Fergie is bringing out a family cook book - and it might just be what she (and you) needs

She has reinvented herself time and time again, but perhaps the world does really need her newest incarnation - the cookbook writer

Sarah, Duchess of York arrive to attend the wedding of Britain's Princess Eugenie of York to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel
It was announced this week that Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is writing a 'fun and easy' recipe book Credit: VICTORIA JONES 

For all of us, this most extraordinary year has forced us to reflect and reinvent ourselves. We have worked out with Joe Wicks, yoga’d with Adriene, perfected our banana bread, decided we hated banana bread, created and killed sourdough starters, done deals from the sofa, turned our kitchens into classrooms, Zoomed, groomed our own hair, grown our own tomatoes, and kept it all together as best we can. Well done everybody, honestly.

Meanwhile, in an unlikely Covid-induced development, it was announced this week that Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is writing a recipe book, to be published next year. It’s a collection of “fun and easy” dishes for the whole family to enjoy (sadly when it comes to the Royal Family, one assumes not all at the same time, in the same room).

Still, plucky Sarah is thrilled. Of course she is. Excited is her star sign. She has spent her whole life being thrilled, just as a Labrador is thrilled when its owner comes back from circumnavigating the globe or going to the post box and back, whichever is the shorter. Put on a happy face, and smile, smile, smile. God damn it.

Fergie has written 25 books in the past, which is possibly more than she has read. And this is her second cookbook, the first being Dining with the Duchess: Making Everyday Meals Special Occasions, which she wrote when she was brand ambassador for Weight Watchers, in the nineties version of on-her-uppers and needing to earn a low-carb crust.

This new book is the result of Sarah’s lockdown project, a YouTube channel called Fergie and Friends. While sitting out the plague at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, she needed something to take her mind off, well, everything: a pandemic; a daughter’s rearranged wedding and an ex-husband and “bestest friend” potentially facing extradition to the States. It’s quite a lot. So what is a duchess to do? In Fergie’s case, reach for the stories and the sprinkles.

Her latest YouTube channel, which has seen her following steadily grow in lockdown

This new book will contain some of the recipes she has shared on Fergie and Friends, 4pm each day, along with stories read by Sarah or one of the friends – her daughters, who disappointingly don’t display their mother’s penchant for dressing up, or Cressida Bonas, Sam Branson, Stephen Fry, Beverley Knight, Natalie Imbruglia: it’s quite the wholesome crowd.

On clear days, Sarah bobs around Windsor Great Park dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, popping up from behind the blue hydrangeas or beneath a beribboned tree. On inclement days, she is confined to a conservatory embellished with fake apple blossom and union flag cushions, the sort of posh gimcrackery that makes you feel that just out of shot are those delightful garden signs in handwriting font (“I find gardening so exciting that I wet my plants”; “Life’s a garden. Dig it!”– you know the sort of thing).

What we can say about Fergie is that she is not afraid of a wig or a garland or any other kind of embellishment, and that she has at her disposal more soft toys than Hamley’s. She launches into Goldilocks in blonde plaits, Dinosaurs Love Underpants in a beige bush hat, and Aladdin in a coronet of daisies.

In addition to the stories, she rustles up peanut butter and banana toasts in the shape of teddy bears, chocolate-covered strawberries in tiny terra cotta pots as a tribute to Peter Rabbit, and marshmallow tea pots, because why not? Treasure Chest Yum Stacks are formed clumsily from chocolate rolls, Haribo rings and Smarties. Sausage meat is smooshed into bought pastry and rolled up into “snails”. It is all delivered in a chaotic, slightly breathless, oh-well-that-will-have-to-do fashion. Important not to look as though you have rehearsed.

The duchess’s Instagram account is a buoyant assembly of images of Storytime Duchess, interspersed with pictures of the Dalai Lama and inspirational quotations (“Sometimes what looks like an obstacle in your path is actually a gift meant to move you in a different direction”), so it’s not all a load of sprinkles and glitter.

Famously, Fergie and Prince Andrew were set up by Princess Diana at an Ascot lunch where they launched profiteroles at each other, in a traditional mating ritual of the British upper classes, one step up from pulling pony tails. The rest of us have to put up with strategically ignoring each other until marriage becomes inevitable.

Traditionally, the British upper classes have always viewed an interest in food as highly suspicious and not quite PLU. (Of course, their children and grandchildren all run artisanal foraging companies and fork-to-table restaurants now, but that is beside the point.) Ridicule and jokes, however, were always acceptable. Which is how we now have a sixty-year-old duchess making Three Little Pigs Cupcakes, Chocolate Teddy Cars and Pepper Trains, having the time of her life and capturing the heart of the camp nation. When all is grim outside, put on a happy (banana) face, sling on a garland, and sprinkle on some space dust. That will have to do.

Read more: How Fergie's lockdown reinvention has won over a new legion of fans