Clodagh McKenna shares her story and love for Irish cooking

By easyFood

25 January 2019

TV chef, owner of several restaurants and author of five cookbooks, Clodagh McKenna is one of the most widely recognised faces of Irish food. Having studied abroad in France, the States and Italy, Clodagh’s international training gives her a unique outlook on food from her home country. Her book are focused on using quality Irish ingredients to make fresh, wholesome meals, both traditional and modern, and has been received with rave reviews, reaching high ranks on Amazon. 

How would you describe your cooking philosophy?

I love to cook with what’s in season, it makes cooking more exciting and ingredients always taste better when they are grown both naturally and locally.

How did you first get into cooking?

My family always cooked growing up, so I guess you could say it was a natural progression. I also spent my summers growing up in France, which influenced my love for food naturally without me even knowing it at the time.

What are your favourite dishes to prepare for yourself?

I love to cook with fresh fish, and I am lucky in that there is a pier 10 minutes from my house where fresh fish is sold daily. I pan-fry fish when it’s really fresh with some complementary herbs and always lemon. I am obsessed with lemons!

What ingredients do you always keep in the kitchen?

Eggs, avocado, garlic, spices, fresh herbs, seasonal vegetables, mascarpone, Parmesan, various types of rice, pasta, Kerrygold butter and of course tinned foods such as tomatoes, pulses and coconut milk.

What is the worst cooking disaster you’ve ever had?

I honestly cannot think of any big cooking disasters as I don’t get stressed when cooking, and if I do make a mistake then I guess with years of experience I usually have a trick to rectify it!

What advice would you give to someone just learning how to cook?

First, work out what you like to eat, then take recipes of your five favourite dishes and learn how to master them perfectly.

What are the most important things to keep in mind when planning meals for the week?

Get organised and plan out your weekly meals before the week begins, keeping in mind that the days you are busy are the ones that you want to cook the most simple meals. Stock up your store cupboard with non-perishable ingredients, and try to cook ahead as much as possible.

What are the biggest differences between preparing food in a restaurant kitchen and cooking for friends and family?

When cooking for friends and family, there’s no time pressure like you have in the restaurant. I also get to sit down and enjoy it. The similar thing, though, is that I love to be organised, meaning that the way I prep things is the same whether at home or in the restaurant. Usually when I cook for family and friends I would do more convivial cooking such as casseroles and roasts, whereas in the restaurant, everything is individually plated. 

In your opinion, how has Irish cooking changed both here and abroad?

Irish cooking has changed in Ireland dramatically over the last 10 years. People are cooking seasonally and are embracing Irish traditional cooking with their own twists. For me, Irish cooking abroad hasn’t evolved as much as within Ireland itself. 

What is your ultimate dinner party menu?

Because it’s May and we’re coming into the summer, I like to cook light, fresh dishes. I would start with Gravlax with Juniper Berry, followed by Fresh Mussels with Cream, Chorizo and Flat Leaf Parsley or some delicious Summer Lamb. I would finish off with some of my Baileys and Soda Bread Ice cream.

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