A Quick Bite With Sophie Dahl

A Quick Bite With Sophie Dahl

Way before Sophie Dahl was runway famous, I used to sometimes find her drinking tea at the kitchen table of my friend Cass’ Notting Hill home. I was intimidated by that insouciant cool that some girls just have. Plus, she was the wide-eyed Sophie from theBFG – the beloved book of all our childhoods.

Fast forward to her modelling days, and overnight, she became a sensation. From Richard Avedon to Tim Walker to Steven Meisel, she was photographed by all the greats and landed on the cover of Vogue six-times. The infamous Tom Ford for YSL Opium campaign, where Sophie appeared, stark naked and smooth as butter cream on larger-than-life billboards caused a scandal, and still remains one of the most talked about adverts of the last 50-years.

In 2003 Sophie launched her writing career with a beautifully illustrated novella, The Man with the Dancing Eyes. After this she bagan writing regularly for The Guardian,The TelegraphVogue and Bazaar.


photo by Mcvern Etiene

Today, Sophie is happily wed to singer, Jamie Cullum and is raising two little girls in the English countryside. In Delicious Miss Dahl, the cooking series she presented and wrote for the BBC, Sophie whips up peanut butter fudge and cardamom rice pudding while sharing stories of her childhood. With recipes like strawberry pancakes, cinnamon roast peaches and roasted acorn squash on the menu, dipping into her cookbooks is an utter delight. The photography is drool-worthy, with puddings appearing on gorgeous floral plates and set against vintage wallpapers and fabrics. Her freshly launched website At The Kitchen Table, is yet another portal into Sophie’s rich and wonderful world, with recipes, beauty and fashion advice.

SPC: Something you said in an article years ago really stuck with me; most teenage girls yo-yo from plump to skinny to plump to somewhere in between. “Had I not been modelling, that would have been a phase for the family photo album rather than the pages of Vogue.” How do you feel about your body today?
SD: I like my body. It’s borne two babies and lived a life. I’m in slight mourning for my seventeen-year-old breasts, but that’s about it, the rest I’m pretty happy with.

SPC: I spent this evening watching you whip up flapjacks, crumbles and a traditional Victoria sponge cake. Of course, it’s made me very nostalgic for England. What food did you miss most when you lived in NYC?
SD: Oh God, I missed nursery food – cauliflower cheese, Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup, Ambrosia rice pudding. There’s a place called Tea and Sympathy in New York, if I was particularly homesick (or hungover) I would order takeout – vegetarian shepherds pie covered in melted cheese and a bag of cola cubes and lie on the sofa watching Prime Suspect.

SPC: I’ve heard you say that it was your grandmother who taught you to bake. Do you make elaborate cakes for your children’s birthdays?
SD: Very bog standard, with haphazard Maltesers and Smarties thrown on them.


Peanut Butter Fudge from At The Kitchen

SPC: Are there any meals your mum used to make that you cook for your own family?
SD: My mum made fantastic Sunday roasts and I think I’ve very much carried that into family life, although because I don’t eat it, I’m not a brilliant red-meat-cooker. I tend to wildly overcook beef. I make good chicken and Yorkshire puddings.

SPC: Are there any food memories from childhood visits with your grandfather, Roald Dahl, at his home in Buckinghamshire that remain vivid?
SD: We shared a love of all things Cadbury’s. A red tupperware box filled with Dairy Milk and Flake and that ilk of no nonsense chocolate came out at the end of every meal. He also made delicious breakfasts – toast with bacon and marmalade – things like that.

SPC: What do family mealtimes look like in your house?
SD: Family mealtimes in my house are currently a great big laughing mess. It’s when I particularly long to have a dog, after realizing I have to get under the table and hoover for the sixty-fifth time. I always end up eating two dinners, the kids mangled fish fingers, followed by whatever we’re having later. I pretend it’s a starter.



Green Risotto with Broad Beans and Pecorino from At The Kitchen Table

SPC: What about your own diet? How do you maintain healthy, balanced eating habits while juggling children and career?
SD: In the early days of having babies I survived by eating a lot of carbs and sugar. You’re so tired, ALL the time. Now I sleep more, it’s easier, I exercise, I don’t pick between meals, I’m pretty healthy most of time, with occasional fierce chocolate interludes. I eat far too much cheese but I run, so I live in the probably vain hope that one counteracts the other.

SPC: Favourite midnight snack?
SD: Fried halloumi with avocado on toast. Yes, really.

SPC: Dream dinner guests?
SD: Beyonce and Jay Z. Jeanette Winterson.

SPC: Oddest thing you’ve ever eaten?
SD: School food circa 1983 was pretty odd. Powdered mashed potato and egg???

SPC: Marmite: yay or nay?
SD: Yes, yes, yes.

SPC: What three items are in your fridge?
SD: Creme Fraiche, parmesan and strong English mustard.

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