Sue Webster interview: 'Dinner times were like a game of Russian Roulette'

The artist tells us about buying a bolthole in the country, foraging for midnight feasts and feeding PJ Harvey

  • Sue Webster

    'The Folly Acres Cook Book'

    © the artist/Other Criteria

    Sue Webster
  • Sue Webster

    'The Folly Acres Cook Book'

    © the artist/Other Criteria

    Sue Webster
  • Sue Webster

    'The Folly Acres Cook Book'

    © the artist/Other Criteria

    Sue Webster
  • Sue Webster

    'The Folly Acres Cook Book'

    © the artist/Other Criteria

    Sue Webster
  • Sue Webster

    'The Folly Acres Cook Book'

    © the artist/Other Criteria

    Sue Webster

Sue Webster

'The Folly Acres Cook Book'

© the artist/Other Criteria

Better known as one half of East End duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster, the artist has just released a cook book. But, filled with drawings, photos and ribald anecdotes as well as recipes such as 'Party Squirrel' and 'Traumatic Herb Salad', this isn't your average food porn hardback.

You don't strike me as a domestic goddess. Why a cook book?
'It came from necessity after Tim and I bought a place - called "Folly Acres" - in Gloucestershire. We learnt what it meant to live directly off the land. We would bolt out of London in the middle of the night and there would be always something growing in the garden, and so it became a challenge to throw together what ever was at hand and I would jot down the results. When I thought about containing them in a book I was inspired by "Wild Raspberries", the Andy Warhol cookbook, which he also illustrated. It's kind of a non cookbook - one of the recipes encourages you to order a suckling pig from Trader Vic's and have your driver pick it up in the Cadillac and bring it home.'

Are you from a foodie family?
'My father once tried to murder my mother with a frozen chicken, so family meal times were often quite entertaining. My dad worked for a while at the Findus frozen food factory fixing the freezers and so would bring home packets that had missed the labelling process. Dinner times were like a game of Russian Roulette.'

‘If you ever entertain PJ Harvey for dinner, hide the mustard!'’

© Two Shooters Photography

Some of your recipes are pretty simple but the stories are wild...
'They're simple because as I explain in my introduction "I'm Not Posh, I'm Normal me...". I was encouraged by a friend to expand more on the storytelling as introductions to each recipe, and because of that, what began as a cook book ended up being a semi-autobiographical journey through food. Ultimately I am exercising my literary talents in preparation for my first novel, 'I was a Teenage Banshee'.

In your 'salad for Polly Harvey' recipe you advise against using mustard. Does she hate the stuff?
'Yes. A piece of advice: if you ever entertain PJ Harvey for dinner, hide the mustard!'

What's your favourite thing to eat?

My friend, the chef Mark Hix, named a dish after me which is permanently on the menu of all of his restaurants: "Webster's Fish Fingers" because I have eaten nothing else on the menu since the day he opened.'

Which do you prefer: town or country?
'I need both in my life. It's great to have somewhere to go when things get too hot in the city but I still need the buzz of the city, the aggression of the street and its constant pressure in order to make art.'

You and Tim still work together but you're no longer a couple. How do you deal with co-owning of the land?
'"Folly Acres" has become like our bastard child. We've learned to share it at the weekends.'

Buy 'The Folly Acres Cook Book' .