With five children ranging in ages from three to 18 years old, Sophie Ellis-Bextor knows a thing or two about getting crowd-pleasing meals on the table.
Speaking recently to the Independent, the singer and her husband Richard Jones (of The Feeling), confessed that they did wonder how they were going to feed their ‘massive family’ every day as it grew.
Luckily, they both find cooking ‘relaxing and therapeutic’ according to Richard, but Sophie also revealed that her biggest tactic is not to cater to everyone’s individual demands.
‘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,’ she explained. ‘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.’
She added that: ‘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… 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 and that was tasty”.’
It helps that Sophie has instilled a passion for cooking in all of her kids from a young age – and both parents are keen on turning dinner time into play time.
‘If you’re cooking in front of them and talking about the food and showing them, you’re getting them interested in the alchemy of making stuff.
‘If there’s a little spark of passion there, just build on it. Even my three-year-old, I can’t start making something without him saying, “I’m going to help.” On Saturday I do pancakes, and obviously he’s not going to be super helpful but I give him his own little mixing bowl, his own flour, his own egg to crack, and [let him] have some fun.’
So what do they cook most nights? Fish finger sandwiches and homemade pizzas nights are popular choices, where the kids can help to roll out the dough and choose their own toppings.
Japanese-inspired maki rolls also make regular appearances at the dinner table. Richard said: ‘Our maki comes out looking really wonky and weird but the kids have lots of fun rolling up and it tastes the same.
‘Anything like that, where they can get a bowl out and play around, it becomes like playtime.’