The Table Manners cookbook – courtesy of singer Jessie Ware and her mum Lennie – is here. ELLA WALKER catches up with Lennie to find out more
Forget Michelin-starred restaurants, if you like food, dinner at home with singer Jessie Ware and her mum Lennie might just be the most covetable invite going.
The mother-daughter duo launched their wildly successful podcast, Table Manners, back in 2017. They swiftly combined their inherent nosiness, brilliant garrulousness and spectacular appetite for food and feeding people with roping in Jessie’s suitably famous friends.
Three years on, those unlikely to get corralled into Lennie’s kitchen to be battered with chat, enthusiasm and platters of grub, can now recreate some of the dishes we’ve listened to everyone from chef Yotam Ottolenghi and pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, to London mayor Sadiq Khan, tuck into.
You’d think Lennie, a counsellor and social worker, who was initially brought in to just act as host and chef – Jessie would handle the interviews – might find cooking for such big names at least a little intimidating. But no. ”It’s not so hard to cook for the stars, because people love to have a home-cooked meal,” she explains. “It’s quite rare with our guests’ diaries that they would get a home cooked meal, as they’re either eating out at restaurants or hotels.
“I think it’s definitely harder to cook for chefs, that makes me incredibly nervous sometimes.”
And they’ve entertained some of the best – including Nigella Lawson. “For Nigella we talked about the menu for months!” says Lennie. “We made her a rack of lamb with pistachio and mint crust, along with coco beans and rainbow chard. For pudding we did her a blackberry custard tart – which was divine.”
The food itself spans the recipes they’ve whipped up for their celebrity guests, firm Ware family favourites (like chopped liver, monkfish and rosemary skewers, raspberry trifle) and summery dishes the Wares have collected on holidays to their beloved Skopelos in Greece (griddled peaches, bouyiourdi eggs, spanakopita).
Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
75ml whole milk
500g minced turkey thighs
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten
40g pecorino or Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus extra to serve
2tsp finely chopped fresh oregano, or 1tsp dried oregano
About 1/4 nutmeg, freshly grated
1tsp fine salt
freshly ground black pepper
For the tomato sauce:
2tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
1tsp paprika (mild or hot)
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 large handful of basil leaves
1/2-1tsp caster sugar (optional)
Salt and pepper
First, make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a large saute pan or shallow casserole over a medium heat. Add the onion and a good pinch of salt and gently fry for five to 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for two minutes, then stir in the tomato puree and paprika and cook for another two minutes.
Tip in the tomatoes and chopped basil, then gently simmer for 20 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and a little sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes if needed.
Meanwhile, make the meatballs. Place the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and pour over the milk. Add the turkey, garlic, lemon zest, egg, cheese, oregano, nutmeg, salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Using your hands, gently combine, taking care not to overmix. With wet hands, gently shape the mixture into about 20 small-medium meatballs (about the size of golf balls).
Gently drop the meatballs into the simmering sauce, cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes, turning them after about 10 minutes and giving the pan a shake from time to time.
Remove the lid and simmer for another five minutes. Serve the meatballs with the basil leaves and a grating of pecorino or Parmesan.
Lamb with Pistachio Herb Crust
2 racks of lamb, French trimmed (fat removed and bones cleaned – ask your butcher to do this)
1tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
150g shelled pistachios
30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
30g fresh mint, leaves only
Grated zest of 1 lemon
75g crustless bread, a day or two old
2tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
Season the lamb. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the olive oil and brown the lamb for two to three minutes on all sides.
Whizz the garlic, pistachios, herbs, lemon zest and bread in a food processor until finely chopped.
Spread a tablespoon of mustard over each rack of lamb and coat in the herb mixture, pressing gently so that it sticks.
Roast for 15-20 minutes: 15 minutes will be very pink. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
Table Manners: The Cookbook by Jessie and Lennie Ware is available now