Claire Thomson works as a chef in her busy Bristol restaurant, Flinty Red where she is co-owner. She is also the author of one of the loveliest recipe books I've had the pleasure to review, The Five O'Clock Apron: Proper Food for Modern Families, a book which tackles the never-ending dilemma facing many parents every evening - what to feed her own three hungry young children!
This is something I completely relate to as I have four children each with very different tastes of their own and much as I enjoy trying to feed them healthy home-made meals, often it's easier just to reach for a bag of potatoes, a few carrots and a packet of fish-fingers or chicken nuggets.
Many evenings I lament the fact that I rarely get to experiment with food these days as more often than not someone will find fault and spend the entire meal picking out minute slices of onion or pushing the tenderly prepared chicken to one side. Not quite what I want to see when I've laboured for half an hour peeling, chopping, cooking and wishing I hadn't bothered when I see the resulting pickiness!
As you might imagine therefore, I was delighted to have a beautiful book full of wonderful fresh ideas for mealtimes and all put together by a professional and highly successful chef!
For my first meal I flicked through the book, which is teeming full of absolutely gorgeous photos of highly tempting meals, feeling spoilt for choice. Should I try the delightfully fresh Summery Fattoush, the temptingly colourful Piperade or perhaps go for an old favourite such as Egg Fried Brown Rice? In the end I settled on a rather lovely sounding Catch-All Lentil Soup, one of the recipes in the book which didn't have a photo but for which I knew I did have all the ingredients.
I set to work following the well-written and cohesive instructions. As I chopped and measured and finally began cooking the soup, the smells in my kitchen were most definitely stomach-pleasing and the resulting soup was a great success with all the family, much to my delight. The children used words such as tasty, delicious, scrummy and yummy when describing it for me and hubby and I thought it tasted beautifully rich and very moreish. In fact it was thick, flavourful and filling, like a well-made stew and could definitely be served as such if you are careful not to add too much liquid.
Already I have marked out several pages for meals to try over the next few days and weeks and am planning to make Roasted Crisp Chickpeas this afternoon for the kids to snack on before our dinner which this evening is Green Pea Pesto served with Pasta!
Aside from the delicious recipes contained with The Five O'Clock Apron, I have to say it really is a most beautiful coffee table book and one which will definitely inspire many conversations. The book itself is fantastically designed and is pleasantly chunky, the photos are stunning and the personal style of writing makes you feel as though you are in the room with Claire as she prepares her meals and shares many facets of her life and her reasons for choosing particular dishes and ingredients. In addition, it is rather lovely to see Claire's children featured throughout the book gathering ingredients and helping in the preparation of meals before finally eating the tasty food their mother has created for them!
Since Claire set out to inspire parents like me who are often stuck in a teatime rut, her popular Twitter feed, @5oclockapron means she tweets what her family eats every day and shows parents that a proper meal is worth taking the time to make. She also writes a popular Guardian column focusing on cooking for children.
The Five O'Clock Apron features sections on milk, bread, eggs, grains, pulses, pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit, fish, chicken, duck and meat and the book allows parents to really see for themselves that it is possible to cook one meal for the whole family rather than one for parents and a separate one for the children.
I am thoroughly enjoying browsing the book and am most definitely feeling encouraged to try recipes which in the past I would never have attempted.
The Five O'Clock Apron: Proper Food for Modern Families, published by Ebury Press, is available now in hardback. Check out Claire's website 5oclockapron.com for further information about Claire, her family and the inspiration behind her book!