Here at St Agni, we were first attracted to Clementine Day’s pet project Some Things I like to Cook because of its celebratory, life-affirming energy. Being a full-time fashion educator, Clem’s instagram and the subsequent self-published cookbook that it has spawned was born out of a love for documenting the meals she shares with loved ones. As an amateur cook, Clem’s approach to food is unpretentious and centred around food as a source of communal joy and curiosity. We spoke to Clem about how these elements came together, what her process is and what are some things that she likes to cook. Buon Appetito!
Where are you from, and how did you come to be living life as you know it?
I grew up in the tiny town of Mallacoota in far east Gippsland. My grandparents lived there too, and I was very close with my grandma, affectionately referred to as Marnie by my whole family. They had come over with my Mum and her siblings from England in the late 60’s. Marnie was an exceptional cook, who was almost always in the kitchen, preparing pastry from scratch for some delectable sweet; making outrageously delicious cakes; preparing roast dinners with Yorkshire puddings, homemade gravy and mashed potato. My Mum was much the same, and from a young age I would help them in the kitchen. This was really the basis from which my love for food and cooking formed and grew. Despite having a deep fondness for cooking, I could never work out where to place myself in the food world. I didn’t like cooking under pressure, so working in a kitchen or doing catering didn’t feel like the right thing for me. Outside of this, I didn’t really know how else to fit in to this world, so when I left home and moved to Melbourne, I studied Fashion Design and pursued a career in the fashion industry, eventually landing in fashion education in the tertiary space, specialising in pattern making and sewing, where I still work today. In early 2020, when I, like most of the world, found myself working from home for the first time ever, I decided to start sharing my cooking and my recipes via my Instagram page Some Things I Like to Cook using the spare time I had saved not commuting back and forth each day. The online food community is a very supportive one, and so it just kind of took off from there!
Please tell us about Some Things I Like to Cook, Coming Together and Some Jam?
As mentioned above, Some Things I Like to Cook was something I was probably always working towards, unbeknownst to me. And when I finally had the courage to start putting my food and recipes out there, so much positive energy came back to me. Some Things I Like to Cook is so special to me, I really love it and I feel so lucky to be slowly carving out my own idea of how I fit into the food world. Towards the end of 2020, after spending an unspeakable amount of time in lockdown, I decided to channel my grief into a little recipe book project. Really, Coming Together was born out of me really missing my friends and family, missing cooking for them and all the fun things that come from sharing a meal around a table with your buddies, good wine; good tunes; good conversation. So I planned out six long lunches, each cooked in my friends kitchens and shared in their respective outdoor spaces, for when restrictions eased. My friend and wine aficionado Mike Chambers put together a wonderful selection of suggested wine pairings for the book, and each of the hosting households and I put together a playlist curated around their music tastes – so each lunch is accompanied by some great tunes and some great wines that the reader can enjoy. Some Jam is a little community jam project I’ve had to put on the backburner for a little while, until my workload is a little more manageable. But in its essence, the idea is to use community fruit from people’s trees that would otherwise go to waste and use a jar return program to keep things sustainable. I’m hoping to be able to dedicate some more time to it in 2022.
Which element of cooking do you enjoy most?
I just love playing around while cooking. I really don’t like following recipes, as weird as that may sound. Haha. I love grabbing a few things from the fridge and pantry and just seeing what happens. It’s so freeing and fun to me to just make it up as I go – I’ve likened it to dancing before, just sort of trusting your body and going with it. It’s very calming and therapeutic to me, all the pressures from the outside world just vanish while I’m cooking.
When you aren't cooking - where can you be found? What do you do in your spare time?
At the moment, Some Things is my spare time. I guess that’s what happens when you work two jobs. But I do try to carve out time for myself in there too. I’m really obsessed with Pilates at the moment, and gardening – I’m growing some vegetables for Summer. Outside of this, I love a day trip, driving up to have a swim in Eltham or heading to the peninsula for a weekend to get in the ocean is one of my favourite things to do. Also now that we’re finally out of lockdown I’m getting back out to restaurants too, more on that in a minute.
What's your favourite recipe and would you be so kind as to share it with us?
I think one of my fav recipes is a galette. Great in savoury and sweet form, so a really great one to get a handle on so you can always whip up a lunch, or a dinner or a dessert. Here is my recipe for a simple Apricot Galette, but you can easily use the same pastry base with some fresh tomato, oregano, garlic and salt inside for a delicious savoury meal.
- 6-7 apricots, pitted and halved
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla pod scraped
- 2 cups plain flour
- 170g butter (refrigerated and cold!)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup ice water
- 1-2 tablespoons demerara sugar
- 1 egg, whisked for egg wash
- ¼ cup chopped pistachios, chopped finely
- 250ml good double cream
First step is to prepare your pastry. In a food processor add flour and salt. Pulse once to combine. Cube your cold butter and add to the flour, pulse a few times until you still have pea size pieces of butter, a few bigger ones are fine here. Go bigger rather than smaller if in doubt. You can also do this by hand. Add your flour and salt to a bowl and using your fingertips in quick pinching motions, work the butter and flour until it’s all looking a bit yellow and you’ve got nice pea sized chunks remaining.
Transfer into a bowl, or if already in a bowl add apple cider vinegar and about half of the iced water and bring together with a fork. It will still look loose but if you squeeze a bit between your hand it should hold its form. Add more water as necessary until it just comes together.
Transfer out onto a clean surface and pat into a round flat disk. You may need to do two or three kneads to help you bring it in if it’s a little dry but that’s all, don’t over work! Cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, combine apricots with vanilla, caster sugar, cinnamon and zest and juice from 1 lemon. Leave to sit.
When ready, preheat oven to 200 C and roll out pastry onto a piece of baking paper. Make it as roundish and about 5mm thick. Add the apricots to the centre, leaving a 2 inch border and then fold the edges in on top. Use the baking paper to help you manoeuvre the pastry if it’s tricky. Brush pastry with egg wash and press the demerara sugar into the outside using your hands.
Cook in the oven for about 55-60 minutes or until pastry is golden and apricots are soft but still holding their shape. When done, scatter pistachios over the top and serve with a dollop of cream.
Being based in Melbourne, where are your favourite local places to dine?
Carlton Wine Room
Gray & Gray
One Noodle Friendship
Hope St Radio
The Hardeware Club
Oven Street Bakery
(there’s so many more, I can’t list them all! Haha I love to dine out)
What and who inspires you?
Nothing is more inspiring to me than going to a farmers market! I love walking around and seeing all the beautiful in season produce, talking to the farmers about what’s good and trying new things! Gosh, it really gets me going. I’m also a big fan of Nigel Slater, deeply inspired by the way he approaches food and life in general, to be honest. Now that I’m doing lots of recipe development work though, I really try to avoid looking at cookbooks and things, and rather get inspiration from produce, art, nature, and literature. The way people talk about food in novels really inspires me!
How would you describe your own personal style and how has it evolved overtime?
I’d say my style is pretty simple and understated. When I was younger and more embedded in the fashion industry I was certainly a bit more fun and playful with my dressing but as I’ve matured my style has become a bit more classic, I think. I’ll often wear a pair of vintage jeans or tailored pants with a large men’s shirt tucked in. High waisted pants always. Open linen shirts over singlets in summer with loose drawstring shirts. Practical, simple and comfortable is my motto. My wardrobe is mostly second hand clothing, with a few pieces from local, sustainable and ethical businesses that I admire.
Who, or what are you listening to right now?
I’m really loving John Carroll Kirby’s album My Garden at the moment. Great for all times of the day, in my opinion. I’m also loving all Surprise Chef’s stuff, Ivan Ave and Isaiah Rashad too. But I always revert back to Jazz, though – when I’m not sure what I feel like - Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Sun Ra.
Do you have an evening ritual?
I’m really trying to enforce a few evening rules to help with my evening rituals. No work after dinner. No phones after dinner. These are the main things. Phone free time before bed is crucial for me, to let my brain unwind from my never ending to-do list. My partner and I will often watch something on the tv with a cup of tea, play with our cats Pepper & Beanie, do some reading, go for a walk (when it’s daylight savings). These are all the things that help me unwind.
And lastly, if you could give your younger self advice based on everything you know, what would It be?
You don’t have to find a pre-existing job or place in an industry you want to work in, you can carve it out from scratch AND stop doubting yourself, just keep doing you!
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