Clementine Day is an extremely talented home cook and multi-disciplinary maker. Her food philosophy is rooted in seasonal produce, lots of veg, and learning to trust your intuition in the kitchen.
In 2020, she authored her first cookbook Coming Together, featuring stories and recipes from six long lunches she hosted. Clem cooked, styled, photographed and published the entire book.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Clem to hear about her favourite Melbourne haunts, learning from mistakes we make in the kitchen, and how she’s consciously slowing down and editing her relationship with social media.
What's new in your world, Clem?
I’ve been really changing the way I’m engaging in the food space these past six months, and instead of pushing myself and taking every new opportunity that pops up, I am slowing down and prioritising my creative relationship with it instead. This has meant a lot less jobs, and a lot more creative cooking, writing and general making outside of food too. It’s been really nice in lots of ways, but has also come with periods of creative block, which is always challenging. I have been a bit quieter on my socials and spending a lot less time on my phone in general, which has been a lot better for my mind and my body. Instead of sharing everything, I’ve been doing a lot of journaling this year, writing lots of titbits about experiences I’ve had with food and cooking this year. I hope to take this cathartic diary-style journal and turn it into another cookbook someday soon.
What was your first job/foray into food?
I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember, sweets were the first thing that really got me in the kitchen. When I was really young, I would help my Mum and my Marnie (grandma) baking cakes and cookies and all sorts of great treats in the kitchen (read: an unhealthy obsession with eating raw batter), then working on things like lemon meringue pies after school as a young teenager. The first ‘job’ I did, or rather, the first time I started to take my cooking and sharing of recipes seriously, was when I made my self-published cookbook Coming Together and launched it out into the world for pre-order. In hindsight, seems like a pretty wild place to start, but I had no idea then it would lead me to where I am now.
What is your favourite bar or restaurant for a date night in your city?
There are a few spots I love to frequent for a last minute wine and meal with a special person. Gerald’s Bar, La Pinta, Cathedral Coffee, Gray and Gray, Public Wine Shop. These are a few of my favourites. La Pinta is probably my most frequented as its closest to home.
Where do you draw your cooking inspiration from?
A lot of my cooking comes from a need to use up a particular ingredient in the fridge or leftovers I don’t want to waste. I tend to buy my produce at the market and choose what’s in season and looking the best, and then just pick bits and pieces throughout the week to cook with. I really love to work with vegetables and, if I am having people around, I love to make a cake or a tart or something with in-season fruit. Produce is the best inspiration for cooking!
What has been your biggest kitchen experiment gone wrong?
Oh I have had so many. I don’t often cook to a recipe, so there are lots of techniques I haven’t learned the traditional way, which means there’s been lots of trial and error too. I like this way of learning, because it helps me to understand the process better when I have to work out what went wrong with something. Last year I was cooking a carrot and parsnip cake that a friend of a friend had got me to make for their partner’s birthday. When I pulled it out of the oven it slipped out of my hands and went all over the floor. Truly devastating. It was a late night because I had to start it all over again.
What is your most trusted kitchen tool?
A sharp knife is a non-negotiable. And I love a Microplane.
What cookbook do you always find yourself going back to?
As someone who doesn’t really follow recipes there’s not a lot of books I tend to go back to at all. But Natalie Paull’s Beatrix Bakes is always where I end up when I’m troubleshooting baking experiments. Her pointers and instructions are truly the best of the best and really help to understand processes in baking better than any I’ve read before.
Where is your favourite market?
Preston Market is my local and I love it so much! I go every week and it’s always so lively and so fun and has a great range of produce and deli offerings and everything in between. As well as fresh jam donuts which are just the best. I also love to frequent any of the Melbourne farmers markets (Coburg, Alphington, Carlton mostly) – they have great stallholders and are the best for getting really fun in-season produce.
What's your favourite flavour pairing?
This is a really hard question for me. I don’t think I could pick favourites but I do love citrus and chilli. Blackberries and radicchio. Salty cheese and sweet fruit paste.
Your favourite music to cook to?
Jazz and Bossa Nova. Sometimes Disco and Funk. I like to feel relaxed in the kitchen so normally something I can move to.
5 pantry items you can't live without?
What's your weird go-to midnight snack when no one is around to judge?
I’m a super sleeper so I am never awake at midnight but love a little corner of lavosh with a generous slice of sharp, salty Parmigiano Reggiano and a thin sliver of quince paste. Good for any time of day or night.