Clodagh McKenna shares her quick Christmas recipes

Clodagh at home for Christmas in Highclere 

Clodagh at home for Christmas in Highclere - Credit: Clodagh McKenna

As she settles in to married life on the Highclere Estate, TV Chef, Clodagh McKenna is looking forward to a candlelit Christmas and recipes that take just 'minutes' to cook, according to her latest book says Rebecca Pitcairn

Clodagh McKenna has become an increasingly familiar face on our screens over the past year or so. The friendly chef, who trained at Ireland’s famous Ballymaloe Cookery School, is a regular on TV shows here and across the pond including Sunday Brunch and Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4 and The Today Show in America. As resident chef on ITV’s This Morning, she also regularly entertains viewers (and presenters Holly and Phil) cooking up her favourite ‘meals in minutes’ always while looking glam. It’s a different story, she says, when she’s back at home in Hampshire.  

‘I’m a jeans and T-shirt kinda girl really,’ the 45-year-old says ‘When I’m at Broadspear I spend all my free time in the garden turning compost and looking after the chickens, so I need to be in comfy clothes.’  

Clodagh's Spinach and Leek Pastry Tart

Clodagh's Spinach and Leek Pastry Tart is great for entertaining through the festive period - Credit: Clodagh McKenna

Clodagh shares Broadspear, a 300-year-old cottage which sits within the grounds of Highclere Park, with her husband Harry Herbert, their two dogs, Alfie and Nolly, and six Burford Brown Hens named Tina (named after Tina Turner for her unique strut), Goldie Hen, Yolko Ono, Saoirse, Henneth Paltrow and Eggy Pop.  

Harry, one of the Queen's godchildren, was born in Highclere Castle and was gifted Broadspear by his father, Lord Porchester, the 7th Earl of Carnarvon. He and Clodagh, who married at a church within Highclere’s grounds this summer, have spent the past three years bringing the property back to life, including restoring the one-acre, 18th-century walled vegetable and fruit garden. 

‘It was a bit of a forgotten part of the park really, there weren’t really any plants here at all, so we restored all the gardens and replanted fruit trees and vegetable gardens,’ she explains. ‘There’s a lot to do, particularly at this time of year when there is so much to harvest, but I just love all the autumn/winter vegetables.’ 

Clodagh loves to use foraged foliage from the grounds of Highclere to decorate her festive table

Clodagh loves to use foraged foliage from the grounds of Highclere to decorate her festive table - Credit: Clodagh McKenna

Between taking care of the 80 acres of gardens at Broadspear, organising a wedding (she even prepped some of the wedding breakfast herself) and regularly heading into London to film her cooking segments on This Morning, Clodagh knows all too well how hectic life can be and has devoted her latest book to helping others save time in the kitchen.  

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‘The most asked questions I get from my followers on Instagram and This Morning viewers is: “Do you have any recipes that I can whip up in 10, 20, 30 minutes?” Because people are just so busy!’ she explains. ‘I live fairly remotely and make dinner most nights rather than eating out or having takeaways, so I started thinking about how we can cook at home, realistically, from scratch every night of the week.”  

In Minutes is packed with 80 delicious recipes that you can cook from start to finish in 10, 20 or 30 minutes, from speedy salads to spicy curries and tasty tarts.  

Candles are a must for any Christmas tablescape says Clodagh

Candles are a must for any Christmas tablescape says Clodagh - Credit: Clodagh McKenna

Clodagh’s mantra is to keep things simple so the book only includes ingredients that you’ll likely already have in your cupboard, can easily find in the shops or you can simply swap for something else – including plenty of options for both planned and spontaneous entertaining as we head into the party season.   

‘This time of year is all about comfort eating, but comfort eating doesn’t have to mean unhealthy,’ she says. ‘My vegan nut roast is a really easy and healthy way of doing a roast dinner, particularly with so many people going vegan, and then my risotto Milanese is a gorgeous warming dish with the saffron sparking those delicious flavours of Christmas. 

Clodagh loves entertaining in the garden during the festive season

Clodagh loves entertaining in the garden during the festive season - Credit: Clodagh McKenna

‘Christmas day is, of course, for turkey but the festivities go on for two weeks in the lead up and afterwards. There are so many dishes in this book that are easy to prepare over the Christmas period, so you can spend more time relaxing with friends and family. Like my fast 20-minute chicken curry, which you can swap in leftover turkey instead of chicken – I love turkey curry! And you can also swap in traditional seasonal winter vegetables to make one of the tarts in under 30 minutes’  

The queen of pimping up your supper – and mood in general – Clodagh has lots of tips for decorating your home and dining table this Christmas too.  

‘I love decorating the house for Christmas,’ she beams. ‘I do wreaths indoors and outdoors and try to do it as natural as possible, so using the foliage and holly from the grounds here at Broadspear. That’s something everyone can do from home, using foliage they can find in their own gardens or when out on woodland walks.  

‘In lockdown I also launched an online store of gorgeous items for the table and home like linens, candles and vases. I like to flood the table with bud vases with sprigs of foliage like ferns and blackberries, as opposed to one big flower arrangement, which you have to move all the time. And then have lots of candles and turn off the lights. There’s nothing worse in the evening than bright light. Candlelight always makes everything look much more beautiful – it creates an immediate relaxed atmosphere.’  

As for Clodagh, she will be spending Christmas at Broadspear with friends and family, ready for what is set to be another busy year in 2022.  

‘I’ve been in England six years now so I do miss Ireland, but I go back a lot and luckily loads of family live near here, so we’ll be hosting a big Christmas dinner and we’ll also have everyone round for Christmas eve – dining by candlelight, of course.’  

Clodagh McKenna

In Minutes by Clodagh McKenna - Credit: Kyle Books

In Minutes by Clodagh McKenna with photography by Dora Kazmierak is published by Kyle Books, priced £20.  

My Favourite Hampshire 

Favourite pub? The Wellington Arms in Stratfield Turgis. I love going there and in lockdown they closed as a pub but opened as a deli and sold takeaway – the queue was always huge!

Favourite independent shop? Can I say my own online store (clodaghmckenna.com)? I felt that around here we were lacking somewhere like Daylesford in the Cotswolds for things that are reasonably priced that can help make your table and home more beautiful so we launched a shop and I’ve adored sourcing all the items.  

Favourite walk? It has to be anywhere in Highclere Park, we’re incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by so many gorgeous walks – it’s all so spectacular.  

Favourite place to relax?  The middle of our little woods. I’ve felt so grateful and so lucky to have all this around us.