Picture perfect: Chef and food writer Lilly Higgins on eating with your eyes

Lilly Higgins says she’s qualified in all aspects of her work and needs to stop doubting herself, writes Irene Feighan

IF you’re looking for some food ‘insta-piration’ take a scroll through the account of food writer and chef Lilly Higgins. Whether it’s sourdough bread, roast lamb with tapenade, or beetroot chocolate cake, her pictures pull you into a culinary world where all is full and bountiful.

With a degree in graphic design, she knows the value of a strong image — particularly when it comes to food.

“You eat with your eyes”, she says, echoing the mantra of successful chefs worldwide.

She has found a supportive online community among her Instagram followers. “It’s all about getting inspiration and learning from other people. Everyone is so nicely behaved and mannerly on Instagram. I like Twitter as well but it’s mostly for arguments.”

There’s more to her work than moreish pictures. At the core of her healthy eating philosophy is gut health.

“I take probiotics every morning and I give them to my kids as well. Then I would eat organic yogurt every day and I make my own saeurkraut. We eat as many fermented foods as we can.”

Married to Colm and living in Cobh, Co Cork, she is mum to three children: Liam, aged six, Cathal, aged four, and Hazel, aged two. And while the emphasis is always on fresh foods, she knows she can’t push her luck too far — “they can always smell a rat,” she jokes.

Lilly is a brand ambassador for Chia Bia’s ‘We Are Sure About Seeds’ campaign, encouraging the nation to include chia seeds in their daily diet

What shape are you in?

Not bad. I’ve been really busy lately but I know once I start eating better I can get it in check.

It hard to do regular classes because I don’t where I’m going to be from day to day. I tend to do yoga — there are very good videos on YouTube, like Yoga with Adrienne. And I do a lot of walking.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

We go to farmers’ markets once or twice a week just to stock up with fresh vegetables. I would eat lots of chia seeds as well — you can add them to anything and they are not damaged by cooking. I add ground chia seeds to the tomato sauce that goes on top of our homemade pizza to thicken it.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Coffee - even though I have one a day I always feel a bit guilty. When you pair an expresso or Americano with raw milk it’s absolutely beautiful. And I really love wine as well, particularly Malbec.

What would keep you awake at night?

There were two children in the bed last night. The middle child is fantastic he just sleeps the whole night — the other two come into the bed every single night.

How do you relax?

Anything with my hands — baking, sewing, knitting. Doing something creative that I don’t have to do makes me feel relaxed.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Years ago it would have been people completely different but now it would be all of my family because four siblings are living abroad. I’m fourth in a family of eight children.

What’s your favourite smell?

Bread baking, yeast and when rice is freshly cooked — the house smells lovely... Something that smells like the promise of something you’re about to eat.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

Years ago I would have been really harsh on myself but having successfully brought three children into the world I believe I am the way I am for a reason. I think that should be celebrated rather than putting myself down about it. Physically, I’d like to be stronger.

When is the last time you cried?

I welled up when we’re moving out of our old house in December. I was acknowledging all the happy memories we had there and feeling a little bit sentimental rather than sad.

What traits do you least like in others?

Dishonesty or fakeness it can be very confusing. It sends you all the wrong signals.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

Lilly Higgins. Picture: Des Barry

I think I really need to get over doubting myself. I’ve worked very hard and I’m qualified to do everything that I do. I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Do you pray?

No, I don’t. I’d be spiritual. I love nature as opposed to deities.

What would cheer up your day?

Good food. Spending time with someone I love. And I really love charity shops —buying something like an old plate that I can’t believe nobody else has spotted it. I love the buzz.

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