Ballymaloe graduate Clodagh McKenna has long been a champion of Irish food producers, through her newspaper and magazine columns, her work with Slow Food Ireland and last year's RTÉ Radio One 'Winter Food'. It is not, therefore, such a surprise that her first book should be 'The Irish Farmers' Market Cookbook', a handsome guide to using the great produce that you can find at farmers' markets around the country and the people that make and sell it. Recipes for dishes such as Cork Beef Stew and Giana Ferguson's Baked Cheese with Winter Herbs are interspersed with profiles of ingredients and people, such as Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smokehouse, Sheridan's cheesemongers and vegetable grower Caroline Robinson.
There are few complex recipes here, the majority taking their flavour not from cook's additions but from the pure quality of the raw ingredients. A simple combination of asparagus and goat's cheese rises above the ordinary by McKenna's suggestion that you roast the asparagus and use Wolfgang and Agnes Schliebitz's Knocklara cheese. Likewise, her version of potato salad uses Willie Scannell's Ballycotton potatoes and a pork pie turns into something sublime by the inclusion of Caherbeg free-range pork. The book is at its strongest with producer-specific recipes like these. Try Baked Cashel Blue Cheesecake with Apricots, maybe Ummera Smoked Chicken Paella or even Murphy's White Chocolate and Rosewater Ice Cream, the titles evocative of quality Irish products.
The book also includes a useful selection of producer's details and a comprehensive list of farmer's markets around the country. As well as being a useful source of recipes and information, it is a celebration of the recent boom in farmer's markets. Nine basic chapters - from bread to deserts, baking & chocolate - are illustrated by wonderful photographs by Jean Cazals, making 'The Irish Farmers' Market Cookbook' as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach.
Watch Clodagh McKenna on RTÉ One's 'Corrigan Knows Food' on Tuesday nights at 7pm.
Clodagh McKenna joined us for an RTÉ webchat on Tuesday 28 November. Read the answers to your questions here.