Rochelle Humes: ‘Food is the heart of our family’

A combination of family life and love of food motivated the TV presenter and Saturdays singer to write her new cookbook, ‘At Mama’s Table’. She talks to Ella Walker about the highs and lows of feeding her family

Wednesday 27 October 2021 08:00
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<p>Humes’ new book is filled with recipes that work for adults as well as babies </p>

Humes’ new book is filled with recipes that work for adults as well as babies

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Dinner round at Rochelle Humes’ house sounds fun. The TV presenter and singer, 32, is married to JLS star Marvin Humes, 36, and together they are a kitchen dream team.

Humes – who has written her first cookbook, At Mama’s Table – tends to be on food, while Marvin is on drinks. “He is indeed master of drinks, he can make a mean cocktail,” says Humes proudly, partial to a Tommy’s margarita herself.

When everyone arrives is “Marvin’s time to shine, because I’ve normally done the cooking and then he’s very good at making sure everyone’s got a drink,” she explains.

Sunday is the day you’d really wanted to be invited over. It’s Humes’ favourite time of the week to cook, when there’s “no rush” and she can take her time over a roast dinner – there are always Yorkshire puddings. “We’ll have people over for Sunday lunch, but it’s all very relaxed,” she says, “no rushing out to work or anything. And then I will have the tunes blaring out.”

For the singer, cooking helps her to unwind

Humes was born in Barking and got her first showbiz break with S Club Juniors. “My mum was quite that cook where, although we tried different things – she was very good at making us try different things and not say we didn’t like it until we’d tried it, which is exactly what I do to my kids – but my mum was quite regimented,” she says, recalling the food she ate growing up. “[Mum] was busy and she was on her own with us, working lots of different jobs, so it was very like: on a Wednesday, we had shepherd’s pie.”

It was when Humes left home that she really got into cooking. “I learnt a lot of recipes when I moved out,” she remembers. “I realised the world’s your oyster and I just find cooking so therapeutic and it was nice. I think it’s the first thing that makes you feel like you can run a house, if you can cook a meal.”

Now a mum of three herself – to Alaia-Mai, eight, Valentina, four, and one-year-old Blake – as well as being forever on the telly (recently on BBC’s The Hit List and Channel 4 documentary The Black Maternity Scandal: Dispatches) Humes cooks to relax. “I love nothing more at the end of the day,” she says. “I do it to unwind.”

A combination of family life and her love of food motivated At Mama’s Table. “I just love flavour. I love food that’s well seasoned, well thought about,” she explains, with the idea behind the recipes being that they’re nutritious, family-friendly and not a time-drain either.

Her children are already very involved in the kitchen. “My eldest [Alaia] surprised me the other day. I’d cooked and I turned round, and she’d got a little stool and she’d started doing the washing up! I was like, ‘This is everything’, so if that’s what the future looks like, I’m buzzing,” says Humes. “I love the cooking process; less [so] washing up. We’re lucky we’ve got a dishwasher, so that’s normally how it goes down.”

The Saturdays singer believes involving children from a young age helps discourage fussy eating. “My middle one [Valentina] is probably my fussiest,” says Humes. “She’s very particular in what she likes. But the minute I involve her in the cooking process, she’s a lot more likely to eat her meal.”

Recently, Humes cooked salmon for dinner and “it was so funny because Valentina ate it all and was like, ‘Mummy, this is so yummy’. And then after, she walked in the kitchen and said, ‘Oh my goodness, it smells of fish in here’. And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s because you just had salmon’. She’s like, ‘But it smells. I don’t know if I like salmon’, and I said, ‘Well you do, because you just ate the whole bowl!’

Humes believes involving her kids in cooking discourages fussy eating

“You have to constantly keep up with kids – literally she just ate the whole thing and then decided it smelt!”

Humes was never a fussy eater herself. “Still not now – there’s not really much I won’t eat to be honest,” she says.

Her latest snack of choice is chocolate covered rice cakes. “They sound really healthy and like they’re not going to be all that, [but] they’re so tasty. I demolished the bag the other day.”

She’ll happily order a takeaway (wasabi prawns from her local Chinese restaurant, and a rogan josh and sag aloo from the curry house, if you’re wondering), there’s always room for pudding in her – even if it’s just a piece of fruit or a yoghurt. And working on ITV’s This Morning, she often has lunch cooked for her by world-class chefs (“Ainsley Harriott cooked an incredible meal the other day,” she says. “He’s so fun and I feel like he’s one of [those chefs] that makes things with love.”)

Food is the “heart of the family”, she says, “everything I do, socially, even work related, I always just do it around food.”

Humes even enjoys weaning. At Mama’s Table is filled with tips for making meals work for adults as well as tiny babies. “It’s my favourite part,” she says. “It just always feels like such a fun process and a fun time. I really miss it when it’s over. Introducing them to flavours and different things they’ve never had before always just feels so special.”

Admittedly it can get messy, and can feel like a pain when you think you’re getting somewhere, only for your child to decide they actually don’t like something, but “it’s just such an exciting time introducing them to the world of food,” says Humes. And the funny faces make it particularly worthwhile: “The first taste of solid food in the little one’s mouth, they’re always just a little bit baffled as to what on earth’s going on.”

And while she makes dishes adaptable, she doesn’t go in for making three different meals to suit each of her kids (“I’m not setting it up like that”). She also has short shrift with people who say about a meal: “‘This is a little bit grown up’, or, ‘This is mummy’s food’” – especially when it comes to spice. “I think that can actually sometimes put [children] off trying [something],” she says. “[They might say] ‘Oh no, I don’t want to eat that, is it spicy?’ And it’s not spicy, it’s just flavoursome – I think there’s a real difference.”

‘At Mama’s Table’ by Rochelle Humes (published by Vermilion, £20; food photography by Yuki Sugiura, photos of Rochelle by Karis Kennedy) is available now

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