For the first in our Small Changes Meet The Maker series we had a chat with a woman who inspires us daily. Owner and food-brain of Nelly’s cafe, Caroline shares her recipe for Carrot and Walnut Pesto, tells us who Nelly is, and gives us the lowdown on good nutrition…FYI you can still eat cake!
Who is Nelly?
That’s a question that I’m asked regularly but unfortunately, it’s a very boring story…my surname is Nelson and Nelly was just a nickname from when I was young. It would be a much better story if Nelly was a great character or friend but unfortunately not!
When did Nelly’s open?
I started Nelly’s in Portobello in 2009 and the opportunity to open in Drumcondra came up in March 2014. It took a while to get sorted and we eventually opened in September 2014. The space in Drumcondra is much bigger than Portobello so it allowed us to expand and improve our menu.
Has Nelly’s changed much over this time?
We have always offered healthy, hearty and wholesome home-cooked food and over the years we have stuck to our ethos but we have expanded and changed our offerings to suit demands. We have a small but great team in Nellys. A lot of the guys have been with us for years. We have had a great bunch of people work for us over the years and there is always a great team spirit between everyone.
I still live near Portobello so most of the time I spend in Drumcondra is in Nellys but my favourite shop is definitely Small Changes! I love the way Peader builds relationships with local small suppliers. He has a constantly changing and exciting range of fresh fruit and veggies and I love his refillable cleaning products. Fagans is also a great spot and its where we all go for a pint to celebrate getting through a crazy Croke Park match day or if one of our team is leaving.
You’ve been studying for an MSc in culinary nutrition while running the ship at Nelly’s, has that impacted what you do every day in regards to nutrition and your menu choices? Any tips for us at home?
I’ve actually just submitted my thesis! I researched the possibility of creating classic pastry recipes without using sugar or using sugar replacers instead, the results are pretty varied. The top tip I have from the 2 years is that, as with most things, there is no black and white answer when it comes to food and nutrition. Food is enjoyable and pleasurable and that enjoyment has to be considered when choosing food. But the best diet for our health and wellness is to eat plenty of fruit and veg, lots of fibre and protein – mostly from plants and enjoy the sweet treats but only in moderation.
At the moment the most popular dish on our menu is our beetroot hummus on rye with feta, roast cauliflower and pickles. Its a really tasty winner. Although it’s popular, our last menu had a spicy bean and quinoa burrito and every day we have at least one customer asking for it so I think we will have to put it back on the menu!
Anything else on the horizon?
We have really exciting collaboration with Small Changes coming up for the summer, we can’t give away too many details yet but we plan to use some of Small Changes local produce to create some exciting specials each week which will showcase the fantastic ingredients! Last week we started to make some of our recipes to be sold in the shop. So far we have made harissa, broad bean hummus, and a yummy carrot and walnut pesto made from gorgeous organic carrots in Small Changes. Some of the recipes are ones we use on our menu and specials but it is an exciting challenge to try to use up some of the ingredients from Small Changes and create a new recipe like the carrot and walnut pesto!
Nelly's delicious Carrot and Walnut Pesto is vegan and was created by Caroline at Nelly's using Small Changes produce.
- 350 grams carrots
- 100 grams toasted walnuts
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 lemons juiced
- 200 mil olive oil extra virgin (or rapeseed oil)
Blitz all together, season to taste and serve on some yummy toasted sourdough.