Wednesday, May 31, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Foodie with Áine Carlin

Áine Carlin is the elegant and stylish soul behind the popular vegan food blog, Pea Soup Eats, as well as the author of the recently published cookbook, The New Vegan: Great Recipes, No-Nonsense Advice, and Simple Tips. The New Vegan is a beautiful and practical cookbook that is perfect for the vegan-curious or those who are already vegan but seeking some unfussy, delicious recipes with a focus on fresh, lively flavors. She also sports what may be the world’s most enviable bob. I’m happy to feature Áine Carlin as this week’s Vegan Foodie.

1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?

I’ve always been a keen cook and my Father was forever in the kitchen, so I suppose I learnt the basics from him. However, I’d never even considered vegetarianism, let alone veganism until my Husband was posted to Chicago for work. Mostly I was impressed with the quality and variety of foods on offer (my first trip to Karyn’s Cooked was a real eye-opener) and I couldn’t get enough of it…in essence, this is where my real foodie adventure really took off.

2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?

Very Irish. Lots of potatoes, naturally, which is probably why I have such an affinity for the humble spud. But also lots of dairy and meat…I didn’t even know any vegetarians growing up. I still make colcannon and there is wonderful recipe for that in my latest book The New Vegan – it’s basically creamy mashed potatoes with leeks and kale. It’s the ultimate comfort food, in my opinion…simple, hearty and delicious.

3. What is the best vegan meal you've ever had? Give us all the details!

There was a wonderful restaurant in London called Saf (Shoreditch) that has sadly closed (I think it was ahead of its time)…it specialized in raw cuisine and I had a beautiful birthday meal there once. Whilst the food was superb, it’s the wine I really remember – an organic Lebanese red that tasted like cherries…fabulous.

4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?

I always loved cooking for my Father, to be honest…he loved my food and was always showering me with compliments. He adored anything spicy so I’d probably cook him a curry (such as my Green Lentil & Spinach one) and because he also had a mega sweet tooth there would have to be dessert. Rice pudding was always his thing (and he made a mean one himself back in the day), so I’m thinking my dairy-free chai-inspired Coconut Rice Pudding would definitely do the trick.

5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?

That it’s somehow vastly different to non-vegan cooking. Many of the techniques remain the same although I often find vegan food I am served in restaurants is vastly under-seasoned. For me, it’s important to inject flavor whilst still retaining simplicity. If you have quality ingredients at your disposal, don’t be afraid to let them shine.

6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment?
I go through phases but at the moment I’m using a lot of tahini – in both sweet and savoury dishes. I’m also big on fruit at the moment, and love adding berries to salads or tossing them in a little rose water for a simple dessert. Seasoning wise, it’s all about Za’atar for me…it’s robust and fragrant at the same time, and unlike anything else. I’m obsessed.

7. What are your top three cuisines from around the world?

Mexican. Middle Eastern. Italian. Not necessarily in that order.

8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path? Individuals, groups, books, films, etc. included.

The first vegan book I ever bought was The Kind Life by Alicia Silverstone. It was hugely helpful in those early days and I think she has done incredible work – I love her gentle approach to things. Like many, I am a Rich Roll enthusiast and listen to his podcast religiously…I also think his wife Julie Piatt is magnificent and I can’t wait to get my hands on her latest book This Cheese is Nuts.

9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?

We are living in turbulent times, politically speaking, and when this happens things like the environment and whatnot tend to get pushed to the one side. I really hope we can come together collectively to ensure we limit any further damage on this already depleted planet.

10. Last, please finish this sentence. "To me, veganism is…"

… embracing a way of living that places peace at its core.

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