I started my blog when I moved here from Singapore 6 years ago. Growing up in a food-obsessed country and an equally greedy household, I’ve always been surrounded by amazing food but I knew nothing about creating it. Like typical Asian mothers, Mum only allowed into the kitchen as a reward after I’d finished my homework, piano practice and lots and lots of extra reading. So when I found myself actually having to cook, I was like a fish out of water – but a weirdly happy fish all the same. I was curious and fascinated by my new-found interest and would pester Mum with questions over Skype, spend my days geekily watching cooking shows and reading food and nutrition blogs, and often testing recipes 8 times until I was satisfied. Mum was still skeptical about the fact that I could cook healthy, edible food for myself, so I started “Mummy I can cook” to prove I wasn’t surviving on beans on toast.
During my student years, I got my dream part-time job managing Pimlico Farmer’s Market. That meant being surrounded by delicious produce! It also meant waking up at ungodly hours on a Saturday and forgoing Friday nights out, but I loved it. Over the course of 3 years, I made friends with producers who really care about food; and I learnt to anticipate purple sprouting broccoli as a sign of the seasons changing. I started incorporating fresh British vegetables, and seasonal produce like game into my cooking, even when I was cooking something typically Southeast Asian. I also became more confident of my cooking (at least I knew the food wouldn’t kill anyone) and started hosting regular supper clubs and pop-up events with my Singaporean foodie friends.
I think a combination of all these piqued the interest of my agent and now dear friend Emily, who convinced me that I should write a cookbook. I wrote and shot some recipes, and Emily tidied it all up into a pretty proposal and sent it off to the publishers. To my surprise, we got an excited call back the very next day from Juliet Annan, the commissioning editor for Fig Tree Penguin Books, and the rest was history.
The biggest challenge wasn’t getting the cookbook deal though; the hard work came after. The book took more than a year to finish rather than the standard few months of writing followed by a two-week-long photo shoot. Emily and my editors liked what I had done for the blog and other food styling clients, and had persuaded me to do the photography for the book too. I was still working a full-time job as a designer then, so that meant I would spend the weeknights researching, testing and writing recipes; and weekends cooking and photographing, with the help of my mates as recipe-testers and kitchen porters. Flipping through the finished cookbook with my friends was almost like looking at a scrapbook of the past year of Sunday feasts. Another great thing about cooking only a handful of recipes every week was that I could actually practice what I preach and cook with the seasons. For instance, the rhubarb condensed milk ice cream was done in Spring when the pretty pink stalks of forced rhubarb appear for instance; and the steamed pumpkin rice, in Autumn, when the market was filled with gorgeous knobbly squash.
Writing a cookbook has definitely been one of the hardest but most rewarding projects I’ve done. I’ve never felt prouder holding the cookbook in my hands for the first time. If you’re a food blogger interested in writing your own cookbook, my advice would be to keep being passionate about food, and to not be afraid to get out there and meet like-minded people!