Irish chef Clodagh McKenna's latest book is all about hosting the perfect supper. From delicious recipes to tips on how to plan for maximum effect and minimum stress, it's a go-to guide for home entertaining.
Food&Wine editor Dee Laffan caught up with Clodagh to find out why she loves entertaining at home and get her expert advice on hosting the perfect supper.
Where did you get the inspiration for your new book, Clodagh’s Suppers?
“It came about very naturally when I moved over to London and I was having a huge amount of suppers at home, getting to know more friends, and creating my own community. When you work in food for so long, sometimes you don’t take a step back to really look at the meaning of having a supper. But for me, that period was very focused on what the suppers meant to my life. I guess I also had the time to be very creative with it and to curate really considered menus. Then, after about a year or so I wanted to put it all in a book, so that’s when it started."
Did you enjoy the tablescaping aspect?
“I’ve always love curating beautiful-looking plates and I started styling at the very beginning of my career for magazines. It’s something I’ve always loved doing and it just adds so much to the whole experience when you sit down at the table and somebody has put a lot of consideration into it. It makes the experience a lot warmer."
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Linguini Con Vongole! Every Monday I’ll be sharing with you a full recipe on my instagram so that you can try a new supper every week This Italian dish with clams is a perfect way to slowly transfer your cooking from Winter warmers to Spring suppers. Let me know what you’d like me to post next week! And please tag me when you make them ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ LINGUINI CON VONGOLE⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Serves 4⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ INGREDIENTS: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 50g Kerrygold salted butter ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 2 cloves garlic, crushed⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 1 red chilli, finely chopped⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 200ml white wine ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 800g fresh clams, cleaned⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 1 tsp dried oregano ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 600g linguini ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley chopped⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ sea salt and freshly ground black pepper⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ lemon wedges to serve ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ METHOD: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted add the crushed garlic and chopped chilli and cook for two minutes. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Add the white wine, clams and dried oregano and turn up the heat to high, cover the pan and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until all the clams have opened. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Meanwhile, cook the linguini in a big saucepan of boiling salted water. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set side, keeping back a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, which you can use to stop the pasta from sticking together. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Once the clams have all opened pour the sauce into the drained pasta and add the flat leaf parsley and toss so that the sauce coats the pasta. Use the remaining pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Serve straight away with wedges of lemon.
Is there a technique for creating the perfect supper?
“I think the formula would be to be organised. If you’re having a supper in a week’s time, take some time out in the evenings to plan it out and you’ll really get some joy from the whole experience. If you’re doing a starter, main course and dessert, I would always suggest that two of those dishes are ones you can make a day ahead.
"I pretty much always do the table the night before because then I get to really enjoy doing it. I can have a bath and get into my pjs and put on the music and dress the table really nicely and really enjoy it. And I get to enjoy looking at it all day long and it’s not like, ‘Jesus I don’t have the table done’."
What your top tips for hosting a dinner party?
"I do think it’s really important to have everything done early. If you are having a dinner party and people are coming at 7pm, have everything done by 5pm. That means you have two hours to yourself and really enjoy everybody coming in rather than being a nervous wreck when they arrive at the door because that makes people uncomfortable.
"A really important thing to remember is that when you’re a host it is your job to make people feel comfortable. Make sure they are settled next to people that they enjoy and they don’t feel nervous. Making them feel included it’s your number one job, the food is second.
"That’s what I really wanted to get across in the book: take time to sit down and read. At the beginning of the book it goes through the tips on how to get organised and your checklist. Once you’ve got that in your head, it just becomes a lot more stress-free.
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LAMB KOFTAS 陵 This weeks supper inspo! My Lamb Koftas with tzatziki and tomato salsa. I am guessing that most of you roasted a lovely big piece of lamb yesterday. Tonight I will be using up my leftover pieces of roast lamb from Sunday to make these utterly delicious koftas, that take just 10 to 15 minutes to prepare and which create the perfect mid-week supper. If you haven’t any leftover lamb to use up then I would suggest going to your local butcher and asking for trimmed neck of lamb but if you are rushing home from work you can always get some good quality minced lamb from a supermarket. Here’s the recipe! Serves 6 INGREDIENTS: 500g minced lamb 1 tbsp ground cumin 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 red chili, finely chopped 2 tbsps fresh coriander, finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic, crushed ¼ red onion, finely chopped 1 tbsp olive oil 6 flat breads For the Tatziki 200ml low fat natural yogurt ½ cucumber, grated 1 tbsp mint, finely chopped For the Tomato Salsa 3 very ripe tomato ½ red onion 1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped 2 tsps balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil sea salt and freshly ground black pepper METHOD: 1. Place all the ingredients for the lamb kofta’s in a bowl, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Shape into 16 small balls (the size of a golf ball). Cover with cling film and place in a fridge to set for 1 hour. 2. To cook on a hob, place a frying pan over a medium heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and once hot add in the lamb kofta’s and brown on all sides. Then reduce the heat and allow to cook slowly for a further 6-8 minutes. These are also perfect for cooking on the bbq. 3. While the lamb is cooking make the salsa and tatziki. To make the salsa finely chop the tomatoes and red onion. Place in a bowl and mix together with the fresh coriander, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 4. To make the tatziki place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. 5. You can serve the lamb kofta’s on a large skewer (4 a portion) on a bed of salad leaves with the salsa and tatziki. Alternatively you could serve the lamb kofta’s on flour tortilla wraps.
What is so special about a supper at home?
"If it’s for your friends or family, it creates beautiful memories around the table and it does turn your house into your home. It’s so much cheaper [than a restaurant] and also the memories are kept in your home rather than somewhere else. Every day you get up and your table has all these wonderful stories told around it and happened around it. When I was working with [Ballymaloe Cookery School co-founder] Rory O’Connell he used to host the loveliest suppers in his house, with big bowls of gorgeous casseroles in the middle of the table and he'd have it done so beautifully. Everything about it was so relaxed and so enjoyable. He stands out to me as one of the best people at hosting suppers."
What is your favourite recipe from the book?
"I always cook seasonally, and at the moment the stand out one for me is the rhubarb, rosewater pistachio galettes. They are so easy to make and rhubarb is so delicious when it’s in season. The rosewater adds an exoticness to it and the pistachio adds beautiful colour and texture. You can make them ahead the day before, and you can make them individually or in a large one for the centre of the table. That’s one I’m really excited about it."