Getting back to basics in the kitchen
The 5 O’clock Apron blogger and food writer Claire Thomson talks to Ella Walker about her latest cookbook, New Kitchen Basics.
“We’re all cooking the same thing day in, day out,” she said, while roasting courgettes and crumbling feta over half-moons of avocado and hand-crumpled tortilla chips. After all, why stick with a same-old iceberg lettuce and tomato salad, when you can have spiced courgettes and tangy cheese? Why not get unstuck from your usual culinary habits?
This is the essence of the Bristol-based food writer’s latest cookbook, New Kitchen Basics.
She calls the recipe collection – which is split into 10 core components, each focusing on a different ingredient – “a manifesto on contemporary eating that isn’t too esoteric, or too difficult to achieve”.
And so, there are dishes like asparagus carbonara, meatball pho, Stilton and fig wholemeal scones and tomato fritters. Interesting takes on ingredients you’re sure to have in the house.
“This book is an attempt to replicate the same feeling you might have of needing dinner fast and wanting to fall back on the dishes you know well, but giving you a new arsenal of recipes,” explains Thomson, who you may know as the capable pair of hands behind the popular blog and Instagram account 5 O’Clock Apron, which sees the mum-of-three sharing the speedy suppers and mid-week dinners she makes her family.
But the idea is not to intimidate you with her own abilities to feed hundreds of children of a Wednesday night with no fuss, but to show you that it can be done – chef or not.
“I know that I have this knowledge because I am a chef,” she admits. “I know how to make a stock and a risotto from the stock, but it’s knowledge that’s easily pushed out.”
She’s adamant it’s possible to get a decent, home-cooked dinner on the table in 20 minutes, regardless of your kitchen skill level.
“It’s just food, at the end of the day,” she said, explaining that the food world often does, but really shouldn’t, feel unattainable.
The key, she says, is having what you need in the cupboards (she wrote at length about this in her last book, The Art of the Larder) and having a plan. After all, if you’ve got arborio rice in the pantry, and some peas and chicken stock in the freezer, you can be eating risotto within 17 minutes.
“As a chef, you wouldn’t even consider going into service without your mis-en-place ready, and that’s set me in real good stead for motherhood,” said Thomson. “You’ve just got to be organised.”
Not convinced? “People can check up on me on Instagram, if they don’t think I cook it all!” laughed Thomson. “I am there doing it in a real-time zone, amongst the normal mayhem of family life.”