Midnight Chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For), by Ella Risbridger

Charlotte Duff

I don’t think I have ever loved a cookbook quite as much as I love Midnight Chicken. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy taking a cookbook off the shelf and choosing something to make – I absolutely do. I find cooking soothing and relaxing and it is one of my favourite ways to spend an evening.

Midnight Chicken, however, is a book I return to again and again. I have read it from cover to cover multiple times, have underlined various sentences that took my breath away, and have snapshotted some of the beautiful illustrations by Elisa Cunningham that adorn the cover and sit alongside the recipes. Most importantly, it doesn’t sit with the rest of my battered and splodged grease-stained cookbooks in the kitchen (some of which are also gathering dust) but is amongst the novels and memoirs and poetry collections on a bookshelf in my bedroom.

To call Midnight Chicken a “cookbook” is factually correct – there are recipes and instructions and ingredients and finished meals that you will enjoy, relish and savour. But it is not just a cookbook – it is a manual for life and for living, a memoir of a life filled with love and hope and loss, and it contains some of the most beautiful, moving writing I have ever read. 

I can guarantee you that there will be something that you will make from Midnight Chicken that you will turn to again and again. Whether it’s the aforementioned Chicken; a roasted chicken with so much flavour that you’ll want to make twice as much to ensure there’s leftovers. I have friends who have made the Paris cookies and vowed to use only Ella’s recipe from now on. 

Sausage pasta in a white bowl on a wooden table, with a fork next to it, ready to eat.

I cannot tell you how many times I have made the Marital Harmony sausage pasta because I have (truly!) lost count. 

I found myself flicking through the book for a recipe to use up the pack of sausages in my fridge when I couldn’t face the ever reliable (and let’s face it, slightly dull) sausage and mash. 

This recipe is a perfect winter warmer – I actually cooked it for the first time on a rainy January night when I was alone and a little sad and I can tell you that the slow cooking down of the onions until they were soft and sweet coupled with a large glass of wine in hand, and the pleasure of reading Ella’s words were truly a remedy I had forgotten that I could get from books. 

Needless to say, I have made the sausage pasta a million times since. If you’re need of comfort, I promise that a bowl full of this will bring you some. More than that, you will feel the joy of cooking and the pleasure that comes from making something from scratch and sharing it with the ones you love (yourself included.)

Taking some time out of your day to read Midnight Chicken is like spending time with a friend – a very good friend, one who listens and talks and laughs and makes you endless cups of tea. There’s even gentle advice on what to do if it all goes wrong: order a takeaway or, my personal favourite, put a coat on over your nightie and head out to a café for tea like Sophie does in The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

Read it for the recipes, of course, the chicken and the chocolate chip cookies and the carbonara and everything else that you’ll be making a note of to cook. This book will have something for you: whether you’re in need of something comforting and familiar or want to try and make something you’ve never tasted before.

But more than that – read it for the stories, for the wisdom and the heart. 

You’ll be so glad of it. 

Available in hardback now, or published in paperback with a new afterword on 31 Dec. (Affiliate link)

Charlotte is a freelance writer, and her work can be found here: https://www.clippings.me/charlottevduff.