Melanie May was wined and dined last week by Clodagh McKenna, to celebrate the launch of her latest book, Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. Here’s how she got on.
It was a dark and stormy night. Not a creature was stirring, well apart from Clodagh McKenna who was, as usual happily stirring pots and pans full of ingredients that would form the basis of the tasting menu she was serving up tonight. After all, Clodagh believes that “life happens over a simmering pot in Ireland”.
Having braved the hostile elements outside it was such a relief finally to make it inside Clodagh’s Kitchen Blackrock (Clodagh’s first night time venture and stand-alone restaurant). I instantly began to unwind and warm up thanks to the restaurant’s relaxed ambiance as well as a welcoming hug and smile from the effervescent Clodagh herself. How she manages to stay so calm and upbeat when trying to play host and chef to a large group of people is beyond me, but she made everything look effortless.
We were of course here for a reason, Clodagh wasn’t just cooking for us as if she had nothing better to do – she is one of the busiest and most savvy businesswoman in the country – tonight she was launching her new cookbook, Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen. This is Clodagh’s fifth cookbook and features 125 tempting recipes celebrating modern Irish food. In this beautifully photographed book, Clodagh finds creative ways to use classic Irish flavours like Irish Coffee Cookies and Soda Bread Baileys Ice Cream, these two recipes combined would make epic ice-cream sandwiches, don’t you think?
After nibbles of fennel crisp breads with smoked mackerel and dillisk pate, washed down with a honey and ginger whiskey cocktail, served in the uber-chilled wine bar, we made our way upstairs to the main restaurant.
Clodagh was cooking a starter, main and dessert from her cookbook and as I was already drooling over the photos of the food in the book, I was fit to burst with excitement to try the real deal. First up Clodagh served Carpaccio of Irish beef with shavings of radishes and aged Coolea cheese. A wonderful light dish, that looked so pretty on the plate. In her book, Clodagh also gives simple yet effective presentation ideas so you can really recreate her dishes with ease at home. Next up was dillisk ravioli of Irish smoked salmon and goat’s cheese with watercress pesto, a super flavourful combination that may sound overpowering but was a really well thought-out balanced dish. The main got everybody excited as Clodagh served Spring lamb chops with fennel and nectarines and as most people noted you very rarely see lamb on menus any more so this was a tasty surprise. Finally, on to, what I consider the most important part of a meal, dessert. Clodagh excelled here and really highlighted how simple recipes and ideas can be given a modern twist to bring more oomph to a dish. I devoured greedily the marmalade and cardamom pudding that was put in front of me, something I would never normally order if it were on a menu, but I most certainly will from now on. This is also one of the recipes I am really looking forward to baking myself at home.
Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen is published by Kyle Books and goes on sale on March 12th 2015 from all good bookstores. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon.