King of Swing

Ladies and Gentlemen, appetite brings you Newcastle’s favourite singer, Jason Isaacs, at home, as he cooks up dinner for Rosie McGlade. With a little help from his wife. And daughter…

When we arrive at Jason Isaacs’ house in Gosforth, Newcastle, the photographer and I, he’s in his underpants, ironing. (Ladies, can you imagine…) Okay, he has a T-shirt on, but the picture I’m sharing is one of sheer domesticity.

Jason, Newcastle’s beloved crooner, sax player, maker-of-hairs-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck, ITV’s national crooner of the year, filler of concert halls, darling of shrieking women, I could go on, and here he is in his boxers surrounded by kitchenware

There’s a pan of potatoes, peeled and blanched. Jason did that. There’s lamb in the oven. There’s a dish of chopped garlic, one of chillies and one of flat-leaf parsley for the gambas pil pil. There’s a bowl of home-made tzatziki. Somewhere, we hear, there’s a cake.

All is in order, all is calm. Jason’s wife Sharon shoos their two children, Isaac, 12, and Daisy, 10, off to tennis with their friend Bryn, the ironing board folds neatly away and the yellow T-shirt goes on. The fizz is popped and the master takes to the stove.

Flames flare, oil sloshes round to be fired at by garlic and other ingredients, a pinch of brown sugar, a daring dash of rum, and then the prawns. It’s a quick starter, done in five minutes, and it’s delicious.

And the truth is, Jason made it all by himself, though there’s another little truth (let’s face it, it’s not just good food which makes for an entertaining dinner party…) we’ll keep tucked away until Jason hunts down the lamb.

Let’s just first describe the big, open-plan kitchen; the result of a major extension five or six years ago. It’s fitted with beautiful wooden units, has a leather sofa along one wall, windows to a pretty garden with trampoline out the back, children’s paintings dotted about and a sturdy Barker and Stonehouse table in the middle.

Familiar territory to Jason. And it’s only fair to point out that their main oven door pulls down. But it’s one of those large gas ranges and there’s another section to the side, where the lamb’s slowly cooking. Its door opens to the side, like a room door; there’s a split second when Jason is visibly flummoxed.

“I feel like I’m in one of those 70s sitcoms,” he blushes, “with the boss coming round for supper. It’s like, ‘quick! Pretend I’m a Michelin chef!’”
Bless. He’s possibly had a bit of help putting this together (the lamb didn’t get in that oven by itself) but we can’t all be experts at everything. Or know how everything works.

The steaks (Costco) have been cooked for two hours on a low oven with salt, pepper and a little oil. What a great dish for supper with friends. It more or less cooks itself, and they’re wonderfully tender.

The parboiled potatoes (ExtraSpecial from Asda) are roasted with olive oil, rosemary, Maldon salt – which is good for you as it still has its trace elements and minerals, unlike table salt (this from Sharon) – are gorgeous.

The grated cucumber that goes in the tzatziki is first drained, so when it’s added to the Greek yoghurt, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano it stays thick and creamy as opposed to runny, and there’s a colourful home-made crunchy coleslaw.

Jason hardly slept last night with worry, he tells us. Magazines don’t normally ask him to make dinner. Sharon remains all smiles, saying little. They’ve been together since they were 16.

“I think we’re quite lucky in Newcastle at the moment,” says Jason, steering the conversation away from home cooking, which we’ll allow because he takes Sharon out every week for a romantic meal. “There are a lot of good places in town. I like Six at the Baltic, where you always feel it’s a special occasion, and Jesmond Dene House is a lovely spot with great food.

“They do live jazz nights on Mondays at the Cherry Tree on Osbourne Road in Jesmond; really good bands and a quality set menu. The chef seems to do a bit of what he fancies from all over the world.”

Pudding is a fabulous dark chocolate cake made with Guinness and served with strawberries and ice cream. Jason? No, Daisy this time. It’s Daddy’s favourite.

We’re lucky, because normally Jason would be out playing cricket, or football, or tennis, by now. Most days he runs five miles. “I had to lose a stone because I was struggling to get into my stage suits,” he says. Talking of which, his sailor suit is on a hanger near the kitchen door. There’s one that gets a good reaction from audiences.

Anyhow, one course down, and he finally has to leave. A late five-a-side fixture. “Is this not the life of a chef – deriving his pleasure from everyone else eating?”

One thing we can confirm is that Jason makes great mash. The kids, home from tennis, are served with huge dollops of this familiar signature dish with bangers before he departs.

“I always source my sauces from local sources. If I’m doing a Thai curry I only use Northumbrian coconuts. Or go to Asda, within walking distance,” he quips.

Ah, Jason, ever the entertainer. And if he’s a fine solo singer, he does a mean double act in the kitchen with Sharon. And Daisy. Did we say that out loud?

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