At Home With…
Skye McAlpine


Warmth, abundance, and the art of imperfection: food writer Skye McAlpine on the humble ingredients that make for the most spectacular parties—whether you’re hosting for two or ten.
  
Interview by: Tatiana Hambro
Pictured: Skye McAlpine wears
Oscar de la Renta with her own hair and make-up. Photographed by Nikki McClarron at her home.
At Home With…
Skye McAlpine


Warmth, abundance, and the art of imperfection: food writer Skye McAlpine on the humble ingredients that make for the most spectacular parties—whether you’re hosting for two or twenty.
 
 

Interview by: Tatiana Hambro Pictured: Skye McAlpine wears Oscar de la Renta with her own hair and make-up.  Photographed by Nikki McClarron at her home.
At Home With…
Skye McAlpine


Warmth, abundance, and the art of imperfection: food writer Skye McAlpine on the humble ingredients that make for the most spectacular parties—whether you’re hosting for two or twenty.
 
 

Interview by: Tatiana Hambro Pictured: Skye McAlpine wears Oscar de la Renta with her own hair and make-up.  Photographed by Nikki McClarron at her home.
On What Her Holidays Look Like This Year...

Because I was born British and grew up in Italy and my husband is Australian, we embrace a mix of traditions from all over. I love that because it means I get to adopt holidays like Thanksgiving (growing up, one of my mother’s best friends was married to an American and we’d celebrate every year in their palazzo in Venice). This year, it’ll be just our bubble in London—my husband, our two sons, and our nanny—owing to the lockdown. We’ll probably do an early Thanksgiving supper rather than a lunch as it gets dark at 4pm.
   
It’s not as big a group as I’d like it to be but I still think cooking and laying the table will be an important part of making it feel special, even though it’s tempting to sit in your pajamas and do nothing. We’ve decided we don’t love turkey so we’ll do a really good roast chicken instead. I normally put it on a bed of rosemary with some open pomegranates so it looks really pretty. To go with that, I’ll do mashed potatoes, a squash mash with heaps of butter, and chopped preserved lemons on top. I’m not sure if that’s traditional but it feels really autumnal and I just love it. For pudding, I’ll add an Italian touch with my mascarpone tart. It’s almost an American pie—or a nod to a pie, at least. And it’s really easy to make (see the recipe below). 
   
On What Her Holidays Look Like This Year...

Because I was born British and grew up in Italy and my husband is Australian, we embrace a mix of traditions from all over. I love that because it means I get to adopt holidays like Thanksgiving (growing up, one of my mother’s best friends was married to an American and we’d celebrate every year in their palazzo in Venice). This year, it’ll be just our bubble in London—my husband, our two sons, and our nanny—owing to the lockdown. We’ll probably do an early Thanksgiving supper rather than a lunch as it gets dark at 4pm.
   
It’s not as big a group as I’d like it to be but I still think cooking and laying the table will be an important part of making it feel special, even though it’s tempting to sit in your pajamas and do nothing. We’ve decided we don’t love turkey so we’ll do a really good roast chicken instead. I normally put it on a bed of rosemary with some open pomegranates so it looks really pretty. To go with that, I’ll do mashed potatoes, a squash mash with heaps of butter, and chopped preserved lemons on top. I’m not sure if that’s traditional but it feels really autumnal and I just love it. For pudding, I’ll add an Italian touch with my mascarpone tart. It’s almost an American pie—or a nod to a pie, at least. And it’s really easy to make (see the recipe below). 
   
On Festive Decorating—And Why She Favors Fruits Over Flowers...

I’m loving gingham this year paired with lots of squashes, herbs, and candles on the tables. Everything looks good and glamorous by candlelight. And I like to layer, mixing up the heights so it doesn’t feel too rigid. Choose bowls in different sizes and scatter them so it’s kind of undulating over the table. Another thing that is lovely in winter is herbs. I like to tie big bunches of rosemary with twine. If I’m doing a really big long table, I’ll take potted plants and herbs and dot them up and down.
  
At this time of year, flowers can be harder to come by; they’re not in season and they’re really expensive. By contrast, there are so many beautiful fruits in really autumnal colors. I go heavy on pumpkins, squashes, persimmons, pears, apples, deep-colored plums, as well as bowls of walnuts and chestnuts.
  
The other reason I love decorating with fruit is you can use it afterward, whereas flowers wilt. People tend to help themselves and that interactive element encourages people to linger after the meal. That’s often when you know you’ve thrown a good party, when everyone’s still there. What doesn’t get used up can then be used in cooking later on—poached pears, apple crumble, or a delicious breakfast compote. It worked particularly well in the holiday period when there’s a succession of entertaining.
  
On Her Secret Ingredient: Imperfection...

Character is so aesthetically valuable. Something will be more beautiful if it’s a little bit off—it just makes it that much more memorable or interesting. If you can find the strange-shaped fruit and veggie, that’s better.
  
It’s also one of the reasons I love mixing and matching. You want your table to feel special and exciting, but you also want everyone to feel relaxed and instantly at home in that setting. The worst thing is when you feel you’re at someone’s house and you’re afraid to break something. One of the ways to achieve that is having hoards of candles and piles of fruit so it feels really sumptuous—but at the same time, it’s not perfect. Odd shapes and overflowing piles help people to feel at ease and more comfortable.
 
On Festive Decorating—And Why She Favors Fruits Over Flowers...

I’m loving gingham this year paired with lots of squashes, herbs, and candles on the tables. Everything looks good and glamorous by candlelight. And I like to layer, mixing up the heights so it doesn’t feel too rigid. Choose bowls in different sizes and scatter them so it’s kind of undulating over the table. Another thing that is lovely in winter is herbs. I like to tie big bunches of rosemary with twine. If I’m doing a really big long table, I’ll take potted plants and herbs and dot them up and down.
  
At this time of year, flowers can be harder to come by; they’re not in season and they’re really expensive. By contrast, there are so many beautiful fruits in really autumnal colors. I go heavy on pumpkins, squashes, persimmons, pears, apples, deep-colored plums, as well as bowls of walnuts and chestnuts.
  
The other reason I love decorating with fruit is you can use it afterward, whereas flowers wilt. People tend to help themselves and that interactive element encourages people to linger after the meal. That’s often when you know you’ve thrown a good party, when everyone’s still there. What doesn’t get used up can then be used in cooking later on—poached pears, apple crumble, or a delicious breakfast compote. It worked particularly well in the holiday period when there’s a succession of entertaining.
  
On Her Secret Ingredient: Imperfection...

Character is so aesthetically valuable. Something will be more beautiful if it’s a little bit off—it just makes it that much more memorable or interesting. If you can find the strange-shaped fruit and veggie, that’s better.
  
It’s also one of the reasons I love mixing and matching. You want your table to feel special and exciting, but you also want everyone to feel relaxed and instantly at home in that setting. The worst thing is when you feel you’re at someone’s house and you’re afraid to break something. One of the ways to achieve that is having hoards of candles and piles of fruit so it feels really sumptuous—but at the same time, it’s not perfect. Odd shapes and overflowing piles help people to feel at ease and more comfortable.
 
On Why Anyone Can Cook (Yes, Really)...

Everything I’ve learned has come from cooking for more people than it ever seems sensible to squeeze into our tiny kitchen. And that stems back to when I was living in student digs—we didn’t even have a fridge in the kitchen! We only had a tiny mini fridge in our bedrooms and no real table. But we’d gather around the coffee table and still have a proper meal. Cooking isn’t hard. A lot of it is about letting go of your expectations. A lot of us have these preconceptions that hosting is about doing something really elaborate, but it doesn’t have to be. And that’s not because you’re settling for something that’s second best, I genuinely think the simplest thing done the right way offers the best experience. And that’s definitely true when it comes to entertaining. You want it to be simple and inviting and cozy—because otherwise it’s not fun for you and it’s not fun for your guests. That’s really the Italian way.
  
On How Italy Has Influenced Her Hosting Style...

The Italian way of cooking is what I grew up with. Obviously, it’s delicious—but it’s really all about simplicity. It’s very ingredients-led, so it’s all about finding the ingredients and then doing the bare minimum to make it a meal. Obviously, we’re not all buying from an Italian market where the produce is all there for you, so if you’re shopping from a farmer’s market or a supermarket, it’s about knowing what to buy and how to put it together.
  
On Why Anyone Can Cook (Yes, Really)...

Everything I’ve learned has come from cooking for more people than it ever seems sensible to squeeze into our tiny kitchen. And that stems back to when I was living in student digs—we didn’t even have a fridge in the kitchen! We only had a tiny mini fridge in our bedrooms and no real table. But we’d gather around the coffee table and still have a proper meal. Cooking isn’t hard. A lot of it is about letting go of your expectations. A lot of us have these preconceptions that hosting is about doing something really elaborate, but it doesn’t have to be. And that’s not because you’re settling for something that’s second best, I genuinely think the simplest thing done the right way offers the best experience. And that’s definitely true when it comes to entertaining. You want it to be simple and inviting and cozy—because otherwise it’s not fun for you and it’s not fun for your guests. That’s really the Italian way.
  
On How Italy Has Influenced Her Hosting Style...

The Italian way of cooking is what I grew up with. Obviously, it’s delicious—but it’s really all about simplicity. It’s very ingredients-led, so it’s all about finding the ingredients and then doing the bare minimum to make it a meal. Obviously, we’re not all buying from an Italian market where the produce is all there for you, so if you’re shopping from a farmer’s market or a supermarket, it’s about knowing what to buy and how to put it together.