Miss Dahl Offers You Her 'Voluptuous Delights'

Former-model-turned-writer Sophie Dahl's cookbook, Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, not only offers yummy, seasonal recipes, but also offers an insight into Dahl's own relationship with food. Dahl has written for Vogue, The Guardian and The Times of London. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Dahl, who is also the grand-daughter of the writer Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Memorial Day weekend is the gateway to a season of fresh produce and farmer's markets. The bounty offered is bound to bring out the chef in all of us. And who isn't looking for new things to make?

Sophie Dahl has just published a new book of recipes for every season. But it's not just a cookbook. "Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights" is also part memoir. Sophia Dahl is the granddaughter of the actress Patricia Neal and the late Roald Dahl, author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "James and the Giant Peach." Maybe that's where her passion for food comes from. Let's find out. Sophie Dahl is in our London bureau. Welcome to the program.

Ms. SOPHIE DAHL (Author, "Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights"): Thank you so much. Hello, hello.

HANSEN: Hello. So where does your passion for food come from?

Ms. DAHL: I think I grew up in an incredibly greedy family. So it would've been odd had I been a sort of meager, moderate eater. I was just surrounded by foodies.

HANSEN: Was your grandfather, Roald Dahl, a foodie?

Ms. DAHL: He was. He was rather greedy, and he was a chocoholic. He knew the history of every chocolate bar ever made. And at the end of every meal, there was a red Tupperware box that was always ceremoniously brought out, and that signified the time for chocolate.

HANSEN: When he died, the family buried him with chocolate, if I'm not mistaken.

Ms. DAHL: He was buried with his favorite things, like a Viking. So he had chocolate, a few fine bottles of burgundy and his snooker cues.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: He's prepared.

Ms. DAHL: Yes.

HANSEN: He is.

Ms. DAHL: Off to have fun in the afterlife, yeah.

HANSEN: You bet. You write so lovingly about your family in this book. You have a grandmother, is it Gigi?

Ms. DAHL: Yes, Gigi was my paternal grandmother who I adored, and she was the person probably who taught me to cook. She was a great baker. And she was an ex-chorus girl dancer. She was five foot tall and all of it leg. I was wearing - I think I say in the book I was wearing her clothes by the time I was about eight.

HANSEN: You know, I'm looking at the back cover of your book, "Voluptuous Delights," and there is what looks to be rhubarb and just this decadent whipped cream over it.

Ms. DAHL: Yes.

HANSEN: And a fork just stuck in it.

Ms. DAHL: Yes, that's a Rhubarb Eton Mess.

HANSEN: It is a mess, but it looks fabulous.

Ms. DAHL: A great sort of frothy pink, yes, blancmange mess. It's so delicious, that.

HANSEN: It looks so decadent. Where did you get the recipe for this?

Ms. DAHL: Eton Mess is a very English pudding. It's made from a base of meringue and it's normally made with strawberries, but I love rhubarb. And I have very nostalgic memories of rhubarb. Both of my grandparents grew it in their garden and I used to eat it, sticks of it dipped in sugar when I was a child. So I thought about doing an Eton Mess with a mess of a rhubarb compote on top.

HANSEN: Rhubarb is such a spring/summer ingredient. I mean, it's...

Ms. DAHL: Isn't it? It's heaven.

HANSEN: It is.

Ms. DAHL: Total heaven.

HANSEN: It turns things pink and, you know, I've even seen like jellied rhubarb and it looks like something out of a fairy tale sometimes.

Ms. DAHL: Yeah, it's that brilliant alchemy of food. And I recently made a rose petal sorbet and mixed the rose petals with the glycerin and you suddenly just get this hot, hot pink color. And I think the joy of cooking is one still does get that childish feeling of excitement from the magic of it.

HANSEN: Home, home food. It brings back home.

Ms. DAHL: Yes.

HANSEN: Your spring section of the book...

Ms. DAHL: Yes.

HANSEN: ...is set in New York when you were modeling.

Ms. DAHL: Mm-hm.

HANSEN: Now, being a model, I mean you were asked do you want to do plus size modeling.

Ms. DAHL: Yes.

HANSEN: But then you had an encounter with the ne plus ultra fashion photographer Steven Meisel, who did some wonderful things with you. And the summer portion is you're back in the U.K. But I'm wondering, as a model, a professional in the fashion industry, what's the history of your own relationship with food?

Ms. DAHL: I mean, it was always a very straightforward one really. I think it wasn't until I started modeling in England when I was 18 that - and because I was rounder then, I was an 18-year-old with puppy fat, so I was very much an anomaly in the fashion world. That was the first time I ever really started to think about food and my appetite. And it was quite confusing because in England I became hailed as this crusader for curvy women, but I was a teenager. And I suppose as a teenager you want to fit in with everyone else and you want to be able to fit into the same size jeans as your friends. And that's about as much searching as goes on into sort one's feelings about one's body. So it was a strange, it was a very strange thing.

HANSEN: But in New York you started a raw food diet for a while.

Ms. DAHL: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAHL: That was a strange and short phase which did nothing but make me enormous because I'm greedy. I thought oh, well because it's raw, I can just eat as much as I want of it. So I was sort of scarfing down great plates of almond mousse and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Yeah.

Ms. DAHL: ...nut-milk based avocado ice creams. And I got rather carried away. I did have glowing, lovely skin, but a rather big bum.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I'm speaking with the writer Sophie Dahl about her book "Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights." If people were coming over to your house at one point this summer and you were going to do, let's say, a Sunday lunch for them...

Ms. DAHL: Uh-huh.

HANSEN: ...is there a recipe in this book that you would choose?

Ms. DAHL: If it was a summer Sunday, I would probably do the barbecued salmon, which is a whole salmon on a cedar plank. And, you know, again, you can put some vegetables on the grill with it. So I would do asparagus and some courgettes, some eggplant.

HANSEN: I'll tell people courgettes in this country are zucchini.

Ms. DAHL: Oh yes, zucchini. Yes, I've got it, zucchini. I managed the eggplant bit.

HANSEN: You did.

Ms. DAHL: Which would have been aubergine here. But, yeah, I forget. I also always struggle with coriander versus cilantro. My cookbook had both in them. I kept having to be corrected. And what pudding would I do from the book? I would do probably a sort of delicious orange almond polenta cake or an Eton Mess.

HANSEN: An Eton Mess, yeah.

Ms. DAHL: Yes.

HANSEN: Back to that Eton Mess.

Ms. DAHL: Back to the Eton Mess.

HANSEN: So now that the book is published, what are you going to do next? I mean, you're writing, you're cooking...

Ms. DAHL: I'm...

HANSEN: ...the world is your oyster, to be cliche.

Ms. DAHL: I'm writing another cookbook. And, you know, writing a bit of fiction here and there, a bit of journalism here and there. So, it's lovely getting to do the two things I really love, so the writing and the cooking.

HANSEN: Sophie Dahl's book, "Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights" is out now and she joined us from our London bureau. Thank you. Happy eating this summer.

Ms. DAHL: Thank you so much. Happy eating to you, too.

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