not crumbly. Place your soaked fingers on top of the mascarpone layer and continue this soaking and layering process, until all ingredients are used up, ending with a layer of the mascarpone mixture.
Cover with the grated hazelnut chocolate and cocoa nibs to finish. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. You can also make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge overnight.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones Macaroni and Cheese
MAC AND CHEESE WITH CRUNCHY SAGE CRUMBLE TOPPING (8 servings)
- 150g salted butter
- 5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 6 tablespoons of plain flour
- 11?2 tablespoons English mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 6 bay leaves
- 2L semi-skimmed milk
- 600g dry macaroni
- 300g cheddar cheese, grated
- 100g Parmesan cheese, grated
- 200g panko breadcrumbs
- 15 sage leaves
- 150g ball of mozzarella
- olive oil, for drizzling
- salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F (200°C), Gas Mark 7. Place the butter and garlic in a large saucepan and melt over medium heat, then add the flour and stir until incorporated. Add the mustard powder, paprika and bay leaves, reduce heat and cook, stirring continuously, for five minutes.
Gradually pour in the milk, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Bring the sauce to a boil, then bring it to a simmer to simmer, making sure to stir frequently.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for six minutes.
Remove the bay leaves from the sauce, then drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Remove from heat, stir well, and add two-thirds of the grated cheeses. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the mixture into a 30 × 20 cm baking dish, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and place the sage leaves on top. Spread the remaining grated cheese on top and tear the mozzarella on top. Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on top.