Firstly, congratulations on winning the Channel 4 Great Cookbook Challenge! How did you hear about it, and what made you decide to participate?
I heard about it on Instagram. I had always dreamed of writing a cookbook and couldn’t believe how perfect this opportunity was for me.
Who do you think is your typical reader, if such a person exists? Who would you love to read your book?
My typical reader definitely enjoys Asian flavours. They might have busy lives so don’t always have hours to spend in the kitchen making complicated recipes, so simplicity is important to them. Or perhaps they enjoy eating Asian cuisine when they’re out or want to recreate food they’ve had on their travels, but don’t know where to start.
What’s your favourite recipe from the book? Is there a particular family favourite you want everyone to try?
Gosh, there are so many to choose from! My kids love the entire curry section (perhaps with less chilli) but I think the Sticky chilli chicken is a definite winner – it uses store cupboard ingredients like ketchup and always goes down a storm.
What’s the most common question you are asked about Asian food?
So many people ask how on earth they get started – they love a Thai curry for example, but don’t know where to begin. Once you have a few key ingredients it really is simple. In the case of a curry, the secret is to buy a good quality Thai curry paste. Once you know how to use it, you can whip one up in about 20 minutes!
People are much more confident about tackling new styles of cookery, partly thanks to TV shows and online channels. Do you have a favourite TV chef (other than Jamie Oliver, obviously!)
I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain. His programmes mesmerised me and gave me the desire to travel and eat my way around the world. I loved his wry sense of humour.
Would you like to take part in another cookery competition show, and would you ever want to be a judge?
I’m not sure I could handle cooking that much again (!) but I’d love to be a judge on The Great British Menu – such a fab programme.
Have you thought about running cookery courses, and if so what would your speciality be?
I’ve actually got a couple of classes planned. My speciality would be my Asian-inspired style of cooking of course!
It’s getting easier to find Asian ingredients online, especially for those us us who live out in the sticks. Do you have any must-have kitchen staples which we should look out for?
Yes, I always have a good quality Thai red curry paste (Mae Ploy is worth seeking out), tamarind paste, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sweet chilli, hoisin sauce, miso paste and gochujang in the cupboard.
The COVID-19 situation has affected us all in different ways. How did you manage during the lockdowns?
Like many people, I struggled during the lockdowns. I started The Woolf’s Kitchen in the first one with my then 3, 4 and 5 year old children at home with no daytime childcare and it was tough. They came with me on deliveries and even to meetings! I had to fit sales calls in whenever I could and worked after the kids had gone to bed. The last lockdown in March 2021 felt even tougher for some reason – it turns out home schooling isn’t my forte and trying to maintain my business whilst also dealing with the usual chaos of having young kids started to take its toll. I was so relieved when schools went back.
Practical activity like cookery or baking can be very therapeutic. What’s your go-to stressbuster activity?
Although I love cooking, exercise would be my top stressbuster activity. I love running but often get injured so I try and do home HIIT workouts whenever I can.
You’ve created a successful business (The Woolf’s Kitchen, which is a fantastic name!) and now a cookbook. What’s next?
There are some exciting things in the pipeline. I’m hoping to do lots of live cooking demonstrations over the next few months, but first and foremost I’m really looking forward to developing my career as a food writer and getting stuck in. I already have lots of ideas bubbling away for the next book and will start working on that soon!
What would your perfect day look like, and what’s a place you’d love to visit?
Oh I’d love to go to Thailand again! I can’t wait to explore the food, see family, enjoy the beautiful weather and maybe relax on a beach! A perfect day would be waking up to a gorgeous view of the sea, having a run or doing a workout, followed by a breakfast of tropical fruits and then having some time to read before dipping into a lovely pool or sea. You can dream!
Do you have a favourite genre or author? What books or authors would you say were significant influences on you?
I love thrillers like Before I Go to Sleep, but I’m also a big fan of non-fiction books like Bad Science, Bounce and motivational books like Everything is figureoutable.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I used to love my children’s cookery book. I can’t remember the name but it was a massive book and full of photos with recipes like cheese and pineapple hedgehog and butterfly cakes. I used to take it to bed and pore over every single page.
Thank you very much for speaking to us, we wish you every success with the book.
Thank you so much!
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