Our frantic lifestyles can often make adopting sustainable eating habits seem daunting and challenging. Everything we do day-to-day has an impact on the environment and it is more important now than ever to make some positive healthy lifestyle changes. Clodagh McKenna is an advocate for healthy, sustainable living and works hard to encourage us to embrace sustainability with a few fun and simple steps.
Clodagh is an award-winning Irish cookbook author and chef on ITV’s This Morning’s breakfast programme. We caught up with Clodagh to learn more about her story and find out how to eat more sustainably at home. Here is what she had to say…
Tell us a little about yourself and what made you become a chef.
Growing up in Ireland we ate as a family every night of the week. We would all be given different chores when we got home from school – flowers were picked for the table, linen laid out, vegetables prepped, and a quick fix or one and done recipe was whipped up by us all. This created a time for us all to gather around the table – chats about the day we had, love, arguments, laughs, every night at 6pm. This discipline led me to love food and mealtimes and I feel it was the most important gift my parents gave us, the importance of feeding ourselves with love.
So my passion for food started early. I then went on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and NYU in New York trying all sorts of food along the way. I eventually decamped to Ballymaloe and did a three month cookery course, and began a life in food that subsequently led me to Turin in Italy where I was very active in the Slow Food movement. I now live in the UK and am writing my eighth cookbook!
What are your top tips to help people eat more sustainably?
I have been deep in a passion project at my home in Hampshire trying to create a completely sustainable homestead. Over the past two years we have restored a 300 year old walled garden, which is now a working fruit and veg garden – where we grow over 30 different types of produce; we planted an orchard with 32 varieties of fruit trees; started two bee hives that are now producing honey; sowed a wild flower meadow; planted a cutting garden, and six Burford Brown hens provide us with fresh eggs everyday.
So, my top tip is just try and grow one thing if you can. Once you know the joy it brings, and the work that it takes to do it, you will have a completely different perception on the way you consume things.
Many people believe we should be moving towards more plant-based diets. Do you believe this is the right way to go?
I believe that we all need to make changes for our planet and more plant-based foods in your diet is certainly heading in the right direction. Small changes on a big scale.
What do you believe are the main challenges in changes to a more sustainable food system?
We need to all work as a team. Not think about little corners of our food system in isolation. Everything is connected and each part needs to talk to the other.
What changes have you been making in your life to be more sustainable?
It is something I try to think about everyday. The fruit and Veg I grow and the way we have lived over the past few years has been a massive leap forward, but I am trying to learn and change all the time.
What are some of your favourite recipes to make in lockdown?
During Lockdown I’ve made over 100 IGTV episodes. I started on the first day of lockdown and I had such an unbelievable response from people. On the first day I have over 200 DM’s asking me for ideas for family meals and quick fixes for people to try and get through the relentless cooking marathon! So I just kept going. This led me to write Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen my latest cookbook which is a collection of all these ideas to make people’s weeknight suppers a little easier.
Check out some of Clodagh’s cookbooks: Clodagh’s Suppers: Suppers to celebrate the season and The Irish Farmer’s Market Cookbook