In this month’s edition of ‘Getting together with…’ we’re catching up with interior designer, cook, mother and the face behind the award-winning Sophie Conran for Portmeirion collection, Sophie Conran.
Join us as we chat to Sophie about life in the Conran household, her passions, childhood memories and how her love of food has rubbed off on her children.
Hi Sophie – We’d love to know a little bit more about you! What was it like growing up in the Conran family?
I grew up mostly in the countryside in Berkshire in a big house with a river in front of it, walled gardens, woods and greenhouses. I was very lucky to be surrounded by many places to play and explore.
My Mother is a cookery writer and my Father is a homewares designer, which may explain where I get my passion from. Our family home was a former school that was renovated throughout the time we were growing up.
A lot of people would come and go from my parents work worlds – so high-fliers in art, design and food. There were always exciting things happening. The house was a focal point, and it was lovely to be a part of that. It was fascinating and very educational.
I now live near Hyde Park in Bayswater, just half an hour away from where I grew up.
You’ve accomplished so much over your career, can you tell us what a typical day is like for you?
I tend to start my morning with a cup of coffee, chatting with my husband, meditating and having a bath and then catching up on emails before doing a bit of exercise. I usually do some prancing around to classical music and then I drive to work. My company run my online shop, sophieconran.com, so most of my day orientates around that. I have a series of meetings about product development, business structure, financials etc. Then I might head off to Oxford to work at the Pit Rivers Museum (which is a treasure trove of half a million oddities) or I might spend some time at home cooking and writing recipes. You might also find me in my flower bed or setting the table! I spend quite a lot of time tidying cupboards. All in all, I have a very nice, very varied day. In the evenings it is usually dinner with friends or with my husband and kids.
Speaking of family, what meal do you associate with your childhood?
It has to be a springtime meal, basically consisting of everything from the garden. Miniature carrots, tiny beans, doll-sized potatoes, a huge array of artichokes and other fresh vegetables from the garden which we would have helped pick and clean. That, with a large piece of baked cod, served with strong garlicky aioli mayonnaise.
As a mum, how has having children changed your dining habits/routine as a family?
The kids and I would cook together and so it became an adventure and a conversation. They are in their 20s now and they are both incredible cooks. They have continued to explore what they can do with food which is a joy to see.
Although I have hundreds of recipe books that I always look at, and I am fortunate enough to eat in amazing restaurants all over the world, I never follow recipes. It is an instinct, like walking, and it is very creative. It depends on the phase of the moon, so what I do is different every time.
The kids are interested, so it has been great exploring that with them. Now they cook for me, which is even better! They often phone me and say they have a specific ingredient or a vegetable and ask me what I think would be nice to do with it.
What’s your favourite thing to cook for your loved ones?
I love baking banoffee pie. It is easy, and it is a fluffy cloud of loveliness. It is perfect for a large group to share. I like to do big lunches with lots of salads too.
I love cooking for friends and family, really with whatever I have in stock!
We know friends and family are high on your agenda, so what is your idea of a perfect get together?
It has to be in the garden in the countryside. We set up a little table and make it like a bar, and then we put out lots of blankets and cushions and newspapers around and everyone gathers and sits. Then we set up a big table – usually covered with lots of blues and whites – with lots and lots of plates. Everybody helps, and it is very relaxed. My husband puts some nice music on.
Who would you pick as your top celebrity dinner guest?
Without a doubt, Richard E Grant and his wife. They are always so enthusiastic, and they love getting dressed up, as do we! They bring a sparkle to any event, which is always lovely.
What is your go-to recipe when hosting a get-together?
Based on the childhood memory, I would roast a chicken (or a few chickens), let them go cold then carve them up. I would make a tarragon mayo, lots of fresh salads, fried chickpeas etc and various sauces. It is light and fresh, and everyone helps themselves, like a picnic, there is something for everyone.
And finally, what is your top tip for hosting a successful get together?
Planning! Getting other people involved and dividing up responsibilities. I have the best husband who is extremely helpful, so it is always a team effort and the pressure doesn’t fall on one individual person. I would always advise that you stay within your comfort zone. If you’re not good at cooking, get a takeaway or go to the deli counter in the supermarket. If decorating is your thing, focus on that. All in all, spend time with people you really love. And try not to be too self-critical!
Thank you for reading our latest ‘Getting together with…’ instalment with Sophie Conran. Be sure to tune in next month as we host a new guest and enjoy more stories of tabletop dining. Share your #GetTogether moments with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.