Have you ever wondered what chefs eat when they're not in their restaurants? Us too.
That's why in our new series In the kitchen with... we talk to some of our favourite chefs about their food habits outside of the workplace and today, we're chatting with cookbook author and bakery owner Finn Ní Fhaolain.
Diagnosed as coeliac at 19, Finn spent her college years trying to figure out how to live her life as normally as possible while adapting to a gluten-free diet. While the limitations might have annoyed some people, they inspired Finn to create delicious recipes for her blog, which grew in popularity, culminating in the publication of her first cookbook in 2017. Finn’s World was a runaway success, telling Finn's story and with recipes that appeal to both coeliacs and wheat eaters alike. As she continued on her coeliac cookery journey, Finn discovered a love for plant-based recipes and sustainability, resulting in her opening Milish, a completely gluten-free bakery in Bundoran, last year.
Here, Finn tells us more about her life at home.
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Do you cook a lot at home?
I’ve always been a huge fan of cooking from home, mum instilled it in me young! Even in college I always had a lunch bag for the day and now I do the same for work. It helps me avoid single-use packaging and generally eat healthier as well.
Who do you usually eat with?
Either my boyfriend or my best friend, it makes me so happy that they both love good food as much as I do, so holidays are usually as much about what we’ll get to eat as what we’ll be doing!
Are there any foods you have to or choose to avoid?
As a coeliac, I have to strictly avoid gluten. Due to what I learned while studying and working in marine and environmental sciences, I now follow a mostly plant-based diet as well. I have eggs sometimes from my friend's rescue hens; they're the best eggs I’ve ever tasted!
What five ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?
Tinned coconut milk for making homemade dairy-free yoghurt, curries, satay and putting in porridge. Gluten-free oats for use in almost everything - bread, smoothies and for making my own oat milk, which is the most sustainable plant-based milk option. Cashew nuts because they have so many uses but my favourite is making a plant-based version of caesar dressing or creamy risotto. Bananas; we go through tons for breakfast, baking and vegan ice cream.
And of course, coffee! My boyfriend and I are coffee fiends and the spent grounds are great for keeping cats out of our veggie patch.
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What's in your fridge right now?
Not a lot since we haven’t done our groceries yet. Some staples we have are homemade kimchi, miso paste, a big box of salad leaves - this summer a local farm started delivering them - and leftover lentil lasagne from last night.
What is your default dinner after a busy week?
We change it up quite a bit, but during lockdown, we’ve enjoyed a “trip around the world” by learning to make dishes from different countries each week. Right now, we are obsessed with Vietnamese rolls and banh mí, which are perfect for the hot weather.
What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
I just got a new Kenwood food processor and I’m in love. I'm finally able to make my own nut butter without breaking any equipment - or the bank! This week's one was a toasted pecan butter with maple and vanilla, which smells like heaven.
Do you have a favourite chef or cookbook?
I’m a huge fan of Ellie Bullen, she’s a vegan nutritionist from Australia. I found her first cookbook on a trip there two years ago and her new book The Global Vegan, just came out this year and it's my most-used cookbook by far.
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Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?
I tried to make chocolate muffins with an early take on hemp protein powder and they were the most gorgeous looking things, but the worst thing I’ve ever tasted! Sticking to hulled hemp seeds from here on in.
What's the best thing you've ever cooked?
The churros from my cookbook Finn’s World. They always transport me back to walking the Camino de Santiago with my dad when I was little. Lately, also a porcini and cashew cream risotto which tasted so good we forgot to talk at dinner.
What is the best cooking tip you've ever been given?
It's so simple, but learning to make a proper béchamel sauce in culinary school was a game-changer. The best tip I have for vegan baking is to add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the batter at the end. It reacts with baking soda to give extra lift and can make up for the loss of lift from an egg.
What would be your last meal?
My granny's signature soup recipe. I miss it so much!
What is your favourite dish to cook?
Recently I tried out Ethiopian food for the first time, which involved a massive pancake made with fermented teff flour, covered in an array of different delicious curries and sauces. It's all naturally gluten-free, plant-based and so fun to eat with your hands! (Ed's note: This is Injera, a traditional Ethiopian dish. Click here for more info.)