As much as I love food and cooking, sometimes I find myself stuck in a rut. The rut became pretty significant about this time last year when each night was punctuated with about 10 wakings from my freshly delivered baby girl. So beautiful, so small, such an INSOMNIAC! I look back on that year and a sort of fog surrounds my memories, it’s a pleasant fog but it gives me an idea of my mental state during that time. It was a case of: get your head down and get on with it. Do not stop moving. You will survive! Although I continued to do it, cooking (along with a few other things) didn’t get quite the attention in my life that it previously had enjoyed.
So after about a year, as the fog lifted and life began to return to some semblance of normality I really wanted to get my pots and pans out and get cooking. To really enjoy it again, like I had before our little bundle had arrived like an (albeit very cute) grenade on the scene.
Claire Thompson, who used to be co owner and chef of the amazing restaurant Flinty Red in Bristol (which is sadly now closed), wrote the cook book The Five O’Clock Apron as she was ‘keen to inspire and invigorate the concept of family cooking’. I had heard about this book through the twitter and instagram grapevine and intended to buy it for quite a while. Recently I finally managed to get round it it.
It’s a fantastic book. And it turned out to be a perfect stepping stone out of my cooking rut. I find with so many cookery books that the pictures look beautiful, the recipes sound amazing, but somehow I only ever manage to cook one or two of them. Either they are too complicated, or fancy, or the ingredients list requires a month of planning. Not so with this one. The book is separated into sections including staples like bread, eggs, grains and root vegetables. Each contains a number of interesting and wholesome recipes that range from the kind of thing you can whip up in no time, with relatively little planning like wild garlic frittata, or green beans with tomato and basil; to more involved but delicious sounding family meals like whole chicken roasted over rice with cinnamon or baked pasta with potato and mountain cheese. Just browsing through the recipes now is making my mouth water!
I had the pleasure of working with the photographer Mike Lusmore for a short time at the amazing Hart’s Bakery in Bristol when it first opened and am so pleased to see his brilliant photos in this book. The look of the book, with it’s family centred, rustic homeliness is just as inviting as the recipes themselves.
Although writing for families, Thompson refuses to patronise children (or their parents) by creating bland or over simplified child-centred recipes. She encourages a positive family culture around cooking and eating where everyone enjoys the same food. The emphasis is on tasty food cooked with good ingredients and as much as possible made from scratch. This might sound time consuming but she gets round this by encouraging parents to cook once per mealtime (hence the name 5 o’clock apron) to make one meal that children and parents can enjoy equally.
I have to admit that managing to make a meal before 5pm that will feed our daughter and then later myself and my other half is something I’ve yet to manage… Maybe I’m not quite out of the fog just yet. However, I have made a few recipes from the book already and can report that they went down with great success. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had never made a proper loaf of bread and am happy to say that this book inspired me to get my act together and just do it. It was great to make that culinary leap and I love the ideas that she gives you to use basic bread dough beyond a simple loaf – I’ll be making snail bread (they look like little Chelsea buns) very soon! The Turlu Turlu, which is essentially roasted and spiced vegetables, went down very well with my husband who usually turns his nose up at vegetarian fare and I’ve spiced up my standard tomato sauce with her suggestions. I’ll definitely be making many more of the recipes in this book and it has already earned itself prime position on my already bulging shelf of recipe books. If you, like me find yourself in need of some inspiration for your everyday cooking then I can thoroughly recommend picking yourself up your own copy of The Five O’Clock Apron.