Carolanne Rushe, 28, is fast becoming one of the most talked about foodie names in the West. Ever since this Dublin-gal-turned-Sligo-fixture, she moved from the capital as a young child, opened the Sweet Beat Café in Sligo town earlier this summer, the vegan outpost has made every must-visit list going.
Carolanne initially founded Green Warrior in 2014, a plant-based food product line, after spending six years living in far-flung places such as Italy, Qatar, Perth, and South Africa. In 2013, after a stint at Ballymaloe’s cookery school, she set up a food stall at markets in Johannesburg, before returning to live and work in Sligo last year. Green Warrior quickly became a discerning favourite every Sunday at Strandhill People’s Market, eventually leading to Carolanne opening the Sweet Beat Cafe, a plant-based health café.
As co-founder and head chef Carolanne has a busy time of it, but she never waivers from the plant-based philosophy that has shaped her culinary career so far. While her past few months have been hectic, “My fitness regime at the moment revolves around running up and down the three flights of stairs in the cafe”, Carolanne is striving for balance in her work and personal life. A bustling new enterprise with a dash of walks along Strandhill beach and yoga practice when she can find time makes this 28-year-old’s life sound like an idyllic existence.
“I’ve recently started making our own plant-based yoghurts. I wanted to bring the flavour of natural yoghurt to some of our dishes in the cafe and so I started experimenting with some fun coconut yoghurt recipes. From there, I wanted to make them more appealing, so I mixed it with some superfoods and tasty sweeteners and that’s how our coconut yoghurt pots started. Raw cacao coconut yoghurt is so delicious and very much my favourite.”
“Any treat that I can make healthier by using raw cacao is always a bonus. It’s creamy and rich whilst being so healthy, packed with live cultures and lightly sweetened with maple syrup, it’s the best brekkie I can get my hands on for a busy morning in the cafe. I top it with my raspberry chia jam, a gorgeous sweet jam set with his seeds instead of sugar. Amazing !! And then for a little bit of crunchy deliciousness, I throw on some cacao buckwheat gránola and seeds. It’s like healthy cocoa pops! With all of the healthy fats, it’s surprisingly filling.”
“I have to have a smoothie every day. I love smoothies so much as they’re a proper meal in one delicious drink which works for me as I’m always on the go. My favourite is a green smoothie, with all the goodness of leafy greens and spirulina, hemp and chia but sweetened with perfectly ripe bananas. And of course, some extra cacao nibs for a bit of nutritional crunch.”
“When lunch time hits, I’m a sucker for a noodle bowl. I love them and you can do so much with it – my favourite being a gorgeous coconut broth with Asian marinated rice noodles and tonnes of veg. I love throwing in a load of roasted veg that I usually have in the fridge from yesterday’s dinner. My favourite is mushroom, red pepper and sweet potato and then some steamed broccoli with tonnes of sprouts and fresh herbs. I love a bit of a crunch, so some toasted nuts add a bit of extra texture, healthy fats and protein. It’s like a hug in a bowl, and with the weather we had this summer, it’s so needed.”
“After a day in the cafe, all I want is a big bowl of leafy goodness, with a bucket of hummus, of course! Steamed veg and avocado, with some fermented veg and pickles, has got to be the easiest but most satisfying bowl of veg I can get my hands on.”
Does Carolanne have any guilty food pleasures? “My guilty food pleasure is Italian food. I adore a big bowl of creamy pasta on a cold evening by the fire or just after a crazy day in the cafe. I make my own vegan cheese, made from cashews, which makes the most divine pasta sauce, blend it with some mashed sweet potato and you have a powerhouse pasta sauce.”
“I often don’t get much of a chance to sit down and enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the morning. But when I do, it’s always smashed avocados on sourdough. I love it, especially when topped with some hummus and kale pesto. It keeps me going for hours and is just so delicious. It’s one of our most popular dishes in the cafe too.”
“I usually pair it with a glass of our house kombucha. I’ve been experimenting with lots of different flavours recently; my favourite so far has been Hibiscus, Rosehip and Apple. Kombucha is full of probiotics that aid our digestive system and help to strengthen our immune system. I call it tea with superpowers.”
“Late afternoon: I usually get a chance to grab a big bowl of salad. Our salads change every day in the cafe with different pickles, veg and grains. I get bored so easily when it comes to making the same dish over and over again so with our salads they have to change every day. This was one of my favourites and that crazy pink red onion pickle in my homemade Kombucha apple cider is to die for.”
“Dinner sometimes can be leftovers which is such a nice treat when I don’t have the energy after being on my feet all day. This super filling zucchini alla parmigiana is an amazing gluten-free and vegan dish that packs a serious punch. Roast courgette with a gorgeous tomato and basil sauce and tonnes of cashew cream and nutty parmesan. And always beans.”
What about a favourite go-to snack? “It has to be an almond milk cappuccino and a vegan banana muffin. It’s my one vice. But so comforting and filling. Vegan banana muffins with Spelt flour taste way too good to be healthy. But they are!”
“I sometimes work a half day on Saturdays in the cafe and so I love to treat myself to our plant-based “fry”, The Goods. It’s made up of pan fried kale and asparagus, homemade beans, garlicky marinated mushrooms and slow cooked balsamic tomatoes. It’s an incredible feast and leaves you feeling so light and full of energy. We use a turmeric butter on our toast – it’s bright yellow and full of the healthy plant based fats like coconut and olive oil.”
“It’s time for another smoothie, but this time for lunch. My very first super food smoothie I ever made was the Rocket Cow. It’s a raw cacao, peanut butter and banana shake that makes you want to gulp it all down in one sip. We add maca and lucuma for extra energy and antioxidant oomph.”
“When dinner comes around, I grab another super salad. They’re super because of the amount of goodies I pack into them. This is one of my all time favourites. I started making this salad at the markets in Joburg last year and just by the colour alone, people go crazy for it. Steamed bulgar wheat with freshly grated beets, lashings of orange juice and fresh parsley and mint. If I’m not putting hummus on everything, then it’s usually avocado. I’m addicted, they’re so creamy and filling. Perfect with a sprinkle of chilli salt.”
Where was the hands-down best place you’ve ever eaten? “My absolute favourite meal ever has got to be the stunning Leafy Greens raw food cafe. I had just moved to South Africa and discovered this oasis in the middle of nowhere in Joburg. The cafe is on a massive organic farm, and everything is raw or vegan and made on site. It was the first time I had raw vegan sushi and sprouted raw pizzas. Mind blown, it pushed me to move further into working with raw and high nutrient foods.”