I am a feeder, I want to give people good food

Four years after being crowned Masterchef Ireland winner, Diana Dodog has released her first cookbook, reveals Kate Ryan
I am a feeder, I want to give people good food
Diana Dodog and Michael O'Donovan who run The Food Depot, in Courtmacsherry.

“IT’S designed so you can dribble over it, or spill some food on it and just wipe it off. It should be able to take a battering in the kitchen!”

This is Diana Dodog’s opening comment about her book, not the gambit about the achievement of creating her first cookbook that I had expected. No, Diana’s first thought is that this book is used, loved and consumed in the same way her customers come to dine at her West Cork food truck week in, week out.

The opening pages of the book are a homage to Diana’s past, present and future, which is nothing short of a love letter to family and friends.

Diana speaks of sitting at her grandmother’s apron strings watching her cook up dishes that wouldn’t be amiss in the fashionable restaurants of Paris.

“She was a cook, not a chef, although we never found out where she herself learned to cook like that!” said Diana.

Her family still live in the homestead outside of the Hungarian capital Budapest where she grew up and continues to cultivate happy memories. However, Diana now lives in Cork and is devoted to her business partner, husband and soul-mate Mike O’Donovan.

“I recognise that I am married to a creative genius and I just have to let her loose and do what she instinctively knows is the right thing to do,” says Mike.

The Food Depot by Diana Dodog
The Food Depot by Diana Dodog

He has Diana’s back, front and sides; they are inseparable, sharing a mutual respect and understanding that is nothing short of total support to achieve success.

“I began thinking about putting together the book about a year into opening Food Depot — Gourmet Street Kitchen,” explained Diana.

The Food Depot is Diana and Mike’s joint venture post-Masterchef and the food truck is positioned overlooking Courtmacsherry Harbour in West Cork.

“I noticed that customers would come back to the truck week after week asking me when I would put a certain dish back on the menu again,” she explained.

Like her grandmother before her, Diana has always kept a recipe journal — a place to collect ideas about recipes, note adjustments and tweaks, and illustrating how the finished dishes should look.

Many of these doodles appear in the book, adding another personal dimension.

From early on, Diana travelled the world working in restaurants but always felt drawn to the kitchen.

“I would ask the chefs to detail the dishes on the menu — what was in them and how they were made. I would relay this back to the diners, and sometimes they would even comment if I had made it myself because I knew so much about each dish!

“While in New Zealand, Mike and I ran a small supper club with people we knew and worked with. We joked that our apartment on the 8th floor was the most exclusive restaurant in Aukland!

“I also started a small business creating weekly menus for a community of expat Hungarians. Most were young men missing the flavours and tastes of home. People would place their orders and pick up the freshly made dishes to take away with them.

“It was hard work, I was also working full time myself, but what used to keep me going was the look of joy on their faces eating food that reminded them of home!”

As a regular customer of Diana’s, this is a sentiment that she has expressed on multiple occasions when the food truck is in full flow. Although the food is designed to be taken away, it pleases her best when people stay to eat at the truck so she can see her customers enjoying her food.

Diana Dodog - Master Chef winner.
Diana Dodog - Master Chef winner.

“I am a feeder,” says Diana, “I just want to feed people good food.

“To me, food and everything about it is personal. If you visit Hungary, you’ll see how obsessed everyone is with food! Almost everyone has some sort of garden to grow their own food. We pickle, preserve and ferment foods — this is part of our culture and necessary to see you through the winter.

“In Ireland, people are getting back to this now — it is seen as trendy, but for me, this is just what I have always done.”

Growing and preparing food and great ingredients and eating together are all staples of Hungarian food culture. This ethos has helped Diana to engage with local food producers in West Cork, spawning a community around this humble food truck using great local produce.

“Great food starts with great ingredients. We are so lucky to have such wonderful people growing and creating beautiful ingredients,” she said.

Meats are sourced from M J O’Neill Craft Butcher in Clonakilty; fish from Fresh Fish Deli in Rosscarbery, fresh herbs and salads are grown by Diana herself in a small kitchen garden created with the help of West Cork based permaculturist, Istvan Markuly.

Her book is beautifully bound in a sturdy and colourful hard cover, the pages are filled with meticulously tried and tested Food Truck recipes tweaked for the domestic setting to feed four to six.

From grab and go, to slow cook and sweet treats, all recipes are well laid out, clear and concise and paired with a photograph styled and shot by the dynamic duo themselves.

As I look through it, I can’t help but smile.

“I think I’ve eaten pretty much everything in this book!” I proclaim.

The familiarity of the food, and photographs of the stunning views of Courtmacsherry; the smiling faces of people I recognise either as fellow diners or our food producers makes me feel as though I am looking through a much loved photo album of memories.

And of course, to Diana and Mike their journeys through food are very much like that. A series of tasty vignettes crafted into a patchwork of tastes, places and people.

The book is €20 and can be purchased online at www.fooddepotireland.com or at: Bibi Café, Dublin D8 Langford Row Café, Cork City Olive Branch Food Emporium, Clonakilty O’Farrell’s Newsagents, Bandon Organico, Bantry.

I asked Diana which recipe in her book she was most proud of. Pork Belly Banh-Mi was the reply. Good choice, say I!

Pork Belly Recipe from Food Depot
Pork Belly Recipe from Food Depot

RECIPE: Pork Belly Banh-Mi

2kg skinless boneless pork belly

2 tbsp Chinese five spice

2 tsp coarse sea salt

For roasting: 2 large onions and 4 carrots to sit underneath the pork


1. Prepare your roasting tray. Cut onions in half and arrange carrots so the pork can sit on it.

2. Rub pork with five spice on the meaty side only. Sit into tray with fat side up and rub with salt.

3. Pour a glass of cold water into the tray and cover with parchment paper, tuck it in. Cover with tinfoil and secure the edges to seal it well.

4. Slow roast pork in a preheated oven at 140 degrees Celsius for at least four to five hours. Once your timer goes off, leave it alone for a further two to three hours in the oven, it will slowly cool down so you can handle it!

5. Once pork is cooled a bit roll out a double layer of cling film on your kitchen counter and lift the very soft pork out of the oven. It would have shrank quite a bit, so it makes it easier to handle.

Wrap it up and refrigerate it until you need it. You can put a tray on top of it t weight it down, it will be nice and flat. Once it is cold, it is very easy to manage and slice. I pan-fry my slices and add Hoisin sauce when serving it.

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