My secret life: Niamh Shields, Food blogger, 32

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The Independent Online

My parents were... My mother worked in the bank and my father was a master cutter for Waterford Crystal.

The household I grew up in... Five kids; small house – busy, active. My mother wasn't into cooking; we had simple, Irish food growing up. As a result my sister and I are really obsessed with cooking – it's from having to eat the same dinner over and over again!

When I was a child I wanted to... be lots of different things: an astronaut, a doctor... When I was about 15 I decided I wanted to be a chef, but I was discouraged by everyone; I was very academic and people thought it was a waste.

If I could change one thing about myself... I'd like to be a bit more organised. I have chronoptimism: I think I can do much more in the time I have than I really can.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... science. Most people would be really surprised, but I almost did a PhD. I have a degree in physiology and a Masters in technology.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... anything to do with spatial orientation. I'm always walking into tables and chairs.

At night I dream of... food. I woke up this morning thinking about an egg curry I had been dreaming of.

I wish I'd never worn... I was quite creative in the Eighties! There's a picture of me in a turquoise fishtail skirt and a yellow mohair jumper and a white belt. Also ski pants, which I've seen in shops again now – not good.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Like most women, I probably notice I have a blemish or my hair is frizzy. But generally I see someone who is happy.

My favourite item of clothing... I have an awesome pair of red patent leather heels, which I love.

I ride... a vintage bicycle I got from Liberty that is covered in a blue floral print.

It's not fashionable but I like... Bacon Fries and Fry's Turkish Delight: I love them, guilty pleasures! I can always tell if I've had a few too many drinks the night before: I find the packets of shame in the morning.

A book that changed me... My mother used to buy me a book every week, starting off with Ladybirds and moving on to the great writers – I remember loving Jane Eyre, it really stood out.

My secret crush is... Johnny Depp, because he's super-quirky.

My greatest regret... If I make a mistake I just try to make sure I don't do it again. All the mistakes I have made have brought me to here – and I'm happy being here.

My real-life villains... People who are mean-spirited. A lack of generosity is a terrible trait.

My five-year plan... is to keep writing books, and I'd really like to travel more. I love trains – I want to do lots of train journeys, across Canada and Australia and the Tran-Siberian Express.

My life in six words... fun, eclectic, food, drink, music, travel.

A life in brief

Niamh Shields was born in Ireland, though she has lived in the UK for the past nine years. She has been writing her food blog, Eat Like a Girl, since 2007, posting recipes, restaurant reviews and travel writing. Last year, her blog was 'Highly Commended' in the Observer Food Monthly awards; it has also appeared on Best Food Blog lists in The Times, The Telegraph and Time Out. She ran a food stall in Covent Garden Market in 2009 and her first recipe book, Comfort & Spice, is out now. She lives in north London

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