Food milestones - Sara Cox

The DJ, TV presenter and mum-of-three recalls her memories of school puddings, camping in Cornwall, dining in Paris and poisoning her husband with sausages!

Sara Cox holding a bowl of radishes

Sara Cox, 42, was born in Bolton and worked as a model before getting her big break in 1996 as a presenter on Channel 4’s The Girlie Show. By 2000, she was a DJ at the helm of the Breakfast Show on Radio One, where she spent nearly four years and recorded ratings of around 8 million listeners. In 2013, Sara made the move from Radio One to Radio Two, and currently hosts Sounds of the 80s on Saturday nights. For Red Nose Day 2017, Sara did a 24-hour danceathon, raising over £1 million. Married for the second time, she has three kids: Lola, 13, Isaac, nine, and Renée, seven.

My earliest memory is being in a high chair in the garden of my dad’s farm in Bolton, at my sister’s birthday party.

I am the youngest of five: when my mum met my dad he already had a three-year-old and 18-month-old twins. At the party, a conga line of kids was skipping past and shoving cake into my mouth, and I found it hilarious. It was a complete choking hazard – it wouldn’t happen these days – and, of course, it ended badly, with lots of vomit. 

The food that I loved at school was chocolate sponge with chocolate custard.

The desserts were good at primary school, lots of lovely stodge. The school backed on to my dad’s fields, so I could see him on his tractor. My mum and dad divorced when I was six or seven, and we lived with my mum half a mile away. But I was at the farm most afternoons because I had a pony that I had to muck out.

Chocolate muffin covered in chocolate sauce

We used to go camping in Cornwall.

I loved our tent to bits. It had two bedrooms, one for me and my sis, Yvonne, and one for my mum and stepdad. Auntie Carol (my mum’s best mate) and her husband, Uncle Trevor, would turn up with a trailer tent – the height of sophistication – and Trevor would barbecue fresh mackerel. I’ve been obsessed with mackerel ever since.

When I used to go to the cattle shows with my dad – he breeds Herefords – we slept in the cattle wagon. He’d sweep it out and put up a couple of Z beds. Essentially we were out in the fresh air, and we would wake up in the morning absolutely starving. Dad had a camping stove, and he would fry bacon and eggs and make me the best sandwich. We’d also have a mug of tea made with his travel kettle.

I still love camping, and love getting out my little stove. I DJ at Camp Bestival, and for the past six years we’ve taken the children and camped. I don’t know how keen on camping my husband Ben is, but he puts up with it!

My mum has handed down her broth pan to me.

It’s massive – you could bathe an Alsatian in it. She has always made a lovely broth and I do it now: you soak a ham shank overnight to get a lot of the salt out and soak your dried soup mix. Then you put the shank in the pan, fill it with water, add the soup mix, pile in veg like celery, onion and turnip, and cook for a few hours. My mum worked really hard. When we were little she did a few different cleaning jobs, but later she did holiday relief for big country pubs. After that she ran Conservative clubs with my late step-dad, and they had their own pub.

I think my work ethic comes from my mum. I’m freelance, and I find it hard to say no to work. But my husband helped me see I don’t have to schlep halfway up the country to do something for 50p and my bus fare home – I can be choosy.

My sister Yvonne lived in Paris when I was 17 or 18.

She was working for the electricity board as part of her degree – I thought it was the height of cool. When I went to visit, she had to work during the day, so I goofed around Paris. I was in a boutique and somebody asked if I’d ever thought of modelling. They put me in touch with a Manchester agency and the rest is history!

Paris was lovely because my sister and I saw each other as individuals, not just the arch nemesis you had to share a room with. We were always close, but fought a lot. As we got older, we started to get on better. In Paris, she took me to a restaurant where we had this beef dish. She made me have a glass of red with it, and told me to taste the beef and then taste the wine. It was the first time I thought, ‘Gosh, this is more than just dinner – this is an experience!’

When Ben first stayed over I didn’t want him to leave because we were having such a nice time.

I convinced him to stay by offering to make sausage sandwiches. But I didn’t defrost the sausages properly first, and he got really ill – I basically poisoned him! It was Christmas, so when I spoke to him on the phone, I tried to suggest that it might be because he’d eaten too much chocolate. In the end I confessed that it was probably the sausages.

Minced beef pie and mushy pees on a plate

I cook my grandad’s plate meat pie for my kids.

My grandad was a master baker and used to make lovely pastry and mince pies. For the meat pie, I make a shortcrust and then cook the mince with a stock cube. I line a pie tin with the pastry, put in the mince and top with a pastry lid. My kids love it and I love making it, as it reminds them of their northern heritage. They live in London and are used to eating sushi, but I want them to know where they come from too. It’s a traditional dish that’s basically meat, flour and butter – they lick their plates clean. 

At the moment my hallway is my kitchen 

Because my kitchen is being renovated, so I’m using a barbecue, microwave, kettle, NutriBullet, toaster and sandwich maker to cook. We’ve been eating at the local Italian a lot too. The last meal I cooked was organic pork loin steaks in a marinade with organic asparagus – it was delicious.

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