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In the kitchen with Lisa Quinlan

We talk strawberries, Italian food and more.


Have you ever wondered what those in the food industry 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 Lisa Quinlan, owner of The Rolling Donut, Wildflower Café in Ratoath and new hand-dipped strawberry business, The Very Berry

Founded by her father Michaell Quinlan in 1978, Lisa has hugely expanded The Rolling Donut since joining the company in 2012. When the Covid-19 pandemic shifted her business towards online sales, Lisa took the opportunity to start The Very Berry, which was inspired by her love of strawberries. By working with Pat Clark of Clarkes Fresh Fruit in Co Meath, Lisa has ensured that the fruit is local, sustainable and of superior quality. To further her zero-waste commitment, Lisa plans to use leftover strawberries in jam that is sold by her other business, Wildflower Café. 

Convinced that decorated strawberries will be the next big thing, The Very Berry packages come in a variety of colours with exciting decorations for every occasion imaginable. To find out more, click here

Below, Lisa tells us what she likes to eat when she's not at work.

Do you cook a lot at home?

I have probably cooked more at home over the last year than ever before - perhaps more due to necessity than choice because I usually love to eat out. There is such an exciting café scene here in Ireland with some fabulous artisan foods and lots of plant-based veggie options that I love.

One meal I have been cooking a lot at home lately is breakfast. I really believe in the old saying breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. I am a surprisingly healthy eater but I also have a sweet tooth which is no surprise to anyone when they hear about my businesses.

I love breakfast! My go-to is an omelette with iron-rich kale, spinach, avocado, spring onions and cherry tomatoes. At weekends I will opt for really decadent French toast made with brioche, vanilla, and cinnamon, topped with mixed berries and maple syrup.

Freshly grated ginger and lemon tea with cayenne pepper is my go-to for an energy boost when I feel run down or tired from work. It always seems to kickstart my immune system and make me feel good.

Who do you usually eat with?

I am waiting to move into my new home so I am enjoying some really precious time back living with my Dad at the minute, so I mostly eat with him. My mum died when I was very young so I am super close to my Dad. He is my absolute hero! We talk ten times a day - he is a brilliant business mentor and has the patience of a saint. The Rolling Donut all began with him and his simple ring doughnut, still warm from the fryer and tossed in sugar, served in a white paper bag from a kiosk on O’Connell Street. 

Are there any foods you have to or choose to avoid?

I try to avoid dairy as I seem to feel better without it. I listen to my body and dairy just doesn’t agree with me.

READ MORE: In the kitchen with Graham Neville of Dax

What five ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?

Chia Seeds, kale, fresh berries, coconut milk, and sourdough bread

What's in your fridge right now?

It’s my birthday this weekend so I’m planning a picnic treat and my fridge is full of my favourite foods. I nabbed one of the fabulous Flying Elephant compact picnic tables with bottle and glass holders online and I can’t wait to try it out. I love to eat with my eyes so I plan to put together a really pretty afternoon tea-style picnic. I just reopened my Wildflower Café again in Ratoath so I'll be nabbing some yummy sourdough sandwiches and freshly baked scones from there, plus I plan to treat myself to our new ‘Death by Chocolate Very Berry Box’. My favourite is the double-dipped chocolate and kinder strawberry. It will all be washed down with my favourite Valdo sparkling rosé. 

What is your default dinner after a busy week?

Chickpea curry made with coconut milk, lots of butternut squash, garlic, leeks, herbs and spices, sprinkled with fresh coriander and served couscous or bulgur wheat and a green salad. To me, that is the ultimate comfort food. I will definitely leave a little room to indulge in some dessert - probably some leftovers from product trials for my Very Berry treats.

What is your favourite kitchen gadget?

My Aarke sparkling water maker, which has a gorgeous metal exterior and sits perfectly on the counter. I like the water served ice cold with a squeeze of some fresh lime.

Do you have a favourite chef or cookbook?

My favourite cookbook at the moment is Deep by East by Meera Sodha. There are quite a few ingredients to gather at first, but the dishes are insanely tasty and so worth it. All my friends and I are hooked.

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

I have had plenty of kitchen disasters! Most have involved spilled doughnut mixes or our signature Belgian chocolate ganache going everywhere at The Rolling Donut. Both are a disaster to clean up. Also, trying to nail our sourdough starter almost broke my heart at the beginning - I named it, coaxed it, talked to it and gave so much love, but it took weeks to get it right.

READ MORE: In the kitchen with Eoin Cluskey

Lisa Quinlan
Lisa Quinlan

What's the best thing you've ever cooked?

My mushroom and lentil bolognese with lots of fresh herbs - it's not the most difficult dish in the world but it's certainly very tasty and was a firm family favourite during lockdown.

What is the best cooking tip you've ever been given?

Run a knife under very hot water and dry it off, then you’ll be able to make a clean cut through cheesecake or any other sticky dessert.

What would be your last meal?

I love Italian food so it would have to be classic tomato and basil bruschetta with lots of olive oil and a delicious spicy Arrabbiata pasta main course finished off with a hot molten chocolate cake.

What is your favourite dish to cook?

A speedy quiche traybake with filo pastry, courgettes, feta cheese and pine nuts. It always gets a great reaction from everyone and is so simple to make. I toss some rocket with olive oil to go on top and it’s a real winner.

Click here for more info on The Very Berry or follow the company on Instagram.