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Lisa Cowling: Meet the Sugababes songwriter who launched her own cookery school

PUBLISHED: 15:12 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:15 09 August 2019

Classes are held for both children and adults. Picture: Lisa Cowling.

Classes are held for both children and adults. Picture: Lisa Cowling.

Archant

Formerly a songwriter for the likes of Girls Aloud, Sugababes and Kylie Minogue, Lisa Cowling now runs a cookery school out of her home in Dalston, after a year of volunteering at the Made in Hackney kitchen.

Lisa Cowling has founded the Weeknight Diner Cook School from her own home. Picture: Lisa Cowling.Lisa Cowling has founded the Weeknight Diner Cook School from her own home. Picture: Lisa Cowling.

Lisa Cowling remembers the first time she came across Girls Aloud. She was at a recording studio in Kent when this freshly formed group of young women from places like Newcastle, and Runcorn, and Bradford, first walked in - about to be thrust in to the national spotlight after their success on Popstars: The Rivals.

"The first time they came in," Cowling says, "they were like these schoolgirls: really meek and mild. Two months later, after the marketing and the make-up, they were coming back down and walked in like superstars. They were swaggering in, but they were also really lovely. They never really lost where they came from, no matter how famous they were."

Cowling, who is originally from Sussex but has lived in Dalston for 11 years now, came to play an important part in the Girls Aloud success story; co-writing smash-hit singles like No Good Advice, Love Machine and Biology in the early 2000s. She also gained recognition penning material for Kylie Minogue, and the first song she ever co-wrote - Round Round, for the Sugababes - went to number one in the charts.

Together with her songwriting partner, Miranda Cooper, Cowling had forged a successful combination. "After Round Round went to number one we were like - 'this is quite easy!", she laughs. "We worked mainly with girl bands. I used to write with Miranda, and our whole friendship came out of the songs. They were all about girls going out, having a good time and not caring what the neighbours said."

Atendees can learn how to cook plates like these BBQ Mexican Meatballs. Picture: Lisa Cowling.Atendees can learn how to cook plates like these BBQ Mexican Meatballs. Picture: Lisa Cowling.

Aside from writing catchy pop tunes, Cowling's other passion was cooking. After starting families and working individually for a short while - Cooper went in to musicals, while Cowling did some dance music - the latter decided it was time for a change. "It's quite hard to maintain that (level of success) over 20 years," she says. "I thought: I've sort of done this, girl-pop was such fun, but I have achieved what I wanted to."

Cowling began volunteering at Made In Hackney - the plant-based cookery school - where she relished teaching local people how to cook healthy, cheap and affordable meals.

"I'm so passionate about food. I just don't think people are eating healthily enough. I think food is the one thing we've all got in common, it's the one thing that encourages us to be social together."

After a year of volunteering, Cowling set up her own cookery school - Weeknight Diner Cook School - which sees her welcome small groups of people at a time in to her own home. Created so that everyone cooks their own dish - it's the antidote of cooking classes where you might have to listen to a demo, "and you're standing around being talked to for half an hour."

Pan fried cod with chorizo bean stew a la Lisa Cowling. Picture: Lisa Cowling.Pan fried cod with chorizo bean stew a la Lisa Cowling. Picture: Lisa Cowling.

"The main thing I think we should look at is zero waste, and using our leftovers," Cowling continues. "The idea is not to come and follow a recipe, it's more to think about how to make what you've already got in your kitchen more interesting, and to be a bit more confident about using your ingredients.

"A lot of mums want to come and learn some time-saving dishes, they come in the evenings and we have a glass of prosecco, and we talk about our issues."

Cowling also hosts special two-hour classes for teenagers and children at the weekends, created to help young people "start to make the right food choices."

"I totally get that people are so busy, but I want (to teach how) to cook easy food, that everybody can eat. If children are exposed to how to cook salads or shepherd's pies at a young age, with simple and seasonal ingredients, I think it (becomes) part of a way of life."

For more information, send a message to weeknightdinercookschool@gmail.com or follow Cowling's Instagram.

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