The Dishes That Artists are Cooking in Self-Isolation

From Chantal Joffe’s recipe for her mother’s chicken soup to a nostalgic Texan chili, these are the dishes that artists and curators suggest to get you through the long days at home. Illustrations by Antonia Stringer



Chantal Joffe

Artist and Royal Academician known for her intimate self-portraits and paintings of friends and family. Read our interview here

I don’t feel much like cooking in these strange times, but chicken soup is easy and soothing and my mum always made it. My lazy version is here.

Chantal Joffe’s Mum’s Chicken Soup 

  1. Take a whole chicken, or legs and thighs, and put it in a large pot. 
  2. Cover with cold water and add a bunch of parsley. A peeled whole onion, a peeled garlic clove, two carrots with their tops taken off, a chicken stock cube and a small tomato.
  3. Bring it to the boil and simmer for two hours, then remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a bowl.
  4. I use the meat from the chicken and the carrots to make my mum’s curry. 

Since I wrote this, it’s hard to get chicken at all, or much of anything…


Sara Anstis

Canadian artist working with pastels to create drawings and large-scale installations. Read our interview here

I’ve been baking bread and making root vegetable soups. Baking takes time and soup will accept anything you give it.


Rosie Cooper

Head of Exhibitions at the De La Warr Pavilion, an arts centre in an iconic modernist building by the sea 

I find cooking extremely relaxing, especially making soup. I get a craving for this one sometimes: it’s velvety comfort food, and really simple to put together. It also keeps well in the freezer, if you have one.

Rosie Cooper’s Broccoli and Coconut Soup with Red Lentils

  1. Caramelise one chopped onion in oil, then add 3 garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp chilli powder and 550g broccoli, and let the vegetables sweat for 5-6 minutes, partially covered. Stir occasionally.
  2. Wash and drain 140g lentils, then add them to the vegetables and mix in well. Add 1 litre vegetable stock, stir well and bring to the boil.
  3. Turn down the heat and simmer gently, until the lentils are completely cooked (usually around 20-25 mins), stirring regularly to make sure the lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add 1 can coconut milk and mix in well. Take off the heat and blend the soup until completely smooth. Season to taste.


Rhea Dillon

Artist, photographer and filmmaker based between London and LA

My grandma makes the most incredible Caribbean soup that soothes all souls, so I will be steady waiting by the stove to learn the recipe and thus hoard its goodness for the future! 

Eat Like Nobody’s Watching

Erica Eyres

Canadian artist known for her comedic films, drawings and ceramics. Read our interview here

Anything with hummus, because I have a lot of chickpeas and it’s an excuse to eat raw garlic. Self-isolation means it’s okay to smell bad.


Ellie MacGarry

British artist working with paintings and ceramics. Read our interview here

Food has been such a source of pleasure and variety in these much less varied days of late. Strangely one of my most pleasurable so far has been a “dish” of my own creation, resulting from too much time at home to consider cravings, combined with not being able to buy exactly what you want. It’s the kind of thing you would make for yourself but probably not for anyone else. Three fish fingers, grilled until crispy; homemade potato salad—skin-on baby potatoes, mayo, yoghurt, capers, parsley; peppy green salad—baby spinach, radish, fennel, more parsley, olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon. A side of ketchup and a glass of white wine.

“I don’t feel much like cooking in these strange times, but chicken soup is easy and soothing and my mum always made it”

Bruno Zhu

Portuguese artist working across photography, installation and sculpture, and founder of art space A Maior. Read more about A Maior here

My food of choice right now is fruit & nut mix. The pandemic hasn’t changed my usual dish of boiled vegetables strained, a dollop of hummus, half avocado sprinkled with black pepper, lemon juice and a dash of virgin olive oil. BUT I went back to an old habit of relying A LOT on nuts as a snack in between meals, and it’s making me fart a lot. So my suggestion is NOT to rely only on nuts as a snack food, like I’m doing as I type this. I feel bloated and the smells have been so lethal that I had to wash the seat cover of my chair. Sorry, too much information, but hope this helps others.


Julie Verhoeven

Artist and illustrator working between the worlds of art, fashion and design

A gluttonous plate of beans on toast makes everything better. Preferably on white doorstop bread with a “garnish” of grated cheddar. The ultimate indulgence without the frills. 


Gray Wielebinski 

American artist working in print, video, performance, sound, sculpture, and installation

It’s a bit disorienting being on another continent and time schedule to a lot of my friends and family in the States at the moment. I miss and am worried about my parents in particular. Chili was one of my favorite things that my mom made for me as a kid, so I’ll make some this week. Growing up in Texas, some people think it’s “blasphemous” to not have meat in chili, but I don’t eat meat anymore so here is a vegan one.

Gray Wielebinski’s Vegan Texan Chili

  1. Chop one large onion and red bell pepper into a large soup pot. 
  2. Saute in a little veggie broth until translucent and softened.
  3. Add 3-4 cloves minced garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds until fragrant
  4. Add 1 can tomato sauce and 1 can diced tomatoes, 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 tsp paprika and oregano, 2sp ground cumin, 1/4 cup chili powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper. Stir until mixed well
  5. Add 1 drained can each of black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans, 2 tbs jalapeños (if you have them/want) and stir before bringing it to a slow boil.
  6. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes.  


Helen Nisbet

Artistic Director of Art Night, London’s largest free contemporary art festival

In London isolation, I’m feeling the need for home. Last night I made a recipe that my mum used to make: Spinach Moussaka. It’s definitely a Scottish take on the Greek original, essentially mince and tatties but with spinach and cheese. On Friday, my family and I cooked curry together four-ways over Skype, which was really special. 

“Anything with hummus, because it’s an excuse to eat raw garlic. Self-isolation means it’s okay to smell bad”

Flo Brooks

British artist working with painting, drawing and installation. Read our interview here

I’ll probably be making a vegan curried lentil pie soon, and having that with a salad or frozen peas if I can’t find any fresh veg. It’s the kind my mum used to make when my siblings and I were children, its very Cranks circa late 1990’s, and for me extremely comforting as it reminds me of the Westcountry. 

Flo Brooks’ Vegan Curried Lentil Pie

  1. Blind bake some shortcrust pastry.
  2. Fry an onion, then add spices and herbs – turmeric, curry powder, smoked paprika, thyme, coriander, cumin, chilli flakes (or whatever you like)
  3. Add some veg stock and a good load of lentils or beans, whatever is in the cupboard, a bit of tomato paste or ketchup, garlic, Hendersons relish etc.
  4. Simmer down till the lentils are soft. 
  5. Add some vegan butter or bit of oil to make it more sticky, spoon it onto the pastry crust and bake till it’s a bit crispy on top. 
  6. You can put vegan cheese on top too but I don’t bother. A sprig of parsley would be really authentic! 


Emma Cousin

Multi-disciplinary artist with a focus on figurative painting. Read our interview here

My dad died when I was eight years old and his “meal” of Mount Vesuvius never fails to make me laugh. It’s messy and fun to make, is obscenely orange and fills you up for ages. (Kids can do the “molten lava” ketchup or beans bit). At a time of extreme uncertainty, worry and social distancing, food becomes importantly about comfort and connection to the people that make us feel loved, safe and happy. 

Emma Cousins’ Dad’s Mount Vesuvius

  1. Boil potatoes and thoroughly mash (a good way to release anger and frustration). Add butter, milk, salt and pepper and lots of Red Leicester. Lots of it. Stack the mash up in a massive pile like a mountain. Other people can help with this and create peaks on the sides of the “mountain”. 
  2. Make a hole in the top of the “mountain” about 3cm deep minimum and pour/squirt the ketchup (or beans) into it until it starts to run down the sides (eruption!)

Keep It Simple

Emma Talbot

Artist whose work spans drawing, painting, installation and sculpture, and winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Read our interview here

I’m not a great or invested cook, so can’t recommend any fancy dishes—but I love roasted vegetables and garlic with roasted chickpeas and a poached egg. 


Lydia Blakeley

Artist featured on the cover of Elephant Issue 41, and winner of the FBA Futures Art Prize 2020. Read our interview here

Despite my best efforts, I am a terrible cook, so during self isolation I’ll be keeping it simple. The dish I’ll be eating is jacket potatoes; I’ll just switch the fillings. They are cheap and practical, especially as potatoes keep for ages and are easy to cook. Perfect for the culinary inept like me!


Felicity Hammond

British artist working across photography and installation, with a focus on the political contradictions of the urban landscape

I think it is better not to think about what dishes I’ll be cooking, but rather how I can act and consume responsibly, using ingredients that aren’t in high demand.

“At a time of extreme uncertainty, worry and social distancing, food becomes importantly about comfort and connection”

Quick and Easy

Duggie Fields

Artist known for his post-pop-art paintings and active participation in the British art scene for over five decades

As for cooking and eating, I share my home with a southern Italian, who predominantly takes over the kitchen. Currently there have been a series of delicious free-styled minestrone soups. We argue a little about their pasta content—I like them with less, he wants them with more. Breakfast is more down to me and not a joint meal. Mostly it’s porridge with oat milk, yoghurt and fruit. It varies with variety and I always find it delicious. It is still surprising to me as I hated that dish so much in childhood, ruined I thought forever by the school version. 


Lindsey Mendick

British artist working with sculpture and ceramics

My recipe is for cabbage noodles. I love them because the ingredients are the sort of items you can find in your local shop and are really tasty. Also, you can add any veg that needs to be eaten from your fridge. 

Lindsey Mendick’s Cabbage Noodles 

  1. Put sesame oil in a pan with a thinly sliced onion and 2 sliced cloves of garlic.
  2. Fry off one white cabbage in batches and put to one side. (Any veg in the fridge can also be added).
  3. Using the rest of the oil, fry off a couple of rashers of bacon (cut into lardon size). 
  4. Add the cabbage and onions, and as much cumin as you think is tasty—I put in about one and a half teaspoons. 
  5. Then add two packs of straight-to-wok noodles and stir. Season with soy sauce, and fold in some coriander (if you can find any!)


Jeremy Leslie

Founder of magCulture, a design studio and London-based magazine shop

Meals are as much about the company as the food; so the meal I’m looking forward to most is next Saturday when, fingers crossed, our two adult sons will be back home at last; one will return early from his year in Australia, the other after fourteen days of self-isolation at university. What will we eat? Probably a take-away Indian from our local, Holy Cow, before a few rounds of cards.

Comfort Food

Maureen Paley

Founder and director of her eponymous East London gallery

Vegan dark chocolate in an espresso blend that I find in Brighton and am fairly addicted to. This is comfort food supreme, and though I could mention “purple sprouting broccoli” or a “Tumeric Latte” on a healthier note, this chocolate is always cheering, whatever the occasion.


Paul Kindersley

Queer performance and video artist represented by Belmacz 

While we can still get to the supermarkets, a reduced-price sandwich melt is my ultimate feel good food. Take any sandwich with cheese in—whether its Cheese and Celery from M&S or Tesco’s Cheddar and Smoked Ham. Pop it into a frying pan with lots of butter (or some olive oil), and fry on both sides til golden brown and crispy with oozing cheese. This also works cut into quarters as a side dish or fancy appetiser. If you hit Waitrose at the right time, you can pick up a sandwich from as little as twenty pence, and watch out for the four pence Tesco ones too. Its a winner! And added bonus is the walk involved to hunt out the best reductions.


Hettie Judah

Art critic and writer on fashion and design

I have already cooked Borlotti Beans, Savoy Cabbage & Rosemary Breadcrumbs—though I didn’t have cabbage so used kale instead. I was first cooked this by my artist friend Flan Flanagan. It’s really earthy comfort food, made with back of the fridge ingredients. I love the fact that the element of luxury comes from the breadcrumbs—a way not to waste stale bread—they’re crispy with olive oil and full of raw garlic, lemon peel and rosemary. Flan directed me to the recipe, which is from the Polpo cookbook.

“I think it is better not to think about what dishes I’ll be cooking, but rather how I can act and consume responsibly”


Edward Gillman

Director of Auto Italia, an artist-run organisation in London

Taking biogeek inspiration from God’s Gardeners, the religious sect featured in The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, I will be fermenting and consuming gallons of kombucha. I’ve been regularly brewing the sweet fermented tea for about a year now and I have found its live cultures to considerably bolster my health. It’s also a nod to one of the novel’s central characters Pilar who is known as Eve Six or “the Fungus”.


Joe Scotland

Director of Studio Voltaire, the South London, non-profit exhibition space and artist studios

I’m eating the Keralan Chicken Biryani ready meal from Waitrose. It is low in fat, and made by chefs and nutritionists—apparently. One of the upsides of self-isolating is being able to control what you eat a bit easier, so I’ve been trying to look after myself a bit with food and exercise. While I still have pretty strong cravings for ready-salted crisps, I’ve found that doing this gives my day a bit more of a routine and focus. 


Dick Jewell

Mixed-media artist working with photographic and digital anthologies

During this period of self-isolation, I know chicken broth will definitely be on the table. My wife is Brazilian and she says, “Chicken broth in Brazil raises the dead”. Studies show chicken soup to be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms in upper respiratory system infections—all good in my book, as a lifelong smoker. When making the stock from the chicken bones we let them cook for about twenty hours in our slow cooker, along with a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help extract the goodness from the bones, and salt, pepper and turmeric for taste.


All illustrations by Antonia Stringer


Stay the Fuck Home

Our special series offers creative approaches to the long days of self-isolation during this global crisis.