Lisa Faulkner has played a woman who had her head plunged into a vat of boiling oil in Spooks, made a name for herself in Holby City, and has enjoyed a successful modelling career. But it is in her role as cook that she has found perhaps the most satisfaction.
After winning Celebrity MasterChef in 2010, in which judge Gregg Wallace said she was ‘possibly the best winner we have ever had’, Lisa, who lives in Hadley Wood in Barnet, has put together a rather special cookery book, Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter, published last week by Simon & Schuster.
Winning Celebrity MasterChef and writing this book are the culmination of an emotional journey that began when her mother, Julie, died of cancer when Lisa was just 16. Her clearest memories of her mum are of her cooking delicious meals for the family, and in recreating her recipes in this book Lisa is not just keeping her mother's memory alive, she is also passing on to her own daughter, Billie, the love of cookery she inherited from her mum.
“My mum was the inspiration for the book,” Lisa says. “For me recipes are for passing down from generation to generation, so it was my mother to me and now me to my daughter. And there’s also my grandmother, my great grandmother and my godmothers, we all share recipes with each other.
“My mum was a brilliant cook, absolutely amazing. Because I wanted to hang out with her I hung out in the kitchen because that’s where she always was.”
The book is made up of her favourite recipes – some brand new, some created for MasterChef, the majority from her mum – and each is accompanied by a little anecdote or memory of eating it with her family.
“It started out just being a cookbook,” she remembers, “but every time I was writing the recipes I’d come up with a story about when I first had it. Food is like music, you know exactly where you were when you first heard it.
“I thought it would be really complicated, putting it together, but the recipes came straight into my head. It wrote itself.”
Her favourites include slow-cooked chilli which her mum used to serve at bonfire parties, and chicken tarragon, which was what she always made when Lisa wanted a special dinner.
Lisa is married to fellow actor Chris Coghill, who she met on the set of BBC drama Burn It in 2003, and the couple adopted Billie, now five and a half, in 2006. Big, family dinners play a large part in their home life, a ritual Lisa views as hugely important. And Billie is already showing signs of following in the family tradition of cooking. “She loves it!” Lisa laughs. “She does a lot of cooking with me, she loves messing about with food.”
Lisa is already hard at work on a second recipe book, this one dedicated to cooking for occasions. She has been cooking professionally for the past year and a half, in between acting jobs. “I adore acting,” she says, “but while I’m waiting for the phone to ring I’ll be busy writing and cooking, doing this thing that I love.”