Diary: Gwyneth's recipes for life

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The Independent Online

Like a latter-day Linda McCartney, health-food-loving rock-star spouse and sometime actor Gwyneth Paltrow publishes her debut cookbook next year. The press has been issued with extracts from the tome, with the food-free title My Father's Daughter (sickly subtitle: "Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family and Togetherness").

"Cooking has become my main ancillary passion in life," Paltrow writes, oxymoronically. "The stove is really the epicentre of my house... most of the time there is something atop it, simmering away for my family."

Dinner at the Martin-Paltrows' is nonetheless a restrained affair: "When I prepare desserts," the erstwhile macrobiotic explains, "I am thinking about keeping the sugar intake low." Not exactly Nigella, then. Finally, this bold grammatical display: "I came across an axiom in a passage from a culinary memoir called Heat in which the author, Bill Buford, observes the following: 'You can divide people into two categories in life: cooks and bakers'."

How wise... how true.

* This column traditionally turns its nose up at tittle-tattle from the House of Windsor, but the release of the Royal Collection's range of wedding-based china yesterday featured prominently in Fleet Street's other fine organs. Naturally, design experts were called upon for their opinions of Wills and Kate's commemorative pillboxes. In The Times, for example, the approving critic Stephen Bayley praised the conjugal crockery for its "polite and restrained decoration".

The designs, Bayley went on, "suggest the delightful decorative work of Ravilious and Bawden, masters of understated, unassuming and unthreatening Englishness." The Telegraph, on the other hand, turned to a less sympathetic commentator: one Stephen Bayley, who dismissed the royal plates as "lazy and insipid ... depressing rubbish [which] harshly illuminates our national decline". Maybe Messrs Bayley and Bayley should get together to clear up their differences.

* "Cliff Richard is in the sex industry." This is the extraordinary claim made by the 70-year-old strip-club impresario Peter Stringfellow in an interview with Time Out. Has Mr Stringfellow seen the X-rated edition of Cliff's 2011 calendar? Not exactly: the comment is part of his attempt to implicate the rest of the entertainment industry – and, indeed, the retail industry – in his own grubby business. "I think we are all in the sex industry," Stringfellow opines.

"Everyone who sells clothes – Philip Green, Kate Moss... We are sex people. Like it or not, you are a sex person too." (I'm not sure how he knows that; I've always preferred Spearmint Rhino.) Stringfellow's former ambition to be Mayor of London, meanwhile, has abated. "There's no way on God's Earth I could win," he says. Sounds like an ideal Lib Dem candidate.

* "Taxpayers... want less interference in their local communities from Whitehall government," argued Communities Secretary Eric "Extra" Pickles last week. So it's a tad embarrassing that his own intervention in a local issue has seen him branded "incompetent" by Essex nimbies, a core Tory demographic.

When a planning inspector cancelled a 326-home development in Rochford, Extra threw his considerable weight behind the decision, citing the proposed Coombes Farm development as typical of the Regional Spatial Strategies he'd scrapped. The Government, however, was then told it had to pass a Bill before doing away with Labour's RSS. Thanks to Extra's intervention, the developers Colonnade Land successfully appealed against the decision and resubmitted the Rochford plans, to the horror of local taxpayers. Extra has, at least, proved his own point: as a residents' campaigner assured the Echo, "If the Secretary of State had not [interfered], we would not be in this mess."

* An invitation from the Royal Humane Society, a charity devoted to recognising heroism. This column's favourite hero, Rory Stewart OBE MP, who recently compared himself to the demigod Achilles, is to speak to the Society in March. "Rory Stewart is exceptional in every way," the invitation attests. "Even Brad Pitt recognises his unique charisma." Did Stewart pen the text personally? In any case, consider this an RSVP.