‘It’s a wildly exciting time to be a cook and food writer’ – Meet Áine Carlin

You won’t find dry falafel and bland hummus in Áine Carlin‘s vegan repertoire – instead this multi-published plant-based cookbook author finds fascination in mixing culinary trends, bold flavours and international cuisines that pique her interest. This passionate plant lover (both in and outside the kitchen), former actress and advocate for simple sustainable living, recently traded on-screen appearances for putting pen to paper and demystifying veganism in her collection of recipe books and blog, Pea Soup. From her little camper van on the idyllic Cornwall Coast, Áine shares the inspiration for her latest cookbook Cook Share Eat Vegan and a bit about herself:

Where do you currently call home?

I live in Penzance, Cornwall. It’s a vibrant town with amazing people and scenery, and is definitely on the up and up. I love to walk along the promenade towards Newlyn and the stunning coastal village of Mousehole, where I lived for over a year. I never tire of the views and it’s the perfect way to recalibrate after spending a little too long on social media.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVswjDZnjxr/?hl=en&taken-by=ainecarlin

In the last couple of years you’ve written several cookbooks – how do you continue to find new recipe ideas?

My eating habits have evolved at the same rate as the books so each one feels like a natural progression from the next. If a particular ingredient or flavour combination excites me then I log it in my notebook or on my phone. I try not to force things, which means it’s quite an organic process, although I do get fixated on certain cuisines – at the moment it’s Korean temple cuisine.

If you weren’t cooking and writing recipes for a living what would you be doing?

I guess, first and foremost, I consider myself a storyteller, whether that’s through food, writing, acting or music…my path often seems confusing to many but to me it always made total sense.

Over the last few years veganism has become extremely popular; why do you think that’s the case?

I think it’s partly health concerns, partly the realisation that vegan food actually tastes pretty good. I also think peoples’ growing concern for the planet has played a significant role in our willingness to embrace plant based food: we have finally accepted that our current collective lifestyle is unsustainable and having a catastrophic impact on the environment, so we are now happily integrating vegan food into our repertoire in order to ease that burden. For me, it’s a wildly exciting time to be a cook and food writer.

What traps do you think some vegan recipes fall into? 

I suppose restaurants and cafés tend to rely on things like hummus and falafel. I’ve attempted to give the humble falafel a much needed facelift in my current book Cook Share Eat Vegan by using it in a shakshuka-style dish. Steaming falafel in a spicy tomato and aubergine sauce is a simple trick that yields a seriously moreish melt-in-your-mouth result. Drizzled with a tahini sauce and garnished with pomegranates, its hands-down my new favourite way to enjoy this old vegan stalwart. Toast some pittas and you’re good to go.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj23uWJnW75/?hl=en&taken-by=ainecarlin

I khoollect a few… 

I’ve tried to curb my collecting over the last few years but one can never have too many plants – or baskets.

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection? 

My Wolff Brothers violin that my parents bought me when I was a teenager.

A life lesson that you’d tell your younger self?

A great quote I came across on the internet recently was ‘Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle’, which pretty much sums up my life. I’ve always been terrible at networking and have frequently talked myself out of jobs with the naïve thinking that ‘if it’s right for me, it’ll work out’. Suffice to say, that mantra doesn’t get you very far. Now, I grab every opportunity with both hands and hustle just that little bit harder – after all, what’s the worst that can happen?

What’s your secret ingredient? 

Coconut milk because it can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. I love adding it to curries, but it’s equally incredible whipped up with a little vanilla and agave. My go-to recipe is always dhal if I’m feeling lazy or in need of some comfort food.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ3VAtMDNPJ/?hl=en&taken-by=ainecarlin

Where do you find your motivation? 

I’m an avid YouTube viewer and particularly love videos about van life. There’s something about having limited resources and equipment that really excites me; doing more with less has always appealed to me and many of my recipes are a direct result of this fascination. I’m also a huge fan of the Rich Roll podcast and the producer’s wife, Julie Piatt, also has a wonderful podcast called Divine Throughline.

What inspires you?

Nature inspires me. I bought myself an almanac at the beginning of the year so I could better understand the seasons (what to plant and when, moon phases, tides etc) and it’s been such a vital tool in helping me become more in tune with what’s going on around me.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BatSE0Cnx-K/?hl=en&taken-by=ainecarlin

Top three foodie spots in your city? And why?

  • Archie Browns – they serve the best farinata and salad in town. Their turmeric and matcha lattes are also pretty spectacular.
  • Jubilee Pool Café – if you like views with your food, then this is where it’s at. They make a mean vegan sausage sandwich and their vegan brownie is also stellar. In the evenings they serve pizza and cocktails.
  • The Honeypot – their vegan cream tea is a real indulgence but worth every bite.

Most beautiful outdoor space?

Morrab Gardens is so tranquil and the perfect spot for a sunny afternoon. It houses a whole host of sub-tropical plants and feels like an oasis in the centre of town.

Best place for fresh produce?

The Granary on Causeway Head sells the best organic produce in Penzance. Most of it is local and seasonal and the quality is top-notch.

Áine’s new book Cook Share Eat Vegan is out now.

Follow Áine on Instagram and Twitter.

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Try Áine’s recipe for crispy cinnamon potato tacos OR her deliciously sticky gingerbread bites.