Friday 25 May 2018

Jackie Collins and her perfect recipe for success

The Queen of the Bonkbusters has written a cookbook based on the recipes of her most famous character

Jackie Collins is shaking things up by turning her hand to all things domestic
Jackie Collins is shaking things up by turning her hand to all things domestic
Buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries
Chicken paella with Spanish chorizo

Stephen Milton

Jackie Collins learned a valuable lesson shortly after her 30th birthday. Submitting the debut draft of first novel, The World is Full of Married Men, she was counselled by her publisher to remove the glut of offensive speech from the raunchy tome, fearing an international prohibition.

"He says, 'You know you've got 'the f word' on every page. That just isn't done. You'll be banned everywhere. So take them all out.'

"It was my first book. Who was I to say otherwise? So I took out all the 'f**ks'."

Collins was assured this edit would safeguard her words and lead to a smooth release. The book hit shelves at the end of October, 1968.

A week later, it was banned in Australia and South Africa, demonised as pornographic and scandalous filth.

A week after that, The World is Full of Married Men – an unapologetic romp centring on the extra-marital affairs of a London married couple in the Swinging 60s – became a succes de scandale topping bestseller lists in America and the UK.

From that moment on, Jackie played by her own rules. "That's the only time I've ever changed anything in any of my books. It was meant to avoid being banned and it was banned anyway.

"I realised then what I've always known in life; you make your own mistakes. If you're going to fail, you fail with your own mistakes and not anyone else's."

Forthright, proudly unabashed and delectably candid, the novelist has stood as an enduring beacon of sexual progression for nearly five decades.

Despite a signature erotic flagrancy bolstering more than 500 million sales of her 30 best-selling titles including The Bitch, Chances and last year's Confessions of a Wild Child, creating female figures of empowerment and resilience has always remained Collins' raison d'etre.

The amatory escapades were simply a pleasant, wholly marketable by-product that earned her the title, 'Queen of the Bonkbuster'. This proved a tad too literal for the author.

"I never wrote 'bonkbusters'. That was usually female magazine editors in the 80s who decided they'd write sex and shopping novels. That wasn't my style.

"I rather like what Vanity Fair named me instead; 'the Marcel Proust of Hollywood'. And Louis Malle once called me a 'raunchy moralist', which was simply fabulous."

Never one to rest on her libidinous laurels, the celebrated scribe and sexual philanthropist – married in her early 20s to Wallace Austin, producing daughter Tracy and followed by a 26- year-old union to nightlife entrepreneur Oscar Lermann, which resulted in two more girls, Tiffany and Rory – has turned her attentions to the domestic goddess within with latest title, The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook.

The cookbook is instead an ode to one of Jackie's most famous characters, Lucky Santangelo. She is the stoic spine of the Santangelo saga, chronicled in Chances, Lady Boss and Vendetta.

One of Jackie's favourites

Collins' heroine mobster boss can not only run an organised crime outfit and play matriarch to a clan of misfits, she's also master and commander in the kitchen.

"I thought it would be something nice to give back to the fans who have been there with Lucky all along. So I got involved with chefs who gave me these recipes and combined them with my own for roast potatoes and Lucky's luscious Italian meatballs.

"Of course, it's not your typical cookbook. I've added these small scenes with Lucky and [current husband] Lennie and her children, Max and Bobby and his girlfriend Denver which serve as tasters for my next books, all enjoying this wonderful food.

"There are also different mentions of what music you might listen to; what wine you might drink; what cocktail would suit, like the Jackie Collins created by chef Wolfgang Puck. Raspberries, vodka, lemonade, lime and soda; absolutely fabulous and it's all in the book."

Away from the culinary delights, the author is putting the finishing touches to The Santangelos, the latest in the Lucky saga focusing on the younger generations and their lascivious exploits.

Following on from that, she's looking at her next novel, and hoping to include a Hibernian element.

"The last time I was in Ireland, I went to this fantastic hotel which was about 25 minutes outside of Dublin. It was beautiful.

"I'd love to come back there to write, somewhere perfect to go and watch the striking scenery and work out my next characters and story.

"Even the idea of setting part of my next novel in a location as sumptuous as Ireland, with gorgeous countryside, rugged men and rolling hills, I'm surprised I never thought of it before."

A self-proclaimed 'cool bachelor' following the passing of fiancé Frank Calcagnini in 1998, she maintains a steady presence on the Hollywood party scene.

Some A-listers possess a healthy fear of the novelist. "I can see that reaction. It's like 'Oh, better be careful, it's Jackie Collins'! She'll put me in her book.

"And I've never directly referenced anyone. Usually they're a composite of several personalities. But some recognised themselves, perhaps down to my slightly thin veiling."


Here are a few to get you started:

Chicken paella with Spanish chorizo - serves four


1/4 cup dry fino sherry, or dry white wine

1/3 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

4 garlic cloves, pressed

2 teaspoons sweet Spanish smoked paprika

Kosher salt

Chicken paella with Spanish chorizo

The Dish

3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken legs and thighs, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

3 tablespoons olive oil

9 1/2 ounces Spanish hot or sweet dried chorizo (Palacios), sliced into 1/4-inch coins

1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4-inch dice

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4-inch dice

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with some of their juices

2 cups Spanish short-grain rice, preferably Valencia or Arroz Bomba


* Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade in a glass measure.

* Place the chicken pieces in a sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, turning the bag once.

* Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade; reserve the marinade. Sprinkle the chicken lightly with salt and black pepper.

* Pour a cup of the broth into the marinade bag, and transfer that mixture to a 1-quart glass measure. Add the remaining 3 cups broth. Sprinkle the crumbled saffron over the broth and bring to a boil in a microwave oven, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the oven's wattage. Keep the mixture hot.

* Preheat the oven to 400°F (gas) or 450°F (electric).

* Heat the oil in a 15-inch paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté, turning once, for about 5 minutes total (it should not be fully cooked).

* Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Scatter the chorizo coins in the pan and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the onion and bell peppers to the pan and sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened.

* Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

* Add the rice and stir to coat well. Pour in all of the hot broth and bring to a boil. Continue boiling, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until the mixture is no longer soupy but sufficient liquid remains to continue cooking the rice, about 4 minutes.

* Discard the bay leaves and arrange the chicken pieces over the rice. Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the rice is almost al dente, 10 to 13 minutes in a gas oven, 15 to 20 in an electric oven.

* Remove the pan from the oven, cover it with a lid or heavy-duty aluminum foil, and let the paella sit 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked to taste.


Buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries - 12 servings


1 1/4 cups sugar

Juice of 1/2½ lemon

1/4 cup water


Panna cotta

1 envelope gelatin (about 1 tablespoon)

1/4 cup cold water

3 cups heavy cream

11 ounces sugar (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)

1 cup buttermilk

Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste 2 to 3 dozen strawberries, washed and stemmed, halved, if you like.

Buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries

For the caramel:

* Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small, heavy-bottomed pot. Add just enough water to moisten to a sandy texture.

* Brush any residual sugar off the sides of the pot with a pas- try brush dipped in water.

* Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar caramelises.

* Remove from heat and, standing at arm's length from the pot, add the 1/4 cup water. Be careful: the mixture will bubble and sputter furiously. When the sputtering stops, carefully pour the caramel into 11 or 12 four-ounce Styrofoam cups.

* Gently tilt the cups to coat with the caramel.


For the panna cotta:

* Soak the gelatin granules in a cup of cold water for 15 minutes, until softened.

* Pour the cream into a saucepan and whisk in the sugar. Heat to just below a boil. Add the softened gelatin and stir until it dissolves completely. Stir in the buttermilk and lemon juice.

* Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour the custard into the caramelised moulds. Refrigerate overnight, until the gelatin sets and the custards are stiff enough to unmould.

* To unmould the custard, slip a small, sharp paring knife around the inside of the molds to loosen. Invert each cup over an individual serving plate and puncture the bottom (now the top) with the tip of the knife.

* Gently slide the panna cotta out of the cup.

* Garnish with the strawberries.

Sweet and Spicy Spareribs - 4-6 servings


I’m crazy about spareribs. Nothing like a down-and-dirty barbecue to have fun.

This recipe also works well with baby back ribs, which take less time to cook through— about a half hour. The internal temperature of the cooked ribs should be the same—165° to 175°F.

sweet spicy spare ribs.jpg

2 cups dry sherry

2 pounds brown sugar

¾ cup apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons balsamic


2 tablespoons molasses 2 cups soy sauce

¾ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon ground ginger 6 garlic cloves, minced or


1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce, or more as needed

1 lemon

4 racks spareribs (about 10 pounds)

*In a large saucepan, combine the sherry, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic, molasses, soy sauce, ketchup, ginger, garlic, and Tabasco to taste. Whisk together thoroughly, then squeeze the lemon, throw away the seeds, and toss the juice and the lemon into the marinade. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often, then remove it from the heat and let cool.

*Slather the ribs with the sauce, transfer to a large sealable plastic bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

*Preheat the broiler. Drain the ribs and reserve the marinade. Broil the ribs until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, to thicken into a glaze.

*Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the ribs on a rack (or two) and place in a roasting pan (or two). Brush on some of the glaze, and roast the ribs for 45 minutes. Turn them, brush on more of the glaze, and roast the ribs for 30 minutes per pound. The ribs are done when the internal temperature registers 165° to 175°F.

*Let the ribs rest for 10 minutes, then separate them with a carving knife, brush them with additional glaze, and serve.

Fettucine with clams and chorizo - serves 2

Clams and chorizo sausage belong together like salt and pepper. This comes together fairly quickly. You can used frozen minced clams (not canned!), but the dish won’t be the same.


2 dozen littleneck clams, well scrubbed, rinsed, and refriger- ated for 6 to 8 hours in a bowl of cold salt water with 2 table- spoons cornmeal sprinkled over the surface

5 to 6 tablespoons kosher salt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 red onion, finely chopped

1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced

2 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced

6 to 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, such as Palacios, cut into a

¼-inch dice

8 ounces fettuccine

½ cup dry white vermouth 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or Italian parsley, whichever you prefer

1 scallion, white and light green parts only, minced

Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

*Bring a large pot of about 6 quarts of water to a boil for the pasta. After it comes to a boil, salt the water well—5 to 6 tablespoons of kosher salt—and keep it hot.

*Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat in a large skillet with a lid. Add the chopped onion and minced bell pepper and sauté, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

*Add the chorizo and cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until just browned. Add the diced tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more.

*Add the fettuccine to the boiling, salted water, stirring often to avoid clumping. (You have about 9 minutes.)

*Increase the heat under the sausage mixture to high. Stir in the ver- mouth and add the clams to the bubbling sausage mixture. Bring  to a simmer, shaking pan to make a single layer of clams, then cover and steam until the clams open, 7 to 8 minutes. (Discard any clams that do not open.)

*Drain the pasta and divide it between two large bowls. Drizzle the sauce with olive oil, then ladle it generously over the pasta, with a dozen clams for each portion. Sprinkle on the cilantro or parsley and the scallions. Serve at once, with the red pepper flakes on the side, if desired.

Gino’s Favorite Pesto Pizza

A verdant, rich treat, to be sure, and quite easy to pull together. Note that the prebaked pizza crust should be thin.


2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, put through a garlic press, or very finely minced

Kosher salt

2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature


1 prebaked, 12-inch thin pizza crust, such as Boboli

½ cup pesto

3 and 1/2- to 4-ounce (small) log of soft goat cheese, such as chèvre

12 anchovy fillets (or more), well rinsed

1  teaspoon  dried  oregano

*Preheat the oven to 450°F.

*For the pesto: Wash and thoroughly dry the basil leaves. Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and an ample pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process to a creamy consistency.

*Transfer the pesto to a bowl and mix in the grated cheese by hand. When the cheese is evenly blended with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter with a fork, distributing it uniformly into the sauce.

*For the pizza: Place the pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spread the pesto evenly across the crust, crumble the goat cheese over all, arrange the anchovies decoratively, and sprinkle with the oregano. Bake watchfully until the cheese melts, 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s instruction

Irish Independent

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