Clodagh McKenna, Chef

Clodagh McKenna’s increasingly familiar persona exudes conviviality. In her company, you can’t help but feel like giving your home a spring clean, uncovering the forgotten but loved tablecloth and setting yourself the task of buying fresh, seasonal produce to welcome guests to feast on her easy to replicate suppers. We chat to the chef about writing cookbooks, missing Ireland and her favourite London haunts:

Which bit of London do you live in?

My studio is in North West London, I live in Hampshire. I love the mix of city and country.

What do you miss about living in Ireland?

The pubs! There are no pubs quite like the ones in Ireland – for the atmosphere, chats and of course the Guinness.

What makes the cookery course at Ballymaloe so special?

It’s on a farm, so you get to experience the farm to fork ethos. And Darina Allens’s undying passion and commitment to sustainable living.

You spent some time living in Turin. What influence has that had on your food?

There was so much that I learned in Italy when it comes to cooking. The biggest influence on my cooking style was developing simple recipes with flavour combinations that really work well together – like mushrooms and thyme, mozzarella and dried oregano, or peaches and rosemary.

How would you describe the way you cook?

I like to create uncomplicated dishes, that taste delicious and you can share with family and friends – using ingredients that are in season and accessible.

Name three famous people from now or history you’d like to join your supper table…

Al Pacino, Oprah Winfrey and Clint Eastwood.

What’s the next big thing in cooking?

Cooking and hosting suppers at home.

What do you look for in a restaurant when you are eating out?

A menu that sings the seasons using locally sourced ingredients, good lighting, great atmosphere and friendly well trained staff.

Do you have a favourite London restaurant?

Yes an Italian restaurant in Highbury (North London) called Trullo. The food is always fantastic, the staff are so friendly and it’s small enough to create a wonderful intimate atmosphere. Their panna cotta is a must to order!

How do you keep so slim whilst cooking such deliciously indulgent food?

Home cooked wholesome food is what I cook. It’s the processed food and take- aways that aren’t good for you.

If you can choose one meal what would it be and where?

Around my kitchen table with friends and family sharing platters of seafood and delicious wines!

Which medium do you like best – the writing of books or TV?

I love writing cook books so much. The whole process of developing the recipes, trying them out on friends, styling them for the photographs, and deciding on the layout of the book is so exciting. Creating something that will be around forever is so special, especially in an era where everything is seen and gone in a flash on social media and the internet.

Who are your favourite cookery writers or presenters to follow on Twitter and Instagram?

Lots… Skye McAlpine, and my very inspiring friends Fiona Leahy and Nikki Tibbles.

Do you have a favourite app?

KiraKira – I love how it captures the light bouncing off plates and glassware.

How do you relax?

I love walking in the countryside, dancing and singing. And I have a candlelit bath most evenings, it’s my favourite way to relax.

Could you share with us your secret beauty product?

Rosehip oil, it’s fantastic for dry skin. I travel a lot so this really helps to keep my skin hydrated.

Clodagh McKenna’s book Clodagh’s Suppers was published by Kyle Books on 10 January 2019, £20. And find plenty of her recipes on her website here.

— Annie Reid
6th March 2019