Have you ever wondered what chefs eat when they're not at work? Us too.
That's why in this series we talk to some of our favourite members of the Irish food scene about their food habits outside of the workplace. Today, we're chatting with Erica Sheehan, founder of Homespun, a natural Irish food company.
The company started with a delicious quinoa-based granola and now includes a wonderful chicory syrup, an alternative to honey. To see more from Homespun, click here.
Here, Erica tells us about what she likes to eat - aside from granola!
Do you cook a lot at home?
Yes, almost exclusively now. With COVID and two very young kids, it’s definitely been that way for some time anyhow. I’d cook from scratch about three times a week - always on a Sunday and a couple of times mid-week - I tend to batch up so there’s plenty of leftovers.
Who do you usually eat with?
My husband Michael and my kids Katie and Rose, ages five and two respectively. We love having family and friends round in the normal course of events, though there’s been less of that for obvious reasons lately. When we do, I tend to put out sharing plates so everyone can dig in family-style. Plating up is my least favourite part of cooking and hospitality.
Are there any foods you have to or choose to avoid?
Dairy out of necessity due to lifelong eczema and gluten and wheat by choice.
What five ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?
Garlic, eggs, coconut milk, marinated ginger and our own Chicory Root Syrup. I have a real sweet tooth and I love its low sugar sweetness.
What's in your fridge right now?
Most of the above, plus fresh and smoked salmon, organic spuds and other veggies, yoghurt, kombucha, white wine and condiments including Dalkey mustard, Clearspring miso paste, ketchup, horseradish and a couple of jars of marinated ginger from Michie Sushi. I can’t get enough of it!
What is your default dinner after a busy week?
I do a coconut and chickpea curry that’s easy to make but pretty healthy and very tasty. The original recipe is from a Deliciously Ella cookbook but I’ve made it my own over time. There’s a bit of chopping involved but once that’s done, you just pop it in the oven and then it’s ready to serve. One dish, lots of veggies, and everyone loves it.
What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
I splashed out on a Vitamix a few years ago which I get great use out of for making soups, sauces and nut butter. Day to day it would be basics like my garlic rocker. It’s by Joseph and Joseph and I love the quirky curved design.
Do you have a favourite chef or cookbook?
Cookbooks for me are as much about inspiration as they are about recipes – but I’ve probably cooked every recipe from Nigel Slater’s book Eat which was a gift from a friend years ago. The recipes are famously short with very few ingredients but they really deliver on flavour.
The last cookbook I bought was Maura O’Connell Foley’s My Wild Atlantic Kitchen. I was lucky to spend a lot of time in Maura’s home in Kenmare growing up. She is an incredible cook, hostess and champion of Irish food producers. The book is just exquisite and special to me personally.
Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?
Yes. Before I set up Homespun, I contemplated setting up a juicing business and dragged Michael into my crazy plan. I imported – at great expense – a massive Norwalk juicer from the States. After painting the kitchen ceiling green with liquidised spinach, I decided that the juicing business was not for me!
What's the best thing you've ever cooked?
I adore Middle Eastern food and last year I cooked a big Middle Eastern-inspired feast for my girlfriends. It involved many courses and a lot of work, more than I let on, but it was so worth it. The big hit was a dish from Sabrina Ghayour’s book Persiana – butternut squash with pomegranate seeds and this incredible herby pesto. I actually made it with sweet potato which was really caramelised and melt in your mouth. I must dig out the recipe and do it again!
What is the best cooking tip you've ever been given?
My Mum is a great cook as was her mother and they both emphasised good ingredients. I think we’re lucky in Ireland in that regard.
What would be your last meal?
One I didn’t have to cook myself! Definitely the hot and cold seafood platter with a glass of rosé in the O’Neills, at the Point in Renard, Cahersiveen, Kerry.
What is your favourite dish to cook?
It’s a starter more than a dish, but Sabrina Ghayour’s feta and pistachio dip is a recipe I turn to again and again when I’m entertaining. It’s so good with crudités and hunks of ripped up sourdough. I do it so often people have come to expect it but it's so delicious and easy to make, I can’t stop!
Click here for more info on Homespun.