Webchat with Clodagh McKenna
Currently presenting on 'Corrigan Knows Food', Irish chef graduate Clodagh McKenna has also just published her first book, 'The Farmers' Market Cookbook', which is reviewed here. She joined us for an RTÉ webchat on Tuesday 28 November.
Here are her answers to your questions.
john: Clodagh, would you like to go for dinner..........
Clodagh: Hi everybody! John, I presume you're looking for recommendations to take someone lovely to dinner. If I was in Dublin, I would go to Chapter One. In Cork, I would recommend Café Paradiso and if you're near Waterford, then make a detour to The Tannery.
Patrick McNamara: What would you think are the most challenging of dishes to prepare.
Clodagh: The most challenging dishes are be dishes that I can't source good produce for. It's really easy to cook good food with good ingredients and it's the ingredients that make the dish taste so good.
Terri: how do you make an omelette?
Clodagh: I just made an omelette for lunch! It's one of the best recipes to learn because you can use so many different ingredients in it. For two or three people, I would use 6 eggs, 1 onion, 1 large cooked potato and some olive oil, salt and pepper. Peel and thinly slice your onion and get a heavy bottomed frying pan on a low heat. Put a drop of olive oil into the pan then add the sliced onion. Peel and cut the cooked potato into chunks and add that to the onion in the pan as well. If you're adding raw meat, like bacon, add it at this stage. Cover and leave to sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs with the salt and pepper. Take the lid off the pan and pour the eggs over the onions and potatoes. Add any tomato or cheese or any cooked meats (ham, salami) at this stage. Put the lid on again, put on a low heat and leave for five minutes to allow the base of the omelette to cook and for the centre to set. Turn on your grill then put the pan under the heat to cook the very top of the omelette. With a spatula tip the omelette onto a plate and serve hot, warm or cold!
Alan: Nice goat's cheese recipes?
Clodagh: Hi Alan. Glad to hear you're looking for goat's cheese recipes. If you can get your hands on Ardsallagh, St Tola or Bluebell Falls Goat's Cheese it makes a huge difference to the recipes. My favourite way to eat this cheese would be on bruschetta with some lovely basil pesto and roasted red pepper.
Rachael, Dublin: Clodagh, what is your favourite food of all time?
Clodagh: I have two things at the moment! Mozzarella di buffalo and a cured meat called culatello that I tasted two weeks ago in the Parma region - I'm in Italy at the moment so tasting lots of new and delicious things.
Sinead: Can you recommend a chutney or relish from seasonal ingredients that would make a great Christmas present. Thanks!
Clodagh: Try a Spiced Apple Chutney. Take 1 kilo cooking apples and 2 onions. Slice and chop the onions and the apples into small chunks. Get a heavy bottomed saucepan, throw in a big knob of butter then tip in the apples and onions. Then add the following: 500g sugar, 20 whole cloves, 1 tablespoon of chilli powder, 2 inches of peeled and grated fresh ginger, 400ml cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper, 1 tablespoon turmeric powder. Mix well. Cover the saucepan and leave to simmer over a medium heat for 20 minutes. Take the lid off, turn down the heat and leave to cook for 30 minutes until the apple has broken down and the chutney has turned a rich, golden brown colour. Take it off the heat and allow to cool. This will make about 12 x 230ml Kilner jars of chutney. Best of luck and happy Christmas!
carrie: How did you become involved in Corrigan Knows Food?
Clodagh: I met with the producer for lunch in the English Market in Cork and was so excited with the concept of the series that they asked me to become involved - I was thrilled!
seamus: what's your favorite cuisine?
Clodagh: My favourite for a long time has been Moroccan. Now I'm living in Italy, I love the simplicity of Italian cooking but there's nothing like a good traditional Irish soda bread!
Elizabeth Kavanagh: Why, when you appear on UKTV Food do you constantly say that we here in Ireland have only one type of cream! Do you not know about Clotted cream made by Kingstons in Cork available in SuperValu and SuperQuinn and what about Avonmore Double Cream available everywhere in shops?
Clodagh: Hi Elizabeth - it's great that you know about the Kingston's clotted cream. I first came across it about 5 years ago when they were experimenting with it at the markets and then I started selling it for them at the farmer's market. I have brought Glenilen Clotted Cream on to UKTV numerous times and they have now started supplying Germany because of the show.
Laura: What do you think are currently the most exciting products from small Irish producers?
Clodagh: The most exciting thing is seeing the second generation farmers and producers making what their parents have been making and putting their own slant on it - for example, Fingal Ferguson of the famed Gubbeen farmhouse cheese family is now making fabulous charcuterie and smoking his mother's cheese
carol: Does the media drive the success of the celebrity chefs, not just their cooking
Clodagh: Yes. I think you have a point. I think too much focus is being put on chefs as celebrities rather than in the their abilities in the food industry. But I also suppose it is important for chefs to communicate thorough the media so that we all learn more about food!
Lucy: Do you spend all your time in the kitchen?!
Clodagh: I love spending time in the kitchen but I try to spend time also finding about foods that are out there, travelling and discovering new producers. I think it is an important part of my job because, for me, sourcing the ingredients is as important as cooking them.
Mary: After your book and this TV show, what is your next venture?
Clodagh: The next venture that I have in the pipeline is my own series based on my book, The Irish Farmers Market Cookbook. That will be on in March and April 2007. At the moment I'm living in Italy, currently writing my second book, which is about Slow Food. I'll be looking at Slow Food in all the countries around the world, with profiles on Slow Food producers and top chefs.
Caroline: What are your kitchen staples?
Clodagh: I do believe that it is important to have a well stocked storecupboard, everything from pastas to rices, pulses to good tinned tomatoes and good olive oil so that you always have the means to make a meal even if you don't have time to go to the shop. In my fridge, I would always have a couple of good farmhouse cheeses, some interesting chutneys, good Irish butter and parmesan cheese.
mary: Hi Clodagh, I love cooking. What advice can you give me to get started in a culinary career
Clodagh: Hi Mary. How exciting that you're taking the culinary route! I would highly recommend visiting and staying with as many producers as you can. The knowledge that you get from them is invaluable and so many producers are willing to open their doors to you as long as you're willing to help out. I would also recommend that you should contact restaurants that you admire and try to get work experience in their kitchens - that's what I did. Best of luck!
Mandy: I love your new cookbook, Clodagh. What kind of feedback have you got about it? And what did the producers think about what you were doing?
Clodagh: Thank you so much Mandy. I'm thrilled that you liked the book. The feedback from the producers has been fantastic. Over the last six years I've become close with many of the producers and I hope that the book will act as a connection between them and the consumers. The feedback and support that I have gotten from the book is more than I would ever have hoped for.
Damien Dunne: Hi Clodagh. I have to cook dinner for six on New Year's Eve, but it will be in a holiday home so I won't have access to my full kitchen. Therefore the menu will have to be fairly simple - but still tasty. Do you have any suggestions for a starter and main course?
Clodagh: Hi Damien. The best option, if you don't really know what kind of kitchen you have and you don't want to spend all of your time cooking, would be to start with an antipasti plate using some cured meats - Irish, Spanish or Italian - salamis, etc, a couple of really good Irish farmhouse cheeses like Durrus and Gubbeen and we also have some amazing smoked fish available in Ireland. Belvelly, Woodcock, Ummera smoked mackerel, trout, salmon or eel are all fantastic. For the main course, I would recommend doing something that you can cook ahead of time - a big Irish stew, or a tagine, or a big pot of bolognaise - there are lots of recipes in my book, if you want to give yourself a helping hand!
dave: Do you think food & cooking is undergoing a renaissance in this country?
Clodagh: Yes I do. I think the emergence of farmer's markets throughout Ireland over the last six years has changed how chefs - and people at home - are cooking because we now can get our hands on really good ingredients. Long may it continue!
Barry: Hi Clodagh, do you consider Cork the capital of Irish cuisine?
Clodagh: Hi Barry. I think that Cork is definitely one of the major food cities in Ireland. There is a vast percentage of producers living and working in Cork and therefore the markets and restaurants have great access to these producers.
Have to go now - thank you all for logging on for the webchat. It's always great to get feedback from viewers and readers. Hope I've helped with some of your queries!