As co-founder of the Itsa Food Company, Domini Kemp knows a thing or two about food. Her recipes regularly appear in the country’s press, lauded for their accessibility as well as their commitment to simple, delicious flavours. She has just published her third cookbook, Dinner, and we thought it was high time we sat her down, and pumped her for her best kitchen tips.
Can you tell us about your journey into food? Was it something you always knew you would work in?
I’ve always enjoyed great food. Who doesn’t? But I think that trying to figure out what made food taste so good has always been a bit of a fascination, and still is. My journey was slightly haphazard: I always dabbled in food and worked in catering, but I got my act together after a failed career in show-jumping forced me to make some tough decisions. So I went to Leith’s in London and after that, I never looked back.
If you could teach every person in the world one recipe to inspire them to start cooking, what would it be, and why?
A really delicious stew! Once you understand the importance of flavor, the necessary seasoning and time can transform so many ingredients, then you will never go hungry!
What is the most common kitchen fear you see and you would like to eradicate, altogether?
People lack confidence and then say “I’m no good” and this really frustrates me! Chefs are good at cooking because they do it every day. Practice really does help you and I think people get too besotted with trying to do different things at every meal time instead of practicing a few dishes, getting them bang on – so you don’t even need to look at a recipe – and go from there.
As a working Mother, how do you handle the family meal? Are you a batch cooker?
I am a Queen of leftovers and I love turning some crazy combinations into something resembling dinner. I do try and batch cook when I can, as it does make life much easier.
What top three tips would you give working mothers who want to feed their families nutritious dinners, but are tight on time and high on stress levels?
If you are cooking, then you deserve a big squeeze. And don’t stress if your family get the same dinner over and over or you end up recycling (or up cycling) dinners. Home-made food is a rare thing nowadays so if you’re cooking, be proud. It can be as plain as you like: some broccoli with a knob of butter. Some sweet potato wedges. Some scrambled eggs. Don’t stress if you think your food is not exotic enough. Plain and simple when you’re stressed!
What do you put in your kids lunch boxes?
Brown bread with leftover roast chicken or cheese and tomato. Chopped fruit, watered down apple juice and sometimes dried fruit. Sadly, nuts are now banned in schools because of allergies, which is a shame.
Are your kids fussy eaters? What recipes do you love, but they absolutely hate?!
Lauren who is nearly 17 is fantastic, but she wasn’t always that way… I think she existed on scrambled eggs, baked beans and pasta pesto for 8 years. It was incredibly frustrating and I didn’t make the situation better as I used to try to bully her into eating more veg. But then I just gave up and after a while, she did too. It was a good lesson for me!
Maeve is just 5 is pretty good and will eat most things, probably because she’s trying to impress her big sister rather than her folks!
What’s your family food philosophy? What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to eating with the family?
We eat together in the evenings and have breakfast together. Sometimes I work nights, but in general we try to make the time at the table a real priority. We eat, we talk and we listen.
Finally, what’s in your fridge right now?
It’s looking good at the moment as I did a food demo today so have some leftovers! So there’s a nice chocolate & orange cake and a cauliflower pizza which we ate half of tonight. I’m running out of food though, so tomorrow night it’ll be a big fritatta with grated courgettes and feta cheese. I also have some celery, so will make a quick celery, walnut & mint salad. And anything else leftover from the demo!
Dinner by Domini Kemp is available now through Gill & Macmillan Books for €19.99