Monday, 30 November -0001

Fabulous food…For the WHOLE FAMILY

Don’t cook separately for the children. These recipes will give everyone an appetite, says Claire Thomson

Written by Claire Thomson
I cook, a lot… often with the clock ticking and the ‘I’m hungry’ anthem gaining traction. Breakfast, lunch, supper. Snacks too. Children can eat an extraordinary amount; it’s therefore essential that this food is nutritious, delicious and relatively easy to produce. My background as a chef has helped enormously in this regard. When cooking for my three children (and often those of others), I try to cook with imagination, ease and, for the most part, speed.

But I also aim to heal the schism in family cooking. Having to cook separate food for children is laborious and unnecessary. Whether parents choose to eat an early supper with their children or whether it’s eaten separately, the prospect of cooking just one meal is appealing. And so my new recipes are versatile enough to appease everyone and are transferable to a more adult-appropriate supper time (along with extra salt, perhaps, and a glass of wine).

Elbows down. Knives and forks at the ready, and we’re off…

The Five O’Clock Apron: Proper Food For Modern Families, by Claire Thomson, with photography by Mike Lusmore, is published by Ebury Press, priced £20.

SYRIAN LENTIL ‘SOUP’(pictured above) 

Serves 4

  • 300g lentils (green or brown)
  • 3 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 heaped tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • a large bunch of fresh coriander (stalks and leaves separated)
  • 1.75 litres cold water
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • ½ a clove of garlic, crushed 
  • salt
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • chilli flakes

Soak the lentils in a bowl of cold water, rinsing them several times to remove any dirt or grit.

Over a moderate heat, cook the onions in the oil for a good 10 minutes. You want them soft and beginning to turn golden.

Add the garlic and toasted cumin and continue to fry over a moderate heat for another couple of minutes.

Add the coriander stalks and the water, or enough to more than cover the lentil mix. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that surfaces. Turn the temperature down and continue to cook at a moderate bubble for about 30 minutes, watching the water level – you can always top it up a little if you need to.

While the lentils are cooking, mix the yoghurt with the crushed garlic and a pinch of salt.

When the lentils are ready, take them off the heat. You want the individual lentils to be completely squishable between two fingers and the whole to be a soupy mass.

Taste the lentils and add salt as needed. Add the lemon juice.

Serve the lentils in bowls and to each add a spoonful of seasoned yoghurt, some coriander leaves, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a spoonful of olive oil.

Eat with warm flatbreads, to mop up the lentils.


Serves 4

  • 250g chard or spinach leaves, washed and sliced into fat ribbons if the leaves are big, fine as they are if small
  • 6 eggs
  • 100g young wild garlic, washed and sliced into fat ribbons
  • 75g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 slices of day-old bread, crusts removed, soaked in 2-3 tbsp milk, squeezed dry and crumbled into wet breadcrumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. You will need a nonstick frying pan that is ovenproof and also small enough to fit in the oven.

Blanch the chard or spinach in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute or until just wilted. Drain, then squeeze out any excess water when cool enough to handle. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the wild garlic, cooked and squeezed spinach or chard, Parmesan, soaked bread, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix together.

Heat your ovenproof frying pan over a high heat until the pan begins to just quiver with smoke, then add the vegetable oil.

Add the frittata mix to the pan and mix around for 10 or so seconds with a wooden spoon, then let the mixture settle and be brave enough to allow the frittata take on a nice colour underneath.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the egg is set and the frittata is ready. Leave to cool in the pan for around 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Best served warm and with a blob of mayonnaise alongside.


Makes 12

  • 400g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 200ml cold water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 60g soft light brown sugar (or as you like, for sweetness) or honey
  • 80g raisins
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • sunflower oil, for greasing

Cook the apples to a pulp with the water and cinnamon over a moderate heat with a lid on the pan for about 8-10 minutes. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4.

Mix the oats, sugar, raisins and baking powder in a bowl.

Add the apple pulp to the oats, removing the cinnamon sticks, and mix well.

Spoon into a greased 20cm x 28cm baking tin, 5cm deep, and smooth out even and flat. Try not to have too many raisins poking out from the surface of the flapjack, as these tend to catch in the oven – poke them down with your forefinger.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until nicely coloured and firm on top.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Cool on a wire wrack.

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