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My life in food: Sophie Ellis-Bextor and husband Richard Jones on their new cookbook and love of Mexican food

Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her bassist husband Richard Jones reveal their favourite family recipes, go-to restaurants in London and who they'd invite to their ultimate dinner party.

By Farida Zeynalova
Published 7 Jul 2022, 10:00 BST
Sophie and Richard's new cookbook is out now.

Sophie and Richard's new cookbook is out now.

Photograph by Issy Croker

Where did you get the idea for your cookbook, Love. Food. Family: Recipes from the Kitchen Disco?

Richard: We pitched the idea a few years ago. We’re both big foodies and love cooking — it’s a huge part of our family life. We put the idea out there and nobody was interested, and then we did Songs from the Kitchen Disco [a 2020 greatest hits compilation album] and suddenly people were in.
Sophie: It was when I did the last studio album, and I was cooking for the band every evening. And we just thought, yes! As Richard said, it’s such a big part of our lives.

What’s your favourite recipe from it?  

Sophie: There are a few. My brain immediately goes to our Mexican-inspired stuff. Everybody really enjoys those flavours. We also have spaghetti vongole — I think that’s one of our personal favourites.
Richard: We share a birthday week where we have a big fiesta-type meal. There’s a chapter in the book that has all the elements of that: different tacos, rainbow slaw, street corn, etc. A lot of the way we cook entails little elements that could either be a meal or spread out into big feasts. Also, we have five kids of different ages, and one’s vegetarian, so it’s about adapting things to suit each palette.

Describe an average day cooking for the family.     

Sophie: The majority of stuff for midweek suppers are things you can do from the fridge to the table pretty quickly. It’s a lovely thing to spend time prepping a meal, but that’s not a daily thing. Mexican food is one we do all the time, and there are a few pasta dishes that are family staples too.
Richard: Something we make quite regularly is maki, as well as other Japanese-influenced things. [To make maki], we boil some sushi rice and mix in seasoning. We make it with either avocado, cucumber or salmon. It’s interesting, because if I give the kids a bowl of rice with some fish on top, they won’t touch it. But if it’s rolled up in seaweed, they eat tonnes of it. For us, we’d make a chirashi bowl with rice and lots of different things — it’s really simple.

What are your favourite food memories from childhood?

Richard: My dad was a chef and trained at Café Royal in Piccadilly in the ’60s. He has these amazing stories of serving Tom Jones and The Beatles, and the Kray twins used to come in because they’d have boxing matches out the back. Some of his recipes are just brilliant. We put the Sir Roger Moore sirloin steak in the book because dad used to work on the barbecue grill and Roger Moore came in and ordered a rare sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce and chips. That’s exactly how I’d always make it.
Sophie: My mum is a great cook; the recipe she’s namechecked on is the spatchcock chicken with the bread sauce, but she’s definitely influenced the Bolognese, too. A lot of the Italian-inspired recipes she would’ve taught me because when I was a kid, we ate pasta at least two or three times a week.

Travel is a big part of your jobs — what global destination has really impressed you with its cuisine?

Sophie: Istanbul just popped in my head because I remember sitting out on a warm evening with a table laid out with lots of delicious things. We also had lots of really lovely things in Morocco.
Richard: I’d say Tokyo — just things like going to the fish market and getting fresh fish first thing in the morning. But really, Italian food is the one I could eat forever. There’s a beach bar we go to on holiday where they serve a bowl of penne with rucola, tomato sauce and broccoli on top. Everything about it is as close to perfect as it gets.  

The Italian-influenced recipes in the cookbook are inspired by Sophie's childhood, when she would eat pasta at least two or three times a week. 

Photograph by Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Where are your favourite places to eat in London?

Sophie: Lara Restaurant, which is a Turkish restaurant just across the way [in Chiswick]. It’s a family-run place and it’s been there since the ‘70s. Everything’s really good, especially the chicken shish.
Richard: Makoto is our local Japanese. It’s very authentically similar to places we’ve been to in Japan. It essentially just does sushi and not really anything else. There’s a Palestinian falafel place in Shepherd’s Bush Market that I’m quite addicted to. They have proper pickled radishes, which you don’t get in a lot of the other Turkish and Lebanese places I know.

What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?

Sophie: Tomatoes. I eat them like sweets. I love them roasted, chopped up as a salsa… every which way. Or a gherkin; I’m happy with a gherkin. I’ve been known to drink the vinegar, too.

Which places are on your culinary wishlist?

Sophie: I’d love to go to Vietnam. I’d also like to explore more of India because we’ve only been to Delhi and Jaipur. The flavours there were so alive.

Which famous people, dead or alive, would you invite to the ultimate Kitchen Disco dinner party?

Sophie: My go-to is always Julie Andrews. It’d be fun to have someone like David Bowie, too. And then this might add a bit more pressure, but Nigel Slater would be very welcome. I was given a copy of his book when I left home by my mum. I used to sit in bed and read his recipes; like they were literature. I just love the way he writes, and it really gave me confidence when I was cooking for myself all the time. And we definitely need someone funny in there. Tina Fey? I’d love to see her.
Richard: I’d have Professor Stephen Hawkins and I’d just listen to him. I’m a bit of a geek.

Sophie and Richard’s new cookbook, Love. Food. Family: Recipes from the Kitchen Disco (£20, Hamlyn), is out now.

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