Sophie Morris burst onto the Irish food scene with her supremely popular Kooky Dough range of gourmet cookie dough, and has since cemented her place as a business-savvy entrepreneur who has made home-cooking a priority.
With a Master’s degree in economics, Sophie enjoyed the challenge of academia but always nurtured a passion for food, especially as a way to relax and manage a demanding schedule. She completed an Italian cookery course in Rome, and after university she completed the 12-week Ballymaloe cookery course to further develop her culinary skills. Her cookbook, Sophie Kooks, is an extension of Sophie’s Kooky Dough philosophy: super-quick, natural and delicious food for busy cooks. It’s definitely been a staple on the Easy Food shelf; it’s a gorgeous collection of simple, seasonal recipes that beg to be made at home, as you know they’ll be major crowd-pleasers and won’t take more effort than you want to put in on any given Tuesday evening! She aims to show home cooks that it is always possible to pull together a nutritious, satisfying meal that everyone will love. Sophie’s most recent business venture, FitoMetrics, has her creating tailored fitness programmes for clients, and her schedule is busier than ever. But one thing she remains committed to is making a nourishing, home-cooked meal every day, something Sophie believes is key to lifting your energy and your spirits!
How would you describe your personal cooking ethos?
I am all about accessible, simple cooking used to create delicious tasting food. I love cooking where there’s minimal prep involved and I can just chuck some lovely ingredients into a pan or onto a roasting tray to bake. It’s all about finding really tasty flavour combinations using good quality ingredients and just letting the food do its thing. There’s nothing better than the feeling of trying out something new and it resulting in an absolute winner!
Where did you first develop a love for cooking?
My love for cooking started as a young girl when I used to watch my mum buzz about the kitchen. I remember vividly how fascinated I was seeing the beautiful food she would produce from just a few ingredients, and I wanted to be able to do that too. From there, my amazement with cooking began!
What inspired you to make the move into the food industry professionally?
My desire to learn more about cooking and food led me to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2008. I fell in love with the place and the experience made me realise I wanted to work in food. A part of the course that I loved was learning how to create a business with food, and this resonated with my business head. At the time I didn’t know what it would be yet, but I knew I would have my own food business one day.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start their own food business?
I was extremely naive when I started Kooky Dough, which I always say was actually a good thing because, as a result, I didn’t think twice about making the leap into starting a food business – a tough journey! It’s an incredible experience though. I would advise anyone who is looking to start a business to use the resources around them as much as possible and seek advice from people in their industry. I have found business people in Ireland are amazingly generous with their time and advice and you can learn a lot from others who went through what you’re doing.
After launching Kooky Dough, writing your first cookbook and founding FitoMetrics, an online nutrition and fitness regimen, to call you busy is an understatement! As a business owner and entrepreneur, how do you make time to cook satisfying and wholesome meals?
I’m lucky in that cooking and coming up with new delicious and healthy recipes is part of my job with FitoMetrics, but the main thing is being organised. On a Sunday I think about what I’d like to cook for the week and then I do a big weekly shop. I’m all about food that’s simple to prepare; during the week I love cooking meals that can be prepped quickly.
What are your go-to recipes after a busy working day?
One of my go-to recipes is a chicken salad with loads of yummy bits in it – I roast some peppers, red onions and sweet potato in the oven and then throw in the chicken fillets in to bake too. This is minimal effort and just a bit of waiting time, which I like as I may be doing a few jobs about the house while it cooks! Then I throw everything together with some salad leaves, buffalo Mozzarella, maybe some seeds or nuts and a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing!
Another thing I love to make after a long day is my healthy homemade pizzas. I use a homemade tomato sauce (or passata if I want to be even quicker!), buffalo Mozzarella and whatever other toppings I feel like. Pop them on a tortilla wrap and cook in a very hot oven for just eight minutes! This is delicious and so easy.
Do you have any handy or cheeky shortcuts you use to save time when cooking?
Some handy shortcuts I like to do to save time is use my food processor to chop things like onions and chillies, which can be a bit time consuming otherwise. It saves a lot of time and makes it feel like a lot less effort!
I also love to cook Indian food and there are some great quality spice pastes that you can buy in stores these days. This is definitely a time saver if I’m in a hurry.
Which advice would you offer to people who are always on the go but want to prepare healthy dinners?
I would suggest using fresh, good-quality ingredients that you don’t need to do much with in most recipes, such as fish or steak. You can pan-fry these in no time and serve with some steamed green veggies like broccoli or asparagus, and that’s a delicious, easy meal in almost no time!
I’m also a big fan of “courgetti” or courgette spaghetti. I have a spiraliser, but you can buy pre-spiralised courgette in supermarkets now and it’s so handy – a delicious recipe is to fry some bacon, garlic, chilli, tomatoes and kale in a pan, add the courgetti and cook for a few minutes. That’s it; so healthy and tasty.
Have you ever had any cooking disasters? If so, what did you do to recover?
I remember a recent disaster when making chocolate fondants. There’s nothing worse than an overcooked fondant without the gooey middle, but I ended up under-cooking it. It certainly wasn’t dry, but it collapsed and was too gooey! So I just served it in a bowl with some ice-cream – it looked like a mess, but it still tasted great. What can you do? That’s the fun of cooking!
What would be your ideal dinner party menu for this time of year?
As it’s starting to feel much brighter and we can feel the summer getting ever closer, my ideal dinner party menu would be sirloin steak salad with Asian greens. This is one of my favourite things to cook and everyone always loves it! Rare steak, thinly sliced, tossed with baby salad leaves, grilled asparagus, tenderstem broccoli, fresh mint and coriander, some chopped roasted peanuts and a delicious Asian dressing of lime juice, soy, chilli and garlic. My dessert would be lemon curd tartlets because I love them.
This interview is from the April 2016 edition of Easy Food.