Cooking up a storm: Hugh Millais, a life in recipes

LONDON Wed Nov 28, 2007 6:45am EST

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - In his many careers as a journalist, yachtsman, property developer, bar owner, oil dealer and actor, Hugh Millais has one strand that has run through his adult life -- his passion for cooking and eating fine food.

Now 75, the unashamedly name-dropping peripatetic polymath has committed his top recipes and some of his more repeatable anecdotes to print in a biographical cookbook, "Hugh's Who".

"I never planned what to do next. I tossed coins quite a lot to decide," said the great grandson of pre-Raphaelite leader John Everett Millais in an interview. "You have no idea how hard you have to work to do nothing."

Each recipe is linked to a story about a person, event or escapade in the life of a giant of a man (in both senses, he's two meters tall) who has crossed the globe and known some of the great eccentrics of art, architecture, acting and adventure.

There is the crown of lamb he cooked for Orson Welles after the actor-director, who had hired his house in Spain while filming, had stopped wearing the ribs as a hat.

Then there is the Huevos Cubanos he shared with Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner and Marlene Dietrich after sailing into a mini-revolution in pre-Castro Cuba and getting shot through the arm at the helm of his beloved racing yacht Benbow.

Or the Citrons Confit produced by the "Queen of Tangiers" -- otherwise known as Lord David Herbert -- when Millais turned up in Tangiers with English eccentric Aldred Drummond who had just taken a taxi from London after losing heavily at backgammon.

And what about the kedgeree served by the staff of the hotel in Belize where he stayed for six weeks while filming Dogs of War, albeit using frogs in place of haddock and seaweed instead of mushrooms.

Millais admits to being art-blind, a great regret to his artistically inclined aristocratic family, but more than makes up for it in his evident love of life -- and food.

Having drifted from England to Ireland and Canada, he hitch-hiked around South America, sailed all over the Caribbean and then moved regularly between France, Italy, Spain and Britain mixing with the cream of society.

"Ten years sailing in the Caribbean in the 1950s was a major effort. But it was great fun as a place. The Caribbean and Mexico are two great loves of my life," said Millais. "But I have had a marvelous time everywhere really."

Sometimes riding high and sometimes penniless, Millais' life has been as varied as his recipes.

As friend Herbert Kretzmer, a journalist, songwriter and lyricist, summed it up: "Hugh Millais has shown wisdom and acquired magnificence by not doing any one thing for too long."

Millais saves the best recipe for last in his 200-page book.

Hugh's Recipe for Life reads as follows: "75 years, 0 hours of labor, 40,000 bottles of wine, a pinch of song, women (to taste). Sozzle gently over a low lifestyle, leave to marinade slowly, bring to fruition. Garnish the whole thing wildly in the telling."

The cookbook can be found at www.lulu.com/content/1370281.

(Reporting by Jeremy Lovell; editing by Paul Casdciato)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.