Chef and author Clodagh McKenna and her perfect pantry
‘I genuinely don’t go for designer looks. I always go to secondhand stores’
Clodagh McKenna: the house she lives in in London is an old coach house and has a country feel to it, with old brick walls. Photograph: Dora Kazmierak and Claire Menary
Clodagh McKenna is a chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and broadcaster who runs Clodagh’s Kitchen at Arnotts in Dublin and recently did a pop-up at London’s Cheyne Walk Brasserie to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show. She recently launched a YouTube series called “Clodagh’s Summer Suppers”. She lives in London.
Describe your style
It’s a mix of country and contemporary. The house that I live in in London is an old coach house and it has a country feel to it, with lovely old brick walls and wooden floors and all its original windows and doors.
Which is your favourite room?
Definitely the kitchen. I spend a minimum of one day a week developing recipes here, and then it’s a place where I cook for friends and family too. I converted a room next to it, that had been a bedroom, into a walk-in pantry so the whole floor is really given over to kitchen and storage.
I have a big long French farmhouse table – that was my big investment – and I love to sit at it and just hang around it. In the pantry I have all different shelving – modern steel and wood. I store spices, chocolate, big jars full of my preserves, flours, anything that goes in big kilner jars. I have veg in big baskets. It’s a chilled room, quite dark with no heat in there so it’s the perfect pantry.
What are your favourite items?
I have these really big Irish wicker baskets that sit beside the fireplace and are full of wood, kindling and the turf that I smuggle back. I keep dried herbs in them too and put them on the fire.
I have some second-hand orange bistro chairs, they’re cast iron and they look really nice around the old table.
Who are your favourite designers and do you have any of their work?
I genuinely don’t go for designer looks. I always go to secondhand stores. I have never bought a designer piece of furniture.
When it comes to cookware I love the designs from Crane Cookware. They make the most beautiful cast iron things that are designed to distribute the heat really well. I do a lot of one-pot cooking and they are perfect.
What would you save from a fire? Photographs because I have them everywhere. Old cookery books that I collect. My notebooks, because I use one every day. I keep my ideas for menus in there and when I have people over I always write a little note about who came and what we had to eat. I hang them on a string.
Do you have a favourite gadget?
My K Mixer. I use it for everything. Literally everything. And my microplane, which I love. I bring it with me everywhere. Then I have a meat mincer which is clamped to a surface which I use all the time. You can make a really good bolognese sauce with the minced meat and I make sausages from it too. I love my pans – the cast iron and the copper ones; my paella pan and my preserving jars which I get in America. And lovely bell jars. And tea towels. I love the French linen ones and I use them a lot when I am photographing for my Instagram account. I iron them. Am I really admitting that? I am. Maybe outside the kitchen, my Sonos speakers. And now that I think of it my number one gadget is my Dyson hand held. This is an old house and there are a lot of leaves blowing in from the outside, and cobwebs. It zooms the stuff up.
Which artist do you admire?
An artist I am loving at the moment is Suzy Murphy. She works a lot in charcoal and her work is incredible. Her name sounds Irish but she is a Londoner. She reminds me of Edward Hopper with the feel that she creates. Her work is dark. I don’t have any of her work, but I will definitely get something of hers when I get some money together.
Your biggest interiors turn-off? Sheepskin rugs. I don’t like the feel of them. And I don’t like too much floral. Mirrored coffee tables
– the list goes on. And I don’t like clutter. I like things in their place.
What’s your favourite travel destination? The Amalfi Coast
although it has been about 10 years since I have been there, but if I could choose anywhere to go, it would be there. The scenery is massive; the water is gorgeous to swim in; the food is wonderful – the lemons, the mozzarella cheese, the pasta; it really has it all .
What does home mean to you?
It’s a place for rest, inspiration and to share. I like to have people over all the time. It is easy for me to be relaxed, I don’t have that stress thing.
If you had €100,000, what would you spend it on?
Art. Those drawings of Suzy Murphy. Hughie O’Donoghue would be another artist I would invest in.