You need this Woman Crush Wednesday today. I can just feel it! The cold and wet weather is getting to you and the busy shopping malls with stressed out people have left you drained. But that is about to change. Because today is your tonic! Today we are crushing on one of the lovely ladies of the culinary world, and it happens to be the amazing Irish chef Clodagh McKenna! Between her beautiful smile and her amazing Spiced Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup recipe you will be warmed up in a flash! If you’re so inclined you can follow along on snapchat (username: blissbakery) and join in the lovefest! The video story only lasts 24 hours, but the crush on Clodagh will last long beyond that!
Last week we were on the west coast of America for our #WCW and as we skip back across the Atlantic to my soul home, I felt it was time I let you in on a little secret. I’ve met Clodagh on several occasions and she is one of the nicest people in the world. Then again, maybe it isn’t such a secret. If you’ve followed her at all on social media or on television (she has hosted numerous programs about Irish food) you’ve probably felt her essence. Her openness and massive heart shine through. I suppose what I find most incredible about her is her generosity and philanthropy. She is involved in numerous charities even with her busy schedule of chef, restaurateur, cookbook writer, cookery teacher and television star.
Though I am now living in London, I used to live in Dublin and worked near one of her restaurants. I would stop in from time to time and then one day I finally introduced myself to her. We are both Ballymaloe Cookery School graduates and when I realized that she was going to be speaking at the Ballymaloe Lit Fest (which I was also attending), I decided to take off my shy hat and say hello. She put me at ease right away, and said she would be delighted to see me down in Cork that May of 2014. I wasn’t able to attend her particular cooking demo (sold out) but she was so kind when we bumped into each other down there as we chatted away about the wonderful foodie weekend. Whenever I saw her out and about in Dublin or in her restaurant she was absolutely divine, making me feel like I was the only one in the room. One time in particular when I was treating a co-worker to lunch Clodagh herself served us our food, sat down in the booth and visited for a bit.
The reason I point out her super special personality is simple. There are loads of chefs, male and female, in this world who are all making great food. But when you have someone like Clodagh who not only makes great food and but also makes you (the patron) feel great too, why then you understand her success. Her career trajectory is literally flying ! She is now creating the menu for Aer Lingus (the Irish airline) and has been well received in America, having been featured on many television programs there. My fav was the Guinness Cake she made on Rachel Ray’s popular show. The sky really is the limit for Clodagh. Her food is fresh, tasty, seasonal and sustainable. In fact, I decided to do a recipe that covers all aspects of those adjectives! And what better time to make it than now, with all the cold weather we have been having. Knowing Clodagh, if you make this and send her a pic on Instagram, she will likely give you a thumbs up. For she is, at the heart, a fantabulous person who is out there promoting passion for cooking!
1kg butternut squash,
skinned, deseeded and cut
into 2.5cm pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g onions, chopped
700ml hot vegetable stock
300ml coconut milk
sea salt and freshly ground
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan,add the squash, spices, garlic and onions and season with salt and pepper.
Cover and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
Stir in the stock and coconut milk and bring the soup to the boil. When the squash is tender the soup is ready to be blended using a food-processor or hand blender. Serve hot.
If you’ve read The ABCs of YDP you’ll see why I apologize for my lack of food styling photography. Hence the pic at the top of this page comes from Clodagh’s website. But I am all about the taste, and this soup hits it out of the park! Super delish! There are three things I love about this soup. One is that is is so quick and easy, two it is super economical, and three is that it is adaptable. If you don’t like coconut, leave it out and replace with more broth. If you are feeling like you need a bit of “sumpin, sumpin” you can add chorizo (which Clodagh suggests). This recipe is also gluten free, dairy free (if you use oil instead of butter) and vegetarian! Whoop whoop! It ticks all the nutritional boxes! For those of you not aware, butternut squash is like the superfood of super foods! So between the spices and the butternut squash, this soup will help ward off all those nasty Winter bugs going around!
Clodagh and I were meant to have a conversation about a well known food university in Italy that she attended. We never had the chance as Hubby’s and my move to London happened so quickly. I never even had a chance to say goodbye. But all of the staff at her restaurant knew me and I said my goodbyes to them. They too were always fantastic when I went in and I think their warmth was kindled by her spirit. Like the saying, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” She walks the walk and talks the talk. And best of all she is honest about the hard times too. In a recent article she reveals that there have been struggles. Often people in the limelight make the rest of us feel like they have everything just so. And that isn’t the case in reality. But Clodagh, as I said already, is an open person. I think I need to add brave to the list of kudos as well.
Thanks Clodagh for being such an inspiration, foodie wise and otherwise. You are an amazing lady through and through. I’m sorry I couldn’t say goodbye in person, but just know I am still basking in your glorious glow over on this side of the Irish Sea.
Love from the self appointed president of your infatuation nation,
P.S. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for any foodies in your life, Clodagh has a line of gorgeous aprons. They even come in a chic boutique looking wrapping! I have one on my Santa list 🙂 Click here for a peek…