For this time, our guest editors are none other than David and Stephen Flynn from The Happy Pear! They are passionate about fresh and locally-sourced food, and the restaurant has become one of the most recognised names in healthy eating. They know food is a great way to bring people together, and they spread their positive outlook on cooking and eating to visitors to the café and shop, attendees at their Happy Heart Course, and of course through lovely recipes like these.
They are big promoters of cooking simple recipes that not only taste great, but make the most of seasonal Irish ingredients so the whole family can enjoy a hearty and wholesome meal.
How did you get into cooking?
Turning vegetarian, we had to fend for ourselves as those around us weren’t into veggie food at all, so we had to sink or swim! Hence we got really into cooking, fresh produce, local ingredients and how to prepare them, and we loved learning from anyone interested in sharing their knowledge about it.
When, and how, did you decide to eat a meat-free diet?
It started about 15 years ago, when we decided to eat a little healthier as we were training for our first marathon. We started making little changes, eating brown bread instead of white and eating porridge for brekkie. We felt better and had more energy, so we started reading about it and making more little changes. Lo and behold, suddenly we couldn’t stick to our old ways and it just felt right to become veggie.
What are your go-to staples for vegetarian cooking?
All of our 10 store-cupboard staples for the everyday vegetarian, p.119!
Do your families eat a vegetarian diet and, if so, what are the kids’ favourite dishes?
Both our parents and one of our two brothers eat a vegetarian diet. Our own families are not veggie but they eat really well. Over 90% of what they eat is wholesome, plant-based food (fruit, vegetables and whole foods) and that is the main thing, not about them being veggie or not. Some of our kids’ favourite foods are smoothies, porridge, soup and bread, avocado, mangoes and figs, and of course they wouldn’t be kids without loving just about any type of sweet treat.
What made you decide to open The Happy Pear?
We had changed our own diets and lifestyle and felt so good that we felt completely inspired to start a healthy food revolution! We want to make the world a happier, healthier place where eating good wholesome food is the norm rather than the exception. That’s why we started The Happy Pear, and it’s been an amazing adventure so far.
What is the worst kitchen blunder you’ve ever had?
There is nothing worse than spending hours cooking something, then over-seasoning it with salt while in a rush. There is no real comeback from this! Burning dhal can be a real pain too.
What would you say are the main benefits of meat-free eating?
It’s not really an all-or-nothing thing where you are either veggie or not. But eating a diet that is high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes will naturally give you more energy and better digestion, make it easier to stay slim and fit and help with better brain function. It’s all about better blood flow and circulation; this will in turn make your organs function better and result in your skin getting more oxygen due to improved blood flow. This means you’ll age slower and be more elastic and naturally radiant!
How would you advise someone who’s just starting out on a vegetarian regimen?
I’d advise them to go at their own pace and not to get caught up with titles such as vegetarian or not. After 15 years at this, we feel it’s about making better food choices and not about being a vegetarian or not.
What are your favourite dishes to cook for a dinner party?
We love food to share, like finger food and street food! It really depends on the time of the year; for a casual dinner party in summer we love to have a smorgasbord of our favourite dips, salads, roasted vegetables, avocado, ripe beef tomatoes, olives, nice greens, ripe stone fruit and some sort of toast or cracker… divine!
What are your go-to recipes for using up a glut of fresh produce?
We don’t really use recipes, but if we had loads of tomatoes we’d make a tomato-based curry or stew. If we had loads of spinach, a super-green soup would probably be on the menu for lunch, and if we had peppers coming out our ears we’d probably roast them and make them into a sauce or a put them through a curry.
For information on the restaurant, Happy Heart Course, cookbook or for more recipes, visit www.thehappypear.ie.
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