Sudi Pigott catches up with author, foodie and party host Kay Plunkett-Hogge at home in Putney
Kay Plunkett-Hogge’s Adventures of a Terribly Greedy Girl: A Memoir of Food, Family, Film and Fashion has to be one of the best books I’ve come across in a long time. It’s a laugh-out-loud memoir peppered with self-deprecation, indiscretion and damn funny, rude humour. It reminds me of Nora Ephron’s writings, who turns out to be one of her heroines. In person, Plunkett-Hogge, dressed in an eye-catching vintage dress, exudes joy, wit and irrepressible enthusiasm for all the happy accidents of a life punctuated by food. It has taken her from childhood in Bangkok and holidays with Grandma back in Lewisham to a stint catering for the fashion world in New York and Los Angeles, and then, as a result of a random approach from a literary agent, to becoming a prolific food writer based in Putney.
She describes her memoir as a romp, and tells me it was lots of fun to write. ‘It kind of rolled off the tongue. The recipes which accompany the stories are old favourites.’ There’s sashimi with Thai salsa verde and dill and an ‘Ivy on the Shore Salad’, which still transports her back to sea breezes in LA even when in London.
Entertaining is sacred to Plunkett-Hogge. ‘It’s great for companionship. I always have either a recipe or a memory or a person in mind.’ Her parents, childhood sweethearts, found themselves swept into a glamorous world when her father took a sales job with Ford Motors in Bangkok. Not only did they entertain and party like crazy, but they also had a wonderful cook called Loon, who introduced her to the markets of Bangkok, ‘a cacophony of smells and and sounds, with piles of lemongrass, garlic and chillies of every hue, shrimp paste, pickled eels and dried squid’.
The recipes which accompany the stories are old favourites
‘Let me put it like this,’ she says. ‘If you come to my house for dinner, you tell your stories. You may reveal some of your secrets. But you don’t necessarily expect these stories or secrets to be repeated outside that context. They are yours. And everyone else around the table should respect that. It’s a sacred thing involving good food and sealed with some wine spilt on the carpet. These are my stories. Where required, names have been changed to protect the guilty. Other people’s secrets have been kept. Mine…not so much.’
Plunkett-Hogge’s advice is not to show off, but instead to make a fish pie, a stew, or ‘anything that smells good when guests come in. And give them cocktails’. Her home boasts a fully furnished drinks trolley – after all, she is also the author of Make Mine A Martini. Favourites for summer entertaining are unusual ice-creams such as salted palm sugar and coconut, or lychee granita.
She moved to Putney after meeting her adored ‘he was extremely persistent’ husband, Fred Hogge, a TV and screenwriter. ‘Being by the river is wonderful as it reminds me of being in Bangkok,’ she says. As to the future, she concludes: ‘If there is a chance for an adventure, I’ll take it. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I just want to go on being curious.’
Adventures of a Terribly Greedy Girl by Kay Plunkett-Hogge is published by Mitchell Beazley
PLUNKETT-HOGGE’S TOP FIVE PUTNEY PICKS
1 Talad Thai: ‘For brilliant Thai ingredients including bird’s eye chili, green papaya, fish sauce, long, flat addictive stink beans, nutty with a good honk.’ talad-thai.co.uk
2 Giuliano Deli: ‘Recently I found brilliant aubergine and pumpkin skin pickles – I think it is so important to think more about what we are throwing out.’ giulianodeliputney.co.uk
3 Parson’s Nose: ‘Chris is a brilliant butcher’. parsonsnose.co.uk
4 Sardinian restaurant Isole del Sole: ‘We often pop in for lunch of fresh linguine with clams and garlic or their ravishing potato ravioli with porcini. The owners have become really good friends and we entertain in each other’s homes.’ isoladelsole.co.uk
5 Kashmir: ‘Serves brilliant Kashmiri and North Indian food, very fragrant and the welcome is incredibly warm. I particularly like the leg of lamb cooked in the tandoor and aubergine with tamarind.’ kashmirrestaurants.co.uk