I’m not sure if it’s the resemblance that is frightening about this pic, or something else I can’t put my finger on
There’s a story doing the rounds of the London media about how, at Philip Green’s party on some exotic island recently, Gwyneth Paltrow was quietly jogging down the beach when she happened to run past Kate Moss, eating crisps and smoking fags on a sun lounger. “God, why are you running?” Kate is supposed to have asked sneerily, laughing with her Mean Girls gang of friends. “Because I don’t want to look like you,” Gwynnie allegedly replied. One version of the tale claims Kate then threw her crisps at her, another that they had to be kept separate for the rest of the party, but one fact is clear. Despite what you may imagine, our Gwyn has sass.
And for that reason, I love Gwyneth Paltrow. But it’s not an easy thing to do. For every time she’s seen jiggling her non-existent jelly with Jay-Z there’s a moment where she says “I first had a version of this [recipe] at a Japanese monastery during a silent retreat—don’t ask, it’s a long story.” For every far-better-than-the-show-itself cameo on Glee she’ll counter it by saying “One cold wintry day in London, I was dreaming about salad nicoise—one of my favourites.” And it’s hard to recall just how fun and bubbly she was on Graham Norton when, on another occasion she drones on about how, “during the strict macrobiotic chapter of my life, I ate miso soup every day for breakfast and sometimes with dinner as well.”
All three of the above examples are taken from her cookbook, Notes From My Kitchen Table, in which she opens her perfect life unselfconsciously for all of us to stare at. And stare we did – having gawped at Goop, her so-bad-it’s-incredible website, every newspaper rushed to serialise it, every fashion hound was suddenly spotted toting a bottle of agave syrup around town. No one cared whether the recipes were any good – they were written by a film star, and nothing else really mattered, right? With ingredients such as sautéed dandelions, and an entire section devoted to what to do with the wood burning pizza oven in your garden, this book was not for actually cooking from, but for gaining a greater insight into everyone’s favourite caped crusader.
Captain Gwynnie to the rescue - no more unhealthy suppers for us!
Until I decided to put her to the test, and serve up a Gwynnie Special for six last Friday night. Astonishingly, I managed to buy all the ingredients in Tesco – I avoided any recipes which sounded too outlandish – and could cook them all in my boyfriend’s kitchen – even though it doesn’t have its own pasta maker, or Oscar sitting above a sous vide machine.
Gwyn’s Ivy Chop Salad
And actually, everything was pretty straightforward. Because my boyfriend was still at work when I started the prep there was no one around to shout at, so instead I just calmly got on with it all. The Ivy Chopped Salad, which The Goopster name droppily says is “inspired by the famous vegetable grilled salad at the Ivy restaurant in Los Angeles,” was a summery mix of lime juice, lettuce, grilled courgettes, salmon and beetroot. “You can’t beat the beets,” one guest claimed, which was when I noticed the empty bottle of vodka which had been full when people had arrived just an hour before.
My version. I don’t know why the salmon looks like chicken, but it tasted ok
You see, my boyfriend loves to play host. He’s happiest when mixing up extra-strength martinis, or Cosmopolitans with double shots in them. As people got stuck into Will’s fourth, fifth, maybe even sixth round of drinks, we started to have the sort of fun that probably never happens in the Paltrow household, the sort which only follows twelvety glasses of my boyfriend’s special shock-tail. We began a photo shoot, copying the earnest shots of Gwyneth in the book as an homage to the great actress.
Note that her and I have the same olive oil. We’re Oily BFFs!
Yes, that’s little girl Gwyn second in from the left
Yes, that’s Elle Decoration’s Designer of the Year Lee Broom second in from the left
“Gwyneth is out of control,” claimed one guest, quite rightly, when we came across the shot of her throwing all her actress-y pretentions out the window and thoughtfully smelling some cherry tomatoes.
Unlike Gwynnie, I don’t grow my own basil
But back to the food, which in Gwynnie’s case no one ever really cares about – what we all want to know is why she fell out with Madonna, and what her and Beyonce actually talk about.
GP’s Duck ‘Cassoulet’
Her Duck ‘Cassoulet’ (inverted commas are all hers) was fine – the bean mixture was quite tasty but the duck could probably have been cooked a little longer, and the caramelised Brussel Sprouts, which she claims have converted many a “sprout cynic” were simple and surprisingly tasty.
My version. Slightly raw duck never hurt anyone, right?
Her Blueberry Pavlova, however, was superb. I’ve never made meringues before – my mother makes such a big deal about how much of a fiddle it is every year when she’s wheels out her Raspberry Pavolva at Christmas that’s I’ve always assumed it was impossible.
Her Blueberry Pavolva
Maybe my mum’s doing it wrong – or I’ve just proved where I get my skills at playing the martyr in the kitchen – but this recipe was such a doddle, and produced the lightest, fluffiest, most perfect meringues ever.
And mine. Despite drunken photography, deffo worthy of a Foodie Oscar
The next day, I woke up, still feeling drunk. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so mocking of Gwyn’s lifestyle diet after all.
Cost of ingredients (not including items already in store cupboard) £48.44
First course * * *
Main course * * *
Dessert * * * * *
Overall: 6/10 – minus a point for “A lecture from Leonardo DiCaprio (when he was nineteen and I was twenty-one) about how such animals are kept and processed, made me lose my desire for factory farm pork and beef right there.”
Notes From My Kitchen Table by Gwyneth Paltrow (Boxtree, £20) Original photography by Ellen Silverman, homage shots by Charles Rudgard and Polly Broderick