Sophie Ellis-Bextor: From lockdown kitchen discos to a family cookbook

Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones talk to Lauren Taylor about cooking for a clan of seven.

Think Sophie Ellis-Bextor and you probably start humming early-Noughties hit Murder On The Dancefloor, or her lockdown ‘kitchen discos’ on Instagram – performing tunes in sequinned outfits in her family playroom, often stepping over toys, children and wires.

But you may not know that her talents extend to the kitchen too.

In fact, when she first met her husband Richard Jones (bassist from pop band The Feeling who pay Malton Meadowfest on July 30), a mutual love of cooking was one of things they bonded over.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones cook for a clan of seven. Photo: Issy Croker/PA.

“We wooed each other with food really,” says Ellis-Bextor – her ability to cook a great piece of meat even coaxed Jones off the pescatarian wagon on an early date in 2002 (“I gently persuaded him to start eating meat…”).

“She cooked me duck!” Jones interludes.

“Because he already ate fish, I thought maybe we can go to the surface of the water,” says the 43-year-old singer, laughing. For their first Valentine’s Day together, Jones rustled up a lobster casserole. “We like cooking for each other but if that’s happening, [Sophie] doesn’t like me touching anything she’s cooking,” says Jones.

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Naturally, music is always playing in their kitchen. Definitely not their own though: “That would be like having a mirror opposite you as you cook,” says Ellis-Bextor. But their debut cookbook – Love. Food. Family. – comes complete with playlists they love to cook to.

They got married in Italy in 2005 and became parents shortly after. Now they have five – Sonny, 18, Kit, 13, Ray, 10, Jessie, six, and three-year-old Mickey – so there are many mouths to feed.

“As everything evolved and we had more and more kids, [cooking] sort of became part of our family, like how do we feed this massive family every day?” Jones says, adding that they “both find cooking relaxing and therapeutic”.

Big, generous, easy-to-make family fasts are the running theme the cookbook.

“I think the more mouths you’re feeding, the less of a café you can run – I’m not cooking different things for different people,” says Ellis-Bextor. “We have one vegetarian, so we always have to make that tweak. Outside of that, we have to do something we think as many people as possible will eat.”

They’ve had their share of fussy-eaters too. “For us, a successful meal is when most people eat most of the food. It’s quite unusual to have something that absolutely everybody eats. Children can love something one week and then the next day decide it’s not their thing anymore.

“You just have to let a lot roll of your shoulders really, but when I cook for the kids, if they don’t enjoy what I’ve made, I take it like a little dagger in my heart,” she adds with a laugh.

The cookbook is a real reflection of how the family eat at home (think easy sausage traybake, chicken stir-fry, spag bol). Some recipes are hand-me-downs from family members (Nanny Claire’s Yorkshire pudding and Grandma Janet’s spatchcock chicken), and many are inspired by family holidays abroad (pistachio baklava with honey and orange syrup, or borscht).

Love. Food. Family: Recipes From The Kitchen Disco by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones is published by Hamlyn, £20. Food photography by Issy Croker.

For information on Malton Meadowfest go to www.visitmalton.com/meadowfest