Cookbook author found food for thought at home

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

Meal times were always important for us as a family growing up in the 1960s and '70s, and that's carried through into my adult life now that I'm a mother and wife.

For me they're sacred and that means no phone calls, reading books or watching television while we're at the table. We always make an effort to eat together and I think it's such a shame that a lot of people don't have the time to be able to do that and catch up on one another's news.

Growing up we were quite a busy though not typically Chinese family, with my parents entertaining a lot at home.

Dad was a barrister and his work required that. Food was therefore very important and mum would cook or she had help with it.

If they were hosting a dinner I'd dress nicely and come out and say hello to their guests.

Sometimes, I'd even be asked to perform, perhaps by singing.

School was St Paul's Convent, which of course was all girls and run by nuns.

Luckily I never felt under any pressure and all that was required of me was to do my best.

I was also very fortunate to grow up in a family that was quite liberal for its time, which meant we children were always allowed to explore what we were doing.

Both my sister and I were arty and we were encouraged to do voluntary teaching and community work.

I did domestic science at school and I loved drama. I also loved singing and was in choirs and folk groups as well as musicals.

I was less keen for a while on being in an all-girls school. I wasn't into the girlie stuff and I think girls can be quite mean to one another growing up. I have three boys now and I do think they're simpler.

Later on, I went to boarding school in Sussex, England.

My father had been educated in England and he really thought the experience of travelling and living in a different country made you more independent.

And as my brother and sister were also at school in England, I'd heard about it, knew what to expect and looked forward to it.

Of course, for the first two months I was very homesick but I settled in and did become more independent.

It was also a nuns' school and I remember the headmistress for being organised.

She also seemed like a genius to me as she appeared to know everything.

I continued to love drama there and did my Royal Academy of Dramatic Art exams.

I still loved to eat, though I didn't get to cook much.

Luckily for me, I'd go and stay with my brother and sister, and she would cook for me.

I started cooking in earnest after leaving school.

I lived with two girlfriends and as they didn't cook, I did it and they'd do the washing up.

I went onto London University to do Russian studies after doing languages at A-Level.

I loved the literature side but didn't really enjoy the course as such, so then pursued arts at Heatherley's School of Fine Art in Chelsea.

I find I love cooking. It's relaxing and there's a great sense of achievement. If it goes right, people praise you and are happy. I've found people are always happy with a full stomach.

I've also found it's very creative and I particularly love baking.

It's interesting too how more and more people in Hong Kong are also starting to cook more often.

One day at lunch with a friend, Claudia Shaw-d'Auriol, I mentioned I'd like to do a cookery book for charity and she said she'd like to as well.

The first one was called DELICIOUS and was divided into three sections: starters, main course and desserts.

We weren't using new recipes and it comprised Asian, fusion and western cuisine.

In fact, we did two editions of it, benefiting two Hong Kong charities - Priscilla's Home, a small home for the mentally disabled, and the Children's Thalassaemia Foundation in Hong Kong.

The second edition had proceeds going to Facing the World, a British charity which operates on children from the developing world with severe facial disfigurements.

The second cookbook, TOO DELICIOUS, was in response to friends' requests for easy-to-follow recipes that were nutritious.

This one benefits Room to Read, a charity which works with local communities throughout the developing world to provide quality educational opportunities by establishing libraries, creating local language children's literature, constructing schools, providing education to girls and establishing computer labs.