I started cooking in the kitchen of my family hotel in Connemara at a very young age, and then went on to work as a pastry chef in Dublin after college. A stint at Ballymaloe Cookery School was followed by 11 years as head chef at Delphi Lodge, where I rediscovered my love of gathering wild food.
When my third child, Milo, was born I left Delphi Lodge and started producing my Breaking Eggs series of short films, which encouraged parents to develop their children’s interest in cooking, foraging and food sourcing.
When I’m cooking with my kids I love to use produce we have gathered from the fields around us, or sourced from a farm visit – that’s when they get excited. If you live in a town or city, involve them when you’re choosing meat at the butcher or selecting vegetables, it does make a difference.
My top piece of kitchen kit is my casserole pots – magic happens inside those pots!
My top spots to eat in Ireland would include Ard Bia in Galway, because you feel so good after eating there; Longueville House in Mallow because no-one cooks or appreciates game better than William O’Callaghan; Ballynahinch Castle because it’s where I eat most often and chef Ultan Cook translates the larder of Connemara into something spectacular every time.
If I could eat anywhere in the world right now, I’d go to Hartwood in Tulum, Mexico – Eric Werner and Mya Henry’s restaurant in the jungle where, without electricity, they cook exclusively on fire. I have the cookbook and love it.
I have learned so much about food styling and photography from co-hosting the Lens & Larder workshops with the brilliant Imen McDonnell. I have learned that lighting is everything, provided the food is good. And colour palette is critical, bringing in colours of props and surfaces that suit the tone of the dish. Photographer Andrea Gentl is a genius when it comes to this.
My go-to mid-week meal at home is always roast chicken. It’s so good and is the easiest thing to prepare.
The ingredient I can’t get enough of at the moment is sumac – it livens up almost anything and I only found out recently that it grows in Ireland!
Foodie gift idea? Buy them an AccuSharp knife sharpener from a fishing tackle shop – the best and easiest tool ever to keep your knives sharp, and a whole lot easier to manage than a knife steel.
My last meal on earth would be a Roundstone lobster with melted butter.
Top tipple? I drink Guinness mostly, and wine of course, but I recently had a smoky mescal margarita in Hotel Delmano in Brooklyn that absolutely rocked my world.
Up next is another Lens & Larder workshop in spring 2017 with David Prior called How to Capture a Travel Story. Can’t wait. Oh, and there may be a book lurking out there…
For more from Cliodhna Pendergast pick up the Jan/Feb issue for belly-warming recipes that use the best of seasonal Irish ingredients.
Featured image: Gentl and Hyers Photography