Finn Ní Fhaolain is an inspirational woman who is talented in more ways than one, from being a qualified marine biologist to a private chef, not to mention a great surfer and fitness enthusiast... her success is truly just beginning.
Diagnosed as Coeliac at 19, Finn Ní Fhaolain spent her college years trying to figure out how to live her life as normally as possible while adapting to a gluten-free diet. While the limitations might have annoyed some people, they inspired Finn to create delicious recipes so that she was never limited. Her recipes and blog grew in popularity and in 2017 she published her first cookbook. Finn’s World was a runaway success, telling Finn's story and with recipes that appeal to both coeliacs and wheat eaters alike.
We sat down with Finn after her cooking demonstration at Savour Kilkenny Festival recently to find out more about her, plus see what she has in the works for the new year…
View this post on Instagram
Suuuuper excited for tomorrow’s #internationaldayoflanguages at @id_languages we will be honoring the four languages there - Irish, French, Spanish and German with 4 different dishes - first item up - a French classic, the macaron! I love these guys because they’re so tasty, also gluten free, you can pretty much add any flavour under the sun and while they’re absolutely sugar laden just one little one is perfect with a coffee instead of a big slab of cake! Let me know if anyone is keen for the recipe 👌🏼 . . . . . #macarons #macaron #macaronstagram #macarontower #macaronlove #macaronlovers #macaronlady #glutenfreebaker #glutenfreebaking #frenchcusine #frenchbaking
How did Finn’s World come to be?
“When I was diagnosed as coeliac, gluten-free food wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, so you got your food in a pharmacy and it was vacuum-packed like astronaut food! The final straw for me when was when a Cornish pasty store opened around the corner from where I lived and I was really sad that I couldn’t’ have them, so I got myself a children’s primary school copybook and wrote on it ‘Oh b******s, I’m a coeliac!’ and I made a list of all the things I couldn’t eat anymore that I wanted to recreate.
At first, it was a part-time thing I did while I was still in college, but then I started the blog because I realized I spent all my time talking about food. From there I started doing more cooking for friends’ yoga retreats and then it snowballed from there. I was poisoned in 2015 in a place that was supposedly great for gluten-free, so that was the true last straw for me. I thought to myself ‘I have this notebook full of literally hundreds of recipes, why don’t I just publish it?’. It all happened really fast from there, I met publishers within two weeks in November 2015 and had the book published by April 2017.”
What is your earliest food memory?
“I have one that my Mum told me, apparently I used to just hold avocados them, close my eyes and squeeze them because I loved them so much! The other one is baking with my mum and my granny, which is a funny one for me because some of the recipes in the cookbook are based off this one old muffin recipe that we used to make.”
View this post on Instagram
Gooood morning guys so excited to share one of my favourite recipes with you today! Recently when the @finisterreuk crew were in town I did a big cook up out on the beach - with almost everything locally foraged by the gang and myself, from the garden or baked from scratch. Dinner was mussels and wild garlic gathered that day with potatoes and salad from the garden, washed down with meadowsweet cordial from last autumn’s harvest and a blackberry drizzle cake plucked from the hedgerows. You can get my mussel recipe on the @finisterreuk broadcast - link in the bio ☝️ . . . . . #wildfood #wildcooking #growyourownveggies #growyourownveg #sustainablefood #foragedfood #wildgarlic #mussels #finisterreuk #saltwaterstories #sustainableeating #saltwaterlife
What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?
“When people stick their fingers in stuff to taste it, I hate it! I always think you’ve probably licked your hand, that’s so disgusting! Also, when people throw their tea towel over their shoulder because it’s so close to their hair!”
Which kitchen tool could you not live without?
“A hand blender. They’re so handy and I’ve only ever broken one- don’t try to make nut butter with them! They’re great for nut milks, smoothie bowls, pestos and everything for the cookbook could be made using one of those- I only got a food processor this year! The cookbook was developed when I was a student which is why the hand blender is so good because it’s not too expensive.”
View this post on Instagram
A big mahusive thank you to @savourkilkenny for having me - I love your town I love your crowd!!! Beaming after today’s demo thanks so much to everyone that came along so many amazing questions and chats afterwards too! Now eating my way through the festival and treating myself to a @thetrufflefairy spiced dark hot chocolate with coconut milk 😍 . . . . . #savourkilkenny #kilkenny #kbcbankireland #glutenfreefood #glutenfreebaking #glutenfreebread #dairyfree #oatmilk #sodabread #irishsodabread #lowsugar
What is your current ingredient obsession?
“This is going to sound so boring but milled linseed mix. It’s linseed, goji berries, and chia seeds. I add it to gluten-free flour to make really good brown gluten-free flour, it’s a total game changer. The linseeds and chia seeds help things to stick together, replicating the gluten. I use it to make protein balls as well- mix with ground almonds and mashed up soaked dates and that’s it, no food processor required!”
What’s your guilty pleasure?
“I love fish fingers! When the first gluten-free fish fingers came out, I ate them way too often! They’re relatively high in protein so that’s how I justified them. I also realized that whenever I bought diesel last year, I would buy a packet of crisps every time, which I realized was way too many crisps, so I’ve cut down a bit this year. I’m also obsessed with watching food movies, I love watching Chef, Chocolat, The Hundred-Foot Journey, and everything, I just love watching movies about people cooking.
Dream dinner party guest?
“I’ve watched a lot of Great British Bake Off lately, so I can only think of Mary Berry right now, she’s so nice! Christina Tosi would be the other person, from Milk Bar in New York. I ordered her book and it is so amazing. Every recipe is really easy to make gluten free too so I’ve cooked from it a lot. When I watched her on Chef’s Table, I really identified with her.”
View this post on Instagram
I’m a baker, hands down, I loved baking as a tiny tot with my mom and my granny’s, as a profession in wonderful spots of @thehappypear and then in #thefumbally and now I strive to make GF baking so delicious you don’t know it’s GF 😘 so as a little treat, on an oh so rainy day I am SO STOKED to have ordered @christinatosi @milkbarstore cookbook. When I saw her episode on @chefstablenetflix I was like this lady gets me. This is why I bake. It feels like Christmas Eve! Can’t wait for it to arrive. Happy Saturday folks 🎂 📷 @milkbarstore #glutenfreebaker #glutenfreebaking #glutenfreecake #crackpie #birthdaycake #glutenfreecookies #happybaker #happybakers #milkbar #milkbarnyc
Let us in on your top foodie tip
“Because of my background, I’ve seen a lot of plastic at the bottom of the sea so a big thing for me is cutting out single-use plastic from my life. On my website now it’s not just recipes, it includes ways to be more sustainable as well. I use beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm, I bring my own bags to the shops and I keep every jar I buy so I can use them for yogurt or sauces or whatever I make. Most of the stuff we buy for the restaurant is in recyclable packaging and we serve everything in compostable Vegware containers. I also don’t buy that much meat, but when I do I go for the most sustainable options. I think a mostly plant-based life is more sustainable, so I do eat meat, just infrequently.”
What have you been up to this year?
“My boyfriend and I live in Bundoran, but he used to live in Mexico and he really thought that Bundoran needed a burrito bar, so I spent a lot of this year helping him set the restaurant up. The idea really went hand in hand with the surging ethos of the area, so it’s been going really well. It’s mostly his but I did the menu and we had our baptism by fire at the Sea Sessions festival this year, as we opened just before that. All the staff is really involved in the restaurant, they really love it, but next year I’m hoping to do more of my own stuff.”
So what are your plans for the future?
“I can’t say too much right now but I do have big plans for next year, which I’ll update you on as soon as I can. For now, I can say that I’m toying between the idea of a food product or a bigger venture, so watch this space! I’ve really enjoyed what’s come out of the first cookbook, but I can’t see myself doing another one soon. I worked on the first one for so long that I only want to write another one when I have the recipes for it. I also think I would probably lean a bit more towards sustainability and healthy travel if I were to do another one.”
You can keep up with Finn's adventures on her website Saltwater Stories.
* This article was originally published on our sister website FOOD&WINE.ie.
Read more: Untamed punch Irish whiskey recipe