Cooking by instinct: vegetarian foodie Lizzie Flaherty
PUBLISHED: 11:32 23 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:32 23 June 2014
Tessa Allingham talks to the food entrepreneur about vegetarian Scotch eggs, chocolate cake and the colour pink
Pink, of a flamboyant intensity that makes Barbie look dowdy, is hardly the hair colour of somebody who prefers a quiet night in with her cat and a good book. It’s a colour that shouts ‘look at me, look what I’ve achieved’. Isn’t it?
The stereotype doesn’t work in this case. Lizzi Flaherty, despite the pink hair and ready chatter, insists she hates publicity.
“I’m really not a ‘look at me’ person. I was interviewed by Lesley Dolphin [BBC Radio Suffolk] last week and I couldn’t eat all morning I was so nervous. The thing is, I’ve been pink for four or five years now, and I’ve realised this is how I’m happiest.”
And very happy she seems too. Her business, Food! By Lizzi, has the simple, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin slogan of ‘good wholesome vegetarian cuisine’. The vegetarian and vegan goodies she makes at home and sells on Suffolk markets are finding fans aplenty.
“I often sell out of Scotch eggs and I’ve come up with a new sweet chilli one – my next-door stall holder gave me a pot of chilli relish and I just started experimenting!” Alongside the Scotch eggs (made with free range eggs and soya mince), she sells puff pastry rolls, filled perhaps with double Gloucester cheese and red onion, or sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. There are quiches, savoury tarts, and delicate vegetable lattice pies. Her favourite? “My chocolate cake! I make it with no eggs so it’s suitable for vegans. It’s lovely when a vegan customer realises they can eat a lot of what’s on the stall!”
Recipes are logged in her head. She’s an instinctive cook it seems, having learned in the time-honoured way with her mother and grandmother. “I remember as a child standing on a chair cooking with my nan. I can’t imagine not cooking. I find it odd when people say they can’t make a cake – the 4-4-4-2 recipe is engrained on my brain!”
Lizzi has been happily, pinkly, self-employed since March 2013 after several working years spent in and around food that ended with shock redundancy from managing a café. Vegetarian for the past four years, she quickly realised there was a gap in the market for a purely vegetarian range suitable to sell from a market stall. “Plenty of people offer a vegetarian option, but nobody does just vegetarian food, made in a wholly vegetarian kitchen.”
Her thoughtful business plan won her a Princes Trust start-up loan and invaluable mentoring from Merlyn Suckling of Suckling Airways. She also won an award in last year’s New Enterprise Allowance Awards run by Ixion Holdings, aimed at supporting entrepreneurs coming off Jobseekers Allowance.
“The Ixion award was a great boost, and Merlyn has been amazing, always on the end of the phone for me. She’s given me the confidence to grasp opportunities.” Lizzi has grasped so many that her summer diary is chock full – she is on the Bury St Edmunds market every week, and sells at monthly farmers markets in Sudbury, Lavenham, Hadleigh and Long Melford. Later this month she’ll feed hungry swimmers at the Great East Swim, then eager foodies at the Bury St Edmunds Food Festival in August.
“My parents sometimes help on the markets, but I do all the cooking myself, so it’s just as well I’m a night owl!” she says. “I’ve been known to cook through the night before a big market, but however tired I am, it’s always worth the effort.”