How chef Claire feeds her family

April 24 2015

ADDING a pinch of creativity in the kitchen is key when it comes to cooking for your children at mealtimes – and having a bit of perseverance too!

ADDING a pinch of creativity in the kitchen is key when it comes to cooking for your children at mealtimes – and having a bit of perseverance too!

This is the advice given by Bishopston mum, author and chef Claire Thomson.

Having three children herself – Grace, 8, Ivy, 5, and Dorothy, 2 – Claire is all too familiar with the responsibility of having hungry mouths to feed, particularly when five o'clock ticks around.

So, to break the monotony of feeding a family and help parents come up with healthy, fun and flavoursome dishes for their little ones, Claire – co-owner of award-winning restaurant Flinty Red – has created a stunning cookery book, full of easy-to-follow recipes that children will love.

Inspired by working in restaurants across the globe, 'The Five O'Clock Apron: Proper Food for Modern Families' aims to invigorate the concept of family cooking by encouraging parents to add more flavour to dishes and make vegetables an integral part of the meal.

Recipes include summery fattoush, coconut dhal, cabbage, bulgar and allspice pilaf, plus treats such as banana and buttermilk pancakes, and flapjacks.

Accompanying the recipes are heartwarming family photographs taken by Mike Lusmore, which show Claire's children taking part in cooking. Foraging for nettles in the woods and smoking mackerel on the beach are just a few examples of the pictures taken.

“I've realised that children love big flavours, such as lemons, herbs and parmesan. At the moment, my eldest daughter really loves chilli flakes. It's about giving their taste buds some excitement,” Claire explained. “Rather than having the meat as the centre piece on the plate, make vegetables the dominant source and treat meat as an extra. Make the veg interesting and it will get children interested.

“In our home, our rule is: try it once – you might like it. It's worked well with our children, they literally eat anything.”

The 'Five O'Clock Apron' was born three years on Twitter when Claire, 35, started tweeting the meals she was cooking for her children and husband Matt. This then progressed to her writing a blog, as well as a regular 'Cooking for Kids' column for the Guardian.

Her online success was picked up by Ebury Press – publisher of Delia Smith's books – who asked if she would like to create a cookery book, compiling her recipes. “Being at home with my children, I felt an impetus to do something, so I decided to give it a go,” she said. “As a chef, I found that I had lots of parents asking me what I feed my children, and I was really surprised that everyone found cooking for their kids quite boring, so I hope to inspire families to get creative at mealtimes, and have a bit more fun in the kitchen.”

Claire submitted her book proposal on the evening before the birth of her youngest daughter, and spent her days writing the book while breastfeeding Dorothy in the Boston Tea Party cafe in Cheltenham Road.

Claire, who lives in North Road, moved to Bristol over seven years ago with her husband – who is also a chef – where they established the highly commended Flinty Red in Cotham Hill and the Bristol Old Vic.

Claire says that she knows she is lucky for being a chef, and cooking comes naturally, but she reassures that her recipes are accessible for everyone.

“I understand that cooking for children can be difficult and they can be a mercurial bunch – one week they'll love peas, the next they'll love something else. But my advice is to never give up and just keep cooking.”

The Five O'Clock Apron recipe book, which launched in February, is now available to buy on Amazon. For more information, visit: and follow Claire on Twitter:

Join Claire at Hart's Bakery on May 3 as she will be mustering up dishes from her new cookbook.

There will be three different sessions available: Brunch (10-11am), lunch (1-2pm) and tea (4-5pm).

Signed copies of Claire's book will also be available to purchase on the day at £15.

It is one adult and one child per ticket.

To book a workshop, search '5 O'Clock Apron Workshops' on Email with any questions.

Claire Thomson with her daughters Dorothy, Grace and Ivy.
Photo by Mike Lusmore.