Let's Eat

Victoria Starmer – you’re going to be busy so here are my tips for a fuss-free and fast Shabbat

It’s hard enough to get Friday night dinner on the table even if you’re not the Prime Minister’s wife but these hacks can help


LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 5: Victoria Starmer, wife of Labour leader Keir Starmer, arrives during the count for the constituency of Holborn and St Pancras during the UK general election on July 5, 2024 in London, England. The incumbent MP for the London Constituency of Holborn and St Pancras is Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Victoria Starmer’s going to be busy. Despite her husband insisting that their Friday nights will be sacrosanct, I’ve a feeling she’s going to be a little more pushed to get their Shabbat meal on the table.

She and I have more in common than our names. We both went to fee-paying schools in northwest London. She and I qualified and worked as solicitors before changing careers and are now both mothers of teenagers aged 15 and 13, with careers and busy husbands. Admittedly, her beloved may have a teensy bit more on his plate than mine does going forward.

I’m rooting for her with a huge amount of empathy as she goes forward into the unknown as wife of our newest Prime Minister. And I’ve got some tips and tricks to offer her that might help lighten the load. I’m sure she’s got it covered as she’s an experienced host, but just in case she’s looking for new inspo...  

1. Traybakes:
One roasting tin filled with meat and vegetables is the way to go. Fast to assemble and minimal washing up — what’s not to like. My favourites include my chicken in a bag — my twist on the classic Chicken Marbella. Vic can prep the whole thing the night before then simply tip into the tin and roast ready for Sir Kier’s 6.30pm arrival.
Or for a non-meat option, a tray of spicy haloumi packed with vitamin-filled veggies to keep the PM in tip top health.

2. Batching:
If her brood like a bowl of chicken soup with kneidlach then I’d recommend finding time on the weekend to make a huge batch of both and then freezing them. (There are handy videos on the JC’s YouTube channel for both.) Open freeze the matzah balls and then bag them up to save space.
Both soup and kneidlach do fine in the freezer. Get the soup into the fridge when prepping that chicken (above) on Thursday night so it’s defrosted by Friday, and cook the matzah balls from frozen. (Pop them into a pan of simmering water to cook then serve in the hot soup.)

3. Enlist ‘em:
Not the public service ex-PM Sunak was advocating, but another form of service for those teens. As a mother of teens of the same age — my son is 15 (nearly 16) and daughter is 13 — I know they’re quite capable of mucking in, even if they’re guaranteed to do it with a scowl on their faces.
Veg peeling, table laying and clearing and even pudding prep can all go on their lists. To be honest, they could prep a course each if you can face the pushback and kitchen chaos. It’s worth the initial negotiation (ie: shouty demanding from mum) but they’ll get used to it (eventually) and it definitely lightens the load.
And I’d also get my guests to bring a course — whether it’s dips to start with, a salad or dessert, it all helps and no one will mind.

4. Pudding prep:
While we’re discussing dessert it’s fine to keep this super simple. My go-to is a fruit crumble. When I have time, I make  a huge batch of (milky or parev) crumble topping and freeze it in portions — makes the sweet a breeze.

Vic can also stock the freezer in Downing Street or their Islington home with plenty of frozen fruits and dessert is done in minutes. Chuck in chocolate, nuts or halva into your topping for a next-level option. She could try this apple tahini crumble, which adds an extra layer of Middle Eastern-influenced flavour but you can keep it simple.

In summer, I’d chuck out a fruit plate, break up some chocolate or maybe knock up a batch of beautiful looking bark.
Or, and there’s no shame in this — buy in a dessert. The French think nothing of picking up a fancy flan from the patisserie and there’s no shortage of fabulous foodie outlets in both of her potential neighbourhoods.

5. Dinner delivered:
If buying in works for Vic, there are plenty of options. I’m a huge believer in mixing and matching ready-made dishes with my own efforts. While home made challah is the best, it also can be time sucker. Despite the hands on time being minimal, the timing can be a pain when you’ve other matters to take care of.
So, for her Sabbath bread (if it’s being served up at Downing Street) there’s a handy boutique kosher food store in Belgravia. Less than 10 minutes in the car and a 30-minute walk. Or from Islington, there’s plenty of kosher challah to be found in Stamford Hill or she might want to try the new Reubens Café and Bakery on Baker Street — although I’m not sure if they are baking challah at this stage. There’s also much in the way of fabulous (non-kosher) challah to be found around London too — Panzers, Karma Bread, Gail’s, Honey & Co and so many more.

Best of luck in your new life, VS — I’m here to help if you need any more time-saving tips.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive