Table Manners by Jessie and Lennie Ware

Cover of Table Manners by Jessie Ware and Lennie Ware

What’s the USP? The hosts of the hugely popular Table Manners podcast bring together popular recipes from the series, alongside homespun family favourites and a smattering of traditional Jewish dishes.

Who are the authors? Jessie Ware is a critically-acclaimed pop star with four albums under her belt. Lennie is her mum – a joyful presence on the podcast, where the duo have celebrity guests over to dinner in their South London home. The podcast has had a regular presence on the charts since launching with guest Sam Smith in November 2017. Since then, they’ve hosted around ninety episodes, featuring pop stars, actors, politicians and plenty of famous food writers.

The show makes the most of Jessie and Lennie’s irresistible chemistry – the loving bickering between parent and child, their mutual reverence for home-cooked meals, and the occasional awkwardness that comes from having frank, relaxed conversations whilst your mother is present (a recent episode saw Aisling Bea explaining the difference between ‘doggy style’ and ‘dogging’ to an endearingly curious Lennie).

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s not quite enough here to call the Table Manners cookbook bedtime reading. There’s a relatively lengthy intro by Jessie (which has that distinctive writing style usually seen in celebrity biographies – easy to read, but informal and a little… ghostly) and a significantly briefer intro by Lennie (which is exactly as straight-forward and dryly sentimental as your own Mum’s occasional Whatsapp messages).

Beyond that, there are short chapter introductions from the duo, as well as brief descriptions ahead of each recipe, which Jessie and Lennie take turns to do. There’s no real depth or insight in most of these – at least, nothing that fans of the podcast won’t already have heard plenty of.  Curiously, then, for a celebrity cookbook, Table Manners real draw is the recipes themselves. Now that’s a pleasant surprise.

Why’s that, then? Because – and there’s a little generalising here, but bear with us – celebrity cookbooks are generally a bit crap. For the most part, they’re built around the cult of the celebrity themselves and, with so many celebrities living intensely regimented existences, the recipes tend to be basic, uninspiring and intensely worthy.

Pop star cookbooks in particular tend to be soulless collections of healthy bean stews and endless salads or, in the case of the curious sub-genre of cookbooks by rappers, big portions of American stodge. It’s rare to find a book that is filled with genuinely tempting recipes, foodie knowledge, and a true representation of the author’s personal food culture.

There have been, of course, a couple of exceptions to the rule. Action Bronson’s Fuck, That’s Delicious has been widely lauded, and Kelis (who happens to be Cordon Bleu trained) has, in My Life on a Plate, created a book that genuinely deserves a place on any bookshelf. But titles like these are few and far apart. That Table Manners might well deserve a spot alongside them is a decent feat.

What will I love? Though the two authors don’t really show their personalities off in their writing, they absolutely shine through their dishes. On the podcast, Lennie’s cooking, in particular, often sounds absolutely irresistible and it’s nice to see that come across here as well.

In keeping with the show’s premise you’d be proud to serve any of these dishes at a dinner party. Despite Lennie’s frequent hesitancy towards vegan cooking on the podcast, there are plenty of options for vegans and veggies alike throughout the book.

The highlight of the entire collection is a chapter dedicated to the Jewish dishes that have played a big part of family life over the years. Lennie’s chicken soup has found a cult following of its own since Table Manners started three years ago, and it’s showcased here alongside brisket, gefilte fish and the most alluring chopped liver I’ve ever seen.

What won’t I love? There’s not much to call this book out on. The crisp, bright design does have a distinct air of a ‘clean-living’ cookbook, but there’s no proselytizing here – in fact, though many of the recipes might fit the mould, you’d likely not even think about it if the design didn’t so frequently echo that of an Amelia Freer or a Hemsley title.

Should I buy it? Table Manners is a lovely collection of recipes – bright, delicious dishes that capture the heart and soul of the podcast and its stars. The excellent selection of Jewish recipes will offer many readers insight into a cuisine they might not have explored before. It isn’t a vital addition to any shelf – but it still has plenty to offer.

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Brighton-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas.

Cuisine: European/Jewish
Suitable for: Beginners and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Table Manners: The Cookbook
£22, Ebury Press

Cook from this book
Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
‘Triple Threat’ Chocolate Brownies
Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup by Jessie and Lennie Ware

135_Chicken_Soup_Matzo_Balls

Every Jewish family thinks their mother’s chicken soup is the best. In emergencies, I have been known to send my soup across London in a taxi, because this ‘Jewish penicillin’ most definitely has healing qualities. Reminiscent of Friday nights spent with family when I was a girl, the fragrance of the simmering soup is delicious. Chicken soup is synonymous with every Jewish household, and is one of the things that makes me most proud to be Jewish.

Serve with matzo crackers and challah bread.

Serves 6 (makes about 2 litres)

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
½ swede
2 tbsp Telma Chicken Soup Mix (available from a kosher shop or online), or 2 good quality chicken stock cubes
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
Matzo Balls (see below), to serve

Put the chicken and all the vegetables in a stockpot or very large pan (about 4 litres capacity) with enough cold water to cover everything by about 5cm (about 3 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 2–3 hours. 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.

Put the clear soup and carrots into the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. When it’s well chilled the fat will rise to the top and you can easily skim it off. To serve, bring the soup to the boil over a medium heat and add your cooked matzo balls just before serving.

Tip The soup may not be completely clear (and it doesn’t really matter), but if you want to make it as clear as a consommé then you can either put it all through a tea strainer (as I did when Jay Rayner was our guest) or you can use one or two egg shells from the matzo balls and put them in the soup as you bring it back to the boil – fish out the egg shells before you put the matzo balls in.

Matzo Balls

In the words of Marilyn Monroe: ‘Isn’t there any other part of the matzo you can eat?’ It has taken me ages to achieve light fluffy matzo balls, but I think after 40-odd years of making them I have finally managed it. Of course, you can cheat and use the ready-made packets, which are sometimes sold under the name ‘kneidl’. Matzo balls are very divisive: some prefer them fluffy like clouds, some prefer them dense like bullets. Some have them in the soup, others save them till after. But if you start by saying ‘I’ll only have one’ you will always submit to the second. Delicious and crucial to Chicken Soup.

Makes about 15 balls

100g medium matzo meal
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 tbsp hot Chicken Soup or boiling water

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, gradually stir in the eggs and oil and then gradually add the chicken soup, mixing until smooth. Cover the bowl and chill for 30 minutes – it will firm up slightly.

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

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.

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 and serve them in chicken soup.

Cook more from this book
Turkey meatballs in Tomato Sauce
‘Triple threat’ chocolate brownies

Read the Review

Buy this book
Table Manners: The Cookbook
£22, Ebury Press