“More of us are cooking or eating solo – it’s time to break free from the stigma of dining alone,” says Clare Finney in The Observer. Whether it’s a dinner you’ve lovingly prepared or the “snatched illicit pleasure” of fast food, eating alone means you can be more assertive in your choices and enjoy your food more.
Nigella Lawson is a fan, and has been known to consume whole tins of caviar during her solitary feasts. In her most recent book, Cook, Eat, Repeat, the celebrity chef says: “You’re cooking to please yourself, no one else, and you neither have to second-guess your guests’ tastes nor apologise for your own.”
The world’s crispiest potatoes
Poppy O’Toole is TikTok’s “queen of potatoes”, says Ella Walker in The Independent. The 27-year-old chef, who trained at Michelin-starred restaurants, gained 1.8m followers during the pandemic and has just published her debut cookbook, Poppy Cooks: The Food You Need. She shares simple recipes such as roast chicken, aubergine parmigiana and her signature 15-hour potato. Her favourite kitchen hack is putting garlic cloves in a jar and shaking them vigorously for a minute so the skins slide off. She says: “You can make food that’s a bit grubby round the sides, who cares?” Her one plea: “Please put the butter in, please.”
A feast for the ears
The seed for Ruth Rogers’s new podcast was planted when Ian McKellen read Proust, Shakespeare and a recipe from one of her cookbooks at a charity event – and “brought the house down”. In River Café Table 4, a celebrity reads out a favourite River Café recipe each week. Sitting at the most coveted table in her destination restaurant, Rogers draws out stories from her regulars and friends – “an overlapping category” – including Al Gore, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Adjaye, Emily Blunt and Glenn Close.
“The way to an A-lister’s heart is clearly lubricated with bright green River Café Extra Virgin Olive Oil, since everyone seems to have said yes,” says Richard Godwin in The Times. Paul McCartney discusses hitchhiking to Paris, where he tried wine for the first time, and hiding hemp crops from teenagers on his farm. Michael Caine’s ultimate comfort food used to be bangers and mash, but is now caviar. “If you ask Wes Anderson ‘What do you eat on set?’, or ask Ralph Fiennes if he eats before or after the matinee, then it becomes about so much more than food,” says Rogers. “It’s about memory, politics, family, career.”
Ingredient of the week: pumpkin
The Americans are obsessed with packing pumpkin into “just about anything edible come October”, says Rachel Phipps in her Substack newsletter, Ingredient. Now the British are catching on. I don’t object to canned pumpkin purée, but you might as well make your own if you’re carving pumpkins for Halloween. You can freeze bags of it to use in dreamy autumnal recipes such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin pasties or “pumpkin gnocchi with nutmeg, garlic and sage butter”. I love this recipe for homemade pumpkin purée.