The doyenne of easy family meals returns to RTÉ One this week. In honour of St Patrick's Day, Rachel tells us why she loves this fair isle and shares some family-friendly recipes!

What’s your favourite Irish recipe?
Definitely soda bread. It goes so well with so many different dishes and produce. Brown soda bread is the perfect foil for smoked salmon and a hearty stew or soup demands a good white soda bread.

Favourite Irish ingredient...
It has to be butter. We’ve got the greenest grass with the happiest cows, that produce the best butter in the world.

Most memorable meal you have ever had in Ireland...
Many years ago my husband and I had a picnic on the beach. We had fresh local lobster which we boiled in seawater in a pot over an open fire. There were also freshly dug new potatoes, some homemade mayonnaise and a few tomatoes with freshly picked basil. That was a truly special meal which I will remember always.

Favourite Irish holiday...
I have enjoyed some really special weekends staying in various Irish country houses. They’re cosy in the winter with big open fires and welcomes just as warm! In the summer, I love to take walks in the gardens. There are so many great places to go with wonderful rooms that serve great food. Ireland’s Blue Book is the authority on these places, with Ballyvolane and Longueville House two of my favourites.

Favourite Irish fashion designer...
I’ve always admired John Rocha and we’ve so much new and exciting talent in Ireland. Among them are Joanne Hynes, Helen Steele and John’s daughter Simone Rocha. When I just want to feel cosy, whether travelling or at home, I wrap myself in a Lucy Downes Sphere One cardigan; her work is stunning.

Favourite place in Ireland...
My home in east Cork overlooking Ballycotton Bay. I count myself so lucky to live in such a beautiful country.

Favourite Irish TV programme...
There’s been so much great Irish drama recently. For me it’s got to be a toss-up between Love/Hate and RAW.

Favourite thing about Irish people...
Their honesty and their sense of fun. We really make the most of any occasion.

Favourite thing about Ireland...
I think the landscape is just stunning and I’m not being contrarian but I do love the weather. I even like the cold blustery days. They can be so dramatic and moody and besides, it really makes you appreciate the sun.

Can you describe Ireland in three words?
Green, friendly, home.


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