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Reviewed: The Agony Chef by Kate Sidley, Macmillan

The Agony ChefI’ve been lucky to sample fellow bookie Kate Sidley’s cooking – relaxed, unfussy and utterly delicious meals in her equally relaxed home. Here she takes on the persona of Delilah, witty Agony Chef who dispenses irreverent advice and admonitions along with great recipes. Here she is on comfort food: “No one is soothed by an asparagus foam topped with peach caviar within a chilli chocolate shell. We want bangers and mash!” She follows it with recipes for a satisfyingly squishy fish pie and Boozy Chocolate Mousse. She recommends baked potatoes bursting with bacon and cheese for 16-year-old waterpolo players who “eat like hippos.” Teenaged boys are, she notes, “just hormones with feet… they need lots of nutrients to power those hair follicles and sebaceous glands.”

I especially like Delilah’s view on parenting: “People are always blathering on about the importance of role models, but it’s all a myth. As you will know, if you watched Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous, the best way to turn out well-behaved children is to be wildly unpredictable yourself. It keeps them on their toes and provides a cautionary example.”

What to serve when your son kicks open the closet and brings his new “friend” home? When your fiancé invites his ex for dinner? When you have the mother of all hangovers? Trust Delilah: the advice is a giggle and the recipes are marvellous. Think Fennel, Pomegranate and Pine Nut Salad, Lovely Lemon Linguine and Sticky Pork Fillet. The Agony Chef is a delight.

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