Clodagh McKenna shares her cooking & hosting tips with Guinness

by W. Andrew Powell
Clodagh McKenna

Chef, author, and all around wonderful person Clodagh McKenna came to Toronto recently, and she shared some of her love for the holidays, and Guinness.

Dish Cooking Studio hosted the evening with McKenna, where she showed off holiday hosting and cooking tips, and it was a fun intimate, and delicious night, with pints of Guinness, a prawn tempura appetizer, turkey dinner, and Christmas pudding.

And to say that McKenna was a charming host would be an understatement–she put a whole new perspective on how to entertain.

McKenna had a lot of tips, but one of my favorites was for roasting the turkey. She suggests using rosemary and orange slices when you roast it, using both inside the turkey, and placing some oranges on top of the breasts.

Pancetta turkey
Pancetta turkey

While she’s a firm believer in stuffing cooking inside the turkey, because it tastes so good with all the juices from the meat, she warns that you need to make sure the cavity isn’t completely full or the turkey will take longer to cook. She also covered her turkey in panchetta to not only seal in the juices, but add some extra flavour.

And then there was the gravy. If this is the only thing that you take away from the story, you won’t be sorry. McKenna made Guinness and Chestnut Gravy. It’s a miracle topping for mashed potatoes, turkey, and vegetables, and it’s fairly easy.

The full recipe is below, but it’s a mix of turkey stock, chestnut puree, and Guinness, and it tastes as good as it sounds. Rich, and a little nutty, the gravy is a great upgrade to your standard turkey gravy, thanks to both the chestnuts and the Guinness.

As McKenna said, some people don’t think about cooking with Guinness, because they’re afraid it may be too heavy, but the truth is that Guinness is a surpisingly light tasting stout that adds a lot of flavours to dishes, including gravies, sauces, and stews, and baking. You also don’t even necessarily need to be a beer lover to enjoy what it adds to cooking.

For dessert, McKenna suggested that the best plan is always to make something ahead of time, so you don’t have to spend the whole supper baking. Her dish of choice for the evening was Guinness Maple and Ginger pudding, with a crystallised ginger caramel sauce.

Making it ahead of time, the pudding takes about 30 minutes to make and then 90 minutes to cook. You can also make the sauce ahead of time, and then heat it up when you serve the dish, or make the sauce fresh before you serve it as it only takes about 5 minutes to make.

McKenna was a perfect host for the evening, the Guinness was delicious, and the meal was a totally unique way of finding ways to put a spin on old classics, without reinventing the meal entirely.

Watch the video from the evening, and then watch the interview with McKenna below, where she talks about all of her hosting tips. And thanks to Guinness and Clodagh McKenna for the evening, and for all the cooking and hosting tips. Scroll down to the bottom of the story for the recipes.

GUINNESS MAPLE AND GINGER PUDDING, with crystallised ginger caramel sauce (Serves 6-8)


  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 8 tbsps Guinness
  • ¾ cup pecan nuts, chopped
  • ¾ cup raisins

For the crystallised ginger caramel sauce

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 6 tbsp cream
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp of crystallised ginger, finely chopped


  1. Sift the flour and soda into a bowl with the ground ginger. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the Guinness. Fold the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and egg mixture, adding the milk to give a soft dropping consistency. Stir in nuts and raisins.
  2. Spoon the mixture into a glass bowl, then cover with greased greaseproof paper and foil, making a pleat in the centre of both. Tie securely with string. Suspend the bowl over a saucepan half filled with water over a medium heat. When the water comes to the boil reduce the heat and reduce to simmer. Steam the pudding for 1½ hrs, checking regularly to make sure that the pan doesn’t boil dry.
  3. Next make the crystallised ginger caramel sauce Place the butter, cream and maple syrup together in a small pan and stir over a low heat until well mixed. Bring to the boil, simmer for three minutes, then stir in the finely chopped crystallised ginger.
  4. Carefully tip the pudding on to a serving plate or cake stand and pour the crystallised ginger caramel sauce on top.

ROAST PANCETTA WRAPPED TURKEY, with Guinness and Chestnut Gravy (Serves 6-8)


  • 1 turkey (8-9 Ibs)
  • 12 strips of pancetta
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 2 big bunches of fresh thyme
  • 4 shallots, peeled
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 bulb of garlic, quartered

For the Guinness and Chestnut Gravy

  • Pan juices from the turkey from the roasting tin or 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 7 fl oz Guinness
  • 17 fl oz chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf, torn
  • 3 tbsp chestnut purée


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F/gas mark 6.
  2. If you are using a frozen turkey it’s best to thaw the bird in the fridge. A turkey will need about 24 hours to thaw for every 4 Ibs. Take the turkey out of the fridge one hour before roasting to allow the meat to relax and come to room temperature, which will make the meat more tender. Next remove the giblets from inside the bird’s cavity because these cannot be cooked with the turkey. Wash the cavity and dry completely with kitchen paper, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
  3. Fill the cavity of the turkey with sprigs of fresh thyme, the cavity should only be filled half way to allow hot air to circulate and the turkey to cook more evenly. Line the roasting tray first with the shallots, carrots, garlic, and thyme. Place the turkey on top, this will flavour the turkey even more whilst cooking.
  4. Next stretch the strips of pancetta by rolling them with a rolling pin. Then arange about three-quarters of the pancetta over the breast, overlapping the slices and wrap the legs and thighs with the remaining pancetta. Tuck the slices of orange around the turkey.
  5. Lastly place the turkey in the pre-heated oven. Then reduce the heat to 250F, after 45 minutes take the turkey out of the oven, and baste the juices from the pan over the turkey. Cover loosely with tin foil and return to the oven and cook for three hours and a half. Continue to baste the turkey every 45 minutes.
  6. Check to see if the turkey is cooked by inserting a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh; the juices should run clear. When you have taken the turkey out of the oven leave it to rest for 30 minutes with a loose tent of tin foil to keep it warm. This will allow the juices to redistribute themselves, giving tastier meat.
  7. Once the turkey has cooked and is resting on a board then make the gravy. Carefully pour 4 tbsp of the juices from the roasting tin into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour, followed by the Guinness, chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 mins, then whisk in the chestnut purée, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Strain the gravy into a jug, discard the herbs.

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