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Celebrity Health - Clodagh McKenna

Photos: Dora Kazmierak

Clodagh McKenna, who was born in Cork, is a chef, cookbook author and TV presenter. Her latest book In Minutes is out now from Kyle Books. She is the resident chef on ITV's This Morning. She lives in England with her husband Harry Herbert.

Tell us about your new book

My new book In Minutes came from viewer feedback from the viewers on This Morning, where I cook every week and from my Instagram followers. Every week on This Morning I demonstrate recipes which have to be fast and easy because I am cooking live. The question I get asked all the time is 'how long does that take?' because most people don't have a lot of time. I wanted the book to be universal and helpful in the kitchen for busy people. It should enable you to cook every night at home instead of having take-aways and ready-made frozen or processed foods. I wanted to make a difference to weeknight cooking because it affects your physical wellbeing and mental health.

The book is divided into 10, 20 and 30 minute sections which include preparation to dishes being on the table. I have tried to take the stress out of it - they are non-taxing recipes that I would cook myself at home. This is for everyday life and not off-putting or too complicated.

How was Covid lockdown for you?

During the first Covid lockdown a lot of my regular work was cancelled, so I started to film recipe videos and put them up on my Instagram channel. I did it for 130 days in a row. My followers increased from 40,000 to 180,000 and this has built into a gorgeous and loyal community. I spent the afternoons replying to messages. In the evenings I spent time growing and planting in the garden.

I found the second lockdown harder as I was really missing friends and family and was worried about people. Now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What sort of exercise do you do to keep in shape

I used to do a spinning class at a gym in London, but when gyms were forced to close during the first lockdown I invested in a spinning bike that I have been using at home. My routine every morning is to jump out of bed and straight into workout clothes, do a spinning class, then 10 minutes of meditation. This is followed by a cold shower and a my 'happy juice', a green juice made with spinach or kale, celery, cucumber, ginger, lemon, parsley, mint and water.

I have been doing this since the first lockdown – it is definitely a discipline but I find I have more energy and am less fearful. I go to bed early so that I can do it – when I am on This Morning I have to leave at 6am, and do the routine before I leave. I do a lot of walking, but due to early starts it is now mainly at the weekends.

What sort of foods do you eat to stay healthy?

I enjoy my green juice in the morning because I know it is good for me.

In winter for breakfast I would have porridge with cinnamon, dried fruit, banana, apple and honey. Or I'll have a bio live yogurt with banana and honey.

For lunch I eat a lot of salad. I might have a wholemeal pitta bread with feta, chilli flakes, olive oil, avocado, cucumber and tomatoes. Sometimes I make a prawn salad with cucumber and celery. I also like baked sweet potato and like to make soup.

In the evenings I like to cook at home and eat a lot of fish. It's fast and easy to cook. I like to pan fry sea bass or plaice in oil with tender stem broccoli, ginger, garlic and chilli flakes.

I have a glass of wine every night and buy half bottles to make sure I don't drink too much. I am not good with denial – if I start to deny myself something I get into problems. If I need a snack I might have squares of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids.

Do you take any natural supplements or drinks?

Yes I do. A nutritionist recommended I take magnesium for improved sleep, vitamin B12 for heart and energy levels and cold-pressed fish oils to help avoid sore joints, so I take these every day. I also take turmeric, vitamin D and primrose oil.

Any final words?

I only eat clean foods, which is important for good health. I really think that processed foods are the cause of so many modern diseases and just cooking for yourself is a much healthier option.

Do you have any tips for Rude Health readers?

  • Exercising every day clears the mind and is good for stress and your mental health.
  • People ask me how I stay slim when I am cooking all the time, and I say by being active and by not eating processed foods.
  • A lot of people make unrealistic resolutions during the winter which are all about denial, but I think it's better to make it something pleasurable like cook more at home and use the spices you love.
  • Cooking at home for others is much cheaper and healthier than takeaways or eating out.

Clodagh's new book In Minutes is published by Kyle Books


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