Lisa Faulkner: I grew up in a house where everything was homemade
Actor and cook Lisa Faulkner learnt a lot from her mother, and is keen to pass everything on to her daughter, she tells Prudence Wade
Even though she's an actor by trade, it's food that really fires up Lisa Faulkner. This is evident in the way she excitably talks about cooking, and is also backed up by her CV - Faulkner won Celebrity MasterChef in 2010, and has gone on to write four cookbooks.
The former EastEnders actor grew up in a foodie household, where her late mother made every meal from scratch. Now, she shares a home with MasterChef host John Torode, and food remains central to their lives.
Faulkner lost her mother when she was 16, but memories of her cooking have stuck with the 46-year-old.
"I grew up in a house where everything was homemade," Faulkner reminisces. "My mum cooked everything - even if it was Rice Krispie chicken instead of chicken nuggets, or homemade burgers on weekends. We'd have spag bol, shepherd's pie, fish pie - it was always homemade, so I grew up learning to cook with my mum."
These childhood memories inspired Faulkner to write her first cookbook: Recipes From My Mother To My Daughter. Not only did she want to pay tribute to her mother, but she wanted to pass on the same skills and happy moments to her daughter.
"It was my favourite book to write, because it was all her recipes that I cook all the time, and hopefully my daughter will too, one day," Faulkner says.
Faulkner adopted her daughter Billie, now 11, in 2008 when she was 15 months old. While Billie isn't signing up to Junior MasterChef any time soon, it's clear she's already developed her mother's love of food.
"I cook every day, and if my daughter's in the mood to cook, she will. And if she's not, she won't," Faulkner says. "But she'll always stir a sauce and taste something. She's much happier cooking savoury things - she likes to make a dinner."
Like any parent, Faulkner is preoccupied with encouraging her daughter to have a balanced approach to food.
"She's at that age where she's in control of her pocket money, so we have conversations about what she's spending it on and eating healthily," she says.
For Faulkner, it's all about finding that elusive balance. "It's very difficult, letting an 11-year-old free where there's ice buns, sausage rolls and pizzas, as well as salad," she groans. "We try to say that she should have packed lunches one week, and then school dinners the next, so she gets to choose - it's all about everything in moderation."
Faulkner is well aware that it's not always easy for stressed-out families to eat healthily, but she has a some simple advice to help busy parents.
"I know that people are strapped for time," she says. "But shoving a chicken in the oven, or doing some roast vegetables with some fish on top - it can be really easy stuff.
"If you're eating food that you make, then you know what's going into it. You know there aren't any additives, and you can make sure there's a good array of fruit and vegetables."
It's not just cooking that Faulkner loves, but also dinner time - the evening meal is particularly important for them.
"We always make time to sit down for dinner, with phones and televisions off, so we can chat about the day," she says. "We chat and tell jokes, and everyone gets involved. [John also has four other children from his two marriages.] That's the most important thing - everyone gets a chance to talk."
So what tends to be on the menu in the Faulkner-Torode household? The two share the cooking, and have such different styles. "I'm very lucky - he makes gorgeous Asian food, so we have lovely Thai fish curries and noodles," Faulkner gushes.
"If I'm cooking, I'd go for a roast chicken with a salad and lots of different vegetables on the side. My family are also big fans of old-school things, like cauliflower cheese or individual cottage pies."
Lisa Faulkner recently joined Beko at EuroCucina as an ambassador for the brand's Eat Like A Pro healthy-eating campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the global epidemic of childhood obesity. Visit eatlikeaprobybeko.com/eatlikeapro-en/