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Traybakes and mixtapes: Sophie Ellis-Bextor shares her musical meals

© Press Association ImagesSophie and husband Richard Jones’ book includes play lists for all the family
Sophie and husband Richard Jones’ book includes play lists for all the family

She brought us joy during lockdown with her “kitchen discos”, performing tunes in sequinned outfits, often stepping over toys, children and wires in the process.

But it turns out Sophie Ellis-Bextor is also rather good at cooking in the kitchen, too.

Alongside her husband Richard Jones (bassist from pop band The Feeling), the pop star and mum of five has published her debut cook book Love. Food. Family: Recipes From The Kitchen Disco which, as the title suggests, is filled with wholesome family dinners.

It was an easy transition from music to menus for the couple who bonded over their shared love of food when they first met.

“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…” says Ellis-Bextor.

“She cooked me duck!” Jones interludes.

“Because he already ate fish, I thought maybe we can go to the surface of the water,” adds the 43-year-old singer, laughing.

The pair are fun company and our conversation is peppered with gentle teasing and laughter.

“We like cooking for each other but if that’s happening, Sophie doesn’t like me touching anything she’s cooking,” says Jones.

“No, that’s annoying,” Ellis-Bextor jibes.

“A bit like if we DJ together and she’s doing a mix and I reach over and tweak it slightly – she’s like, stop it,” Jones continues.

Still, being a good cook isn’t that different to being a good musician, insists Jones. “Putting in various elements, like the drums, bass, percussion and vocals when you’re building a song, a meal is very much the same kind of thing. You’re building around the palate from the bottom end and the bass notes to the top end, where the vocals are in the spice and acids and vinegars and lemon juice.”

Sophie and husband Richard Jones’ book includes play lists for all the family

They married in Italy in 2005 and became parents to Sonny, 18, Kit, 13, Ray, 10, Jessie, six, and three-year-old Mickey.

Their cookbook is a real reflection of how the family eat at home (think easy sausage traybake, chicken stir-fry, spag bol).

“I think the more mouths you’re feeding, the less of a cafe 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 off 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. “Richard’s much better at being like, ‘Tell me why you didn’t like it’, and, ‘How about if I did it like that?’ “We just try and get them to understand that it doesn’t always have to be in their top five meals of all time. Sometimes it’s going to be: ‘That did the job.’”

Some recipes from the book are hand-me-downs from family members (nanny Claire’s Yorkshire pudding and grandma Janet’s spatchcock chicken), and others are inspired by family holidays (pistachio baklava with honey and orange syrup, or borscht).

Jones calls trips away with five kids a logistical nightmare and says their holidays haven’t been without small disasters. “On our last trip, we realised when we landed that we’d left not one but two of the kids’ entire wardrobes at the airport,” Ellis-Bextor recalls.

“You have to learn to relax when the family gets bigger. You have to let go of being across everything, because it’s not really physically possible. My motto is ‘something will happen’ – so as long as everyone is happy and healthy is right there, it doesn’t matter.”

Mac and cheese with crunchy sage and breadcrumb topping

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t adore this – indulgent love on a plate,” write Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones in their new book, Love. Food. Family.

“If you’ve got a lot of mouths to feed at dinner time, you can’t go wrong with this hearty mac and cheese.”

Serves: 8

You’ll need

  • 150g salted butter
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 6tbsp plain flour
  • 1½ tbsp English mustard powder
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2L semi-skimmed milk
  • 600g dried 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 the oven to 200C (425F), Gas Mark 7. Put the butter and garlic in a large saucepan and melt over a medium heat, then add the flour and stir until incorporated. Add the mustard powder, paprika and bay leaves, reduce the heat and cook, stirring continuously, for five minutes.

Gradually pour in the milk, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Bring the sauce to the boil, then leave it over a low heat to simmer, making sure you stir it often.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to a rapid boil over a 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 the heat, give it a good stir and add two-thirds of the grated cheeses. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Tip the mixture into a 30 × 20cm baking dish, scatter over the breadcrumbs and place the sage leaves on top. Scatter over the remaining grated cheese and tear the mozzarella on top. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy on top.

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