Cooking in County Clare, Ireland

berrylodge_outside_602Study cooking in Ireland? You’re kidding, right? Surely you mean France—or maybe Italy. Well, no, travelers to Ireland, particularly if Southern Ireland, discover the emergence of New Irish Cuisine—fresh, imaginative and full of fun.

Lucky if you’re planning a girls’ getaway, Berry Lodge in County Clare, offering cooking classes, can be reached from Shannon Airport in just 45 minutes. The special classes are an add-on to the usual business of Berry Lodge, which is to provide a well-located B & B with 5 star breakfasts. Book early, and the owner Rita Meade will create a class just for you and your friends.

One blustery spring afternoon, a class of eight gathers in the dining room of Berry Lodge, waiting to sample the feast they have been creating since eleven that morning. One participant, an experienced cook, has always been a bit intimidated by seafood, she says. That is why she signed up for Rita’s seafood class. “Fish is different,” the woman says, “because you have to be quick about it.”

relax_area_250Another, still trying to cozy up to eating seafood chimes in, “It can be very bland. But if you are dieting, it can be good…unless you add cream”

There is nothing bland about Rita Meade’s menu, which focuses on organic foods and local seafood.

  • Crab with homemade basil mayonnaise and tomato compote.
  • Grapefruit and avocado salad with olive oil dressing.
  • Sea bass in a salt crust.

Rita grew up in this sprawling clapboard house when it was the center of life on a farm. She always loved cooking, and even as a little girl, found an innovative recipe for mud pies. “They tell me that when I was little I would make scones from mud and gravel and bake them on a rock. I used goose eggs to hold them together. And my mother was wondering why she was not getting any eggs from her geese.” Talk about organic!

Rita says she cooked at her mother’s side. “She was a plain, straight-forward country cook.”