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Meet the Chef: Emily Leary

What is your earliest food memory?  

Probably cooking with my lovely mum. Or if not that, my dad offering me £8.50 (that’s how much he had in his wallet!) to try a tiny spoonful of tomato sauce!

Food you hated when you were a child and now love? 

I was actually quite a fussy kid. I liked pasta with just cheese…but only if it was melted. And you couldn’t get me near anything tomato-based. It wasn’t until I really got into cooking with my mum in my later primary school years that I started to get more adventurous with food and now, I will eat pretty much anything!

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to do something that would change the world! I had my sights set on either being a doctor, lawyer or a writer. I have always had a passion for creativity but with quite a scientific, logical approach – I enjoy breaking things down and seeing how they work. I studied English Literature at University and would relish delving into incredible pieces of writing to see how they were put together and why. It’s that same approach that I take to interesting new meals – I start backwards, engineering classic dishes and then re-engineering them in new and creative ways.

What makes you particularly excited about Get Your Kids to Eat Anything

As food is a passion of mine, it’s very much something that I wanted my kids to care about too. But like every other parent, we hit times where they were reluctant to try new things. The method that I’m sharing in Get Your Kids to Eat Anything is developed over years of personal experiments, as well as conversations with readers, and I truly believe that it can change the way the whole family thinks about food. I’ve already had some incredible messages from people who have started on the programme and are having fantastic results. That’s why I do what I do!

What are your children’s favourite meal? 

They are both huge fans of pasta, so there are a number of pasta dishes in the Get Your Kids to Eat Anything. What I love about pasta is that it can be customised in so many different ways and is a great base to build on when introducing new ingredients and flavours to your children’s palates.

What’s your favourite go-to ingredient? 

I could not cook the way I do without herbs and spices. I am very passionate about introducing flavours that complement the main ingredients in the dish. I love a little heat, so would probably name garlic and chilli among my ingredient essentials. But I also love filling, protein-rich bulking ingredients, so there will always be plenty of lentils, beans and other pulses in my cupboard!

What recipe from your book would you suggest readers to make to bring the family together on Mother’s Day?

The butternut squash waffles are really easy to make and look great on the plate. If you don’t have a waffle iron, the batter will also work to create a gorgeous pancake stack. And there should be plenty to go around so the kids get a treat too.

What snack could you not live without? 

I love easy to make, portable snacks that you can keep in the fridge and pop in your bag when you would want to head out somewhere. From the book, I regularly make the savoury vegetable muffins and the healthier chocolate cookies, which are made with oats banana and cocoa powder.

What is the most useful kitchen gadget you have ever bought? 

A knife sharpener! It is incredible how much easier cooking becomes when you keep your knives lovely and sharp. It really makes preparing food so much more of a joy and you soon discover that you cannot have chef level chopping skills with a blunt knife.

Recent food discovery you can’t believe you never knew about? 

It wasn’t until I started doing some work around food waste a couple of years ago, that I realised just how many foods you can freeze! Since then I’ve been freezing baguettes, grated cheese, herbs in oil, the list goes on! 

Winter or summer? 

Summer. A big part of running a food blog is photography, so I will always love the sunshine months, because that is when I have the longest part of the day to shoot recipes in.

Food heaven? 

Thai green curry. Or anything Thai really – I love the use of heat and space. Thai has a certain perfumed fragrance to it that I think is unmatched.

Food hell? 

Tiramisu. I just can’t bear it. I couldn’t really tell you why!        

Describe 2019 (so far and plans) in less than 6 words

Big launch, more to come!

Get Your Kids To Eat Anything by Emily Leary is out now.