I grew up on an irrigation farm near a small village called Douglas, in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. My father was of Lebanese descent, and my mother, born into an Afrikaans family, hailed from Cape Town. Being the only daughter in a Lebanese household involved certain expectations – happily, at the age of five I began to show a keen interest in cooking, an interest fostered by all around me.
All the women in my family were skilled and enthusiastic cooks, but the three most prominent culinary influences came from my Lebanese grandmother, my Afrikaans ‘ouma’, and, of course, my mother. My grandmother taught me to use my intuition when cooking. We would sense, smell and feel our way through the kitchen, and to this day that approach influences my cooking.
My ‘ouma’ was a woman of the earth, and her food was wholesome and seasonal. She instilled in me a passion for growing my own vegetables and herbs, and for using what is in season. And then my mother encouraged me to play with food, and from a young age, to take responsibility for family dinners – my first solo culinary flight was at seven years of age. I later studied food and wine for six years, but I always feel that the formal training only provided the words for a melody that had been playing in my heart for a very long time.
My life has been filled with adventure and detours, but in the end I was led back to my kitchen, where I feel so at home! My husband Paddy and I call beautiful Cape Town home. Here we relish everything that this city and its surrounds have to offer from a food and wine perspective – world-class restaurants, legendary chefs, wine and produce, and a growing trend in foraging, as well as the outdoor entertaining that our climate so generously allows.
I recently published my eighth cookbook – writing, storytelling, beautiful, unpretentious food and sharing my table with interesting characters are deep-seated passions of mine, and I explore all these in my books.