LOCKDOWN could not keep down the energetic couple behind The Daly Dish, the record-breaking cookbook from Instagram’s favourite slimming home-cooks, Gina and Karol Daly.
The book had already notched up 6,000 pre-orders before it was published on March 20, just as Covid-19 restrictions hit. Despite the pandemic and the closure of most booksellers, it still became the fastest-selling cookbook in Irish history with more than 10,000 copies sold at Easter, according to publishers Gill Books.
“We’re still absolutely blown away by the response our book has received,” Gina tells Feelgood.
The couple, who lost 10 stone between them, has built up an impressive Instagram following with their take on simple, fun cooking that aims to make healthier versions of the indulgent kinds of food we all love.
Gina (@thedalydish) has 145,000 followers and Karol (@mister.dish) has 32,000.
“It’s crazy,” says Karol.
I still can’t believe that many people watch us. We’re stone mad at times. But it’s all 100% us — what you see is what you get.
And it seems we can’t get enough of the Daly approach to cooking and eating. Gina explains: “I think people like the fact that our recipes are easy to make and don’t require any kinds of crazy ingredients. Most are all store cupboard essentials.”
The Daly mantra certainly struck a chord during lockdown which has brought many challenges, including a tendency to comfort eat.
How do you keep your nose out of the biscuit tin? “Buy our book and make all the food,” Karol laughs.
“One of the main things I find is that if I have a good breakfast, lunch and dinner I don’t usually crave the in-between snacking as I’m already quite full. However, it’s OK to have a treat, I think balance is very important, otherwise, you’ll find yourself going off the rails at times and putting a proper dent in that biscuit tin.”
Gina says that while they have been missing family and friends, they’ve been keeping busy in the kitchen and have started to get the children, Holly (aged 10) and Ben (aged eight), cooking a lot more at their home in Co Meath.
Karol chips in: “We’ve even started a page for Holly ‘The Little Dish’ (managed by us) in the hope of inspiring other parents to cook with their children. We also finally got around to starting a YouTube channel which is something we’d been meaning to do for ages.”
One of the family’s favourite lockdown dishes is the Daly version of the Big Mac. Their spice bag is another hit. And Karol can’t get through a week without eating chicken curry and beef satay.
“They are my absolute favs,” he says. “We always make a massive pot of the curry and all dig in, served with some rice and homemade chips. Sure, why would you even want a takeaway?” he says.
When they married — after a whirlwind romance — they did opt for takeaways, though. They both enjoyed eating out and busy schedules meant they turned to takeaways and convenience food.
In August 2018, Gina got a wake-up call when she realised that she had gained four stone and started keeping a food diary on Instagram.
I got a hoof up the arse from Satan himself, it all clicked! Now, I was no chef, and I certainly never claimed to have a great imagination when it came to meals, but I realised I could eat the food I wanted to eat, and with a few tweaks here and there I could make them healthy and low-fat.
"Within a few short months, she lost three stone by eating what felt like a treat every night of the week. “The more I cooked the better I became at turning traditionally high-fat meals into healthier versions of themselves.”
Now, everyone can do as Gina and Karol did by trying the 100-plus recipes in The Daly Dish. But, as Gina stresses, go gently. “If you’re just starting your own journey and you feel like you’ve a long road ahead, just remember everybody has a day one, and there’s plenty of bumps on the way, but enjoy the ride and remember why you started. You’re only bleeding deadly.”