Chef, TV presenter and cookbook writer Clodagh McKenna, speaks with Editor Jillian Bolger about Irish childhood memories, influencers and her new book.
What was the first dish you ever learned to cook?
I started to cook early in my childhood, and my memory of the first recipe I totally perfected was Irish soda bread. I now make it every Saturday morning and it is the most searched recipe on my website.
What are your most vivid food memories from childhood?
Growing up we ate as a family every night of the week. We would all be given different chores when we got home from school – flowers were picked for the table, linen laid out, vegetables prepped, and a quick fix or ‘one and done’ recipe was whipped up.
This was to create a time for us all to gather around the table, chat about the day we had, to love, argue, laugh, every night at 6pm. I think it’s mealtimes that make food memories the most.
Who has been the biggest influence on the way that you cook?
I think Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell from Ballymaloe. They showed me the importance of the taste of fresh, local, seasonal food. There is nothing like it, and never will be.
What country’s food do you most enjoy?
Italy, because I’m addicted to how passionate the Italians are about their food.
Their passion drives perfection and exploration of the old and new. I lived there for quite some time and just fell in love with the whole food culture there.
Where would you love to visit, because of its food?
I’d visit anywhere right now! But top of the list would be Japan.
What’s your favourite Irish ingredient?
I love Carlingford Oysters, based in the beautiful medieval town on the Cooley Peninsula. The taste is unbelievable and the owners are wonderful.
I also love Rare Apple Ice Wine from Killahora Orchards. It’s such an amazing drink to serve to guests. And one more… Gubbeen, anything from Gubbeen Farm. The Fergusons are my food heroes.
What’s your favourite fast food?
What is the most memorable meal you’ve ever enjoyed?
It is always a family occasion for me. My family gathered around the table and a big Irish sing-song afterwards. My dearest and most cherished memories are of those moments.
Do you own many cookbooks?
I have loads and loads! As a chef and cookbook author myself, lots of people send them to me, and I love looking through them and being inspired.
I sent my latest book, Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen to all my chef friends as I love to hear which recipes they like the most.
Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?
Plenty! How would you ever learn, or experiment if you didn’t? I call them learning curves, not disasters!
Name your 5 desert island ingredients.
Eggs, olive oil, Perello olives, Martelli pasta and Barry’s Tea.
What is your idea of food hell?
Eating over-processed foods. It is just not for me. I love the taste of fresh food too much and I’ve put in too much effort into growing my own ingredients to let it go to waste.
What’s the one thing you’ll always order if you see it on a menu?
What would you eat as your last meal on earth and who would cook it?
I don’t know, how do you eat through that many tears!
Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen: Easy & exciting dishes to liven up your recipe repertoire, is out now. Buy online here on the Good Food Ireland® Shop €25.00.
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