Let’s talk table manners

in Food and Drink · 20-03-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

The Table Manners cookbook - courtesy of singer Jessie Ware and her mum Lennie - is here.

Forget Michelin-starred restaurants and the latest, hottest street-food pop-up. 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, including Sam Smith, Annie Mac and Loyle Carner.

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.

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 blueprint for Table Manners is the Ware family's Jewish Friday-night dinners, evenings where Jessie would bring too many friends home and Lennie would happily over-cater, with the uproarious lot of them over-sharing, over-eating, and having a grand old time.

"We don't do them so much now, but the Friday-night dinners were pretty much as they are on the podcast; maybe sometimes more people and more raucous," remembers Lennie. "Usually more alcohol and definitely singing at the end. However, when we had Yannis [Philippakis] from Foals round, that was very similar as we did drink a lot - we didn't sing, but we almost did! Also, when [American band] Haim came, we sung a LOT!"

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).

"The Matzo ball soup is really important to me, as it's taken me so long to get them right," says Lennie with pride. "Jamie Oliver said my Matzo balls were the best he's ever tasted in the world!"

The Gefilte fish, is also particular meaningful for her. "It's something my mum used to make for me, and I rarely make now. Making that again for the cookbook was really lovely, and everyone loved the smell of it when it was cooking. It reminded me of my mum."

And that's what it's all about - memories, family, and huge amounts of food. Cooking, says Lennie, "doesn't have to be complicated. It's to be enjoyed and to share."

Chicken soup and matzo balls


(Serves 6 - makes about 2L)

For the soup:

2kg chicken thighs and legs

5 large onions, skins left on, halved, cutting off the rooty bit

8 carrots, sliced about

2-3cm thick

4 celery sticks, with leaves, halved

1 leek, halved

1/2 swede

2tbsp Telma Chicken Soup Mix (available from kosher shops or online), or 2 good quality chicken stock cubes

1tsp whole black peppercorns

1tsp salt

For the matzo balls:

(Makes about 15)

100g medium matzo meal

1tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Pinch of white pepper

3 large eggs, beaten

1tbsp rapeseed oil

4tbsp hot chicken soup (see above) or boiling water


1. Make the soup: Put the chicken and all the vegetables in a stockpot or very large pan (about four litres capacity) with enough cold water to cover everything by about 5cm (about three litres) and bring to the boil. When boiling, skim off all the frothy scum until there is none left. Add the soup mix or stock cubes, the peppercorns and salt, bring back to the boil and then reduce

the heat and gently simmer for two to three hours.

2. Season the soup to taste, then leave to cool. Pour the soup through a colander into a large bowl. Carefully retrieve the carrots from the colander and add back to the soup. Give everything else a good squeeze to release the juices. Some people put a little of the chicken into the soup, but I'm not sure it has much taste after being boiled for so long - and you will make your cat/dog very happy if you give them the bone-free chicken meat.

3. Put the clear soup and carrots into the fridge for at least two hours or overnight. When it's well chilled the fat will rise to the top and you can easily skim it off.

4. Make the matzo balls: Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, gradually stir in the eggs and oil and then gradually add the four tablespoons of hot chicken soup, mixing until smooth. Cover the bowl and chill for 30 minutes - it will firm up slightly.

5. Line a tray with baking parchment. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.

6. Wet your fingers and take small pieces of the mixture to make soft balls, about 2cm in diameter, placing them on the lined tray until you have used up all the mixture.

7. Drop the balls into the boiling water, turn down the heat and gently simmer for about 20-25 minutes until they are soft. They should swell up slightly, rise to the surface and look like little clouds. Lift out using a slotted spoon.

8. To serve, bring the soup to the boil over a medium heat and add your cooked matzo balls just before serving.

Turkey meatballs in tomato sauce


(Serves 4-6)

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


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 - roughly 40g each and 5cm in diameter).

4. 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.

5. 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


(Serves 4)

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


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

2. 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.

3. Whizz the garlic, pistachios, herbs, lemon zest and bread in a food processor until finely chopped.

4. Spread a tablespoon of mustard over each rack of lamb and coat in the herb mixture, pressing gently so that it sticks.

5. 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.

6. If serving with tinned haricot beans, drain the beans and tip into a pan, adding a crushed garlic clove, a knob of butter, some chopped fresh parsley and half a chicken stock cube. Cook over a very low heat for about 20 minutes.

Table Manners: The Cookbook by Jessie and Lennie Ware, photography by Ola O Smit, is published by Ebury Press.


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