28 Nov 2017 |
Claire Thomson is a chef and food writer who regularly writes for publications such as Countryfile magazine and the Guardian. Claire is also the food ambassador for the National Trust and the author of the brilliant new book, The Art of the Larder.
We caught up with Claire to ask her about the inspiration behind her book, who she admires and what her day in food looks like.
What inspired you to write The Art of the Larder?
Above all I want to inspire people to cook with confidence. It is not about following recipes verbatim but understanding ingredients; why one flatters another, with this knowledge the possibility of cooking something from anything is possible. The Art of the Larder is my shot at giving people an encouraging and practical framework to cook by.
What was the best part of making it?
I cook a lot. The book, along with my instagram feed, is proof that this is how I cook day in day out. It’s not food produced as a one off for a snappy food shoot! The best part of making the book is knowing that it is a real cookbook with real food [and on the shoot] we ate everything that was made - nothing went to waste!
Who are your food influences and who do you admire?
The great and the good - Jane Grigson, Richard Olney, Simon Hopkinson, Diana Henry, the River Cafe books, Harold Mcgee, Claudia Roden, Molly O’Neill, Marcella Hazan, Rick Stein, Nigel Slater - I’ve probably forgotten more than a few! I also think Rachel Roddy’s food writing is pretty wonderful.
Who is doing something that you are excited about?
Square Food Foundation and their programme of teaching young chefs and all their work in the community with kids and care homes.
Root Camp seems to be a great enterprise too, and I am pretty excited about my own food education project, Table of Delights. We're trying to reinvent food education through bonkers entertainment - think Monty Python meets Mighty Boosh with a knife and fork.
What was your most memorable meal?
Linguine con Vongole in Naples. I was 20 and on summer holidays from University with my flatmate. We were told we could stay with the Grandmother of a waitress friend we knew and worked with from Cardiff. Totally broke we got to Naples and located the flat. From there we were whipped off to the market at break neck speed on the backs of two of the grandmother’s grandson’s mopeds. No helmets, no anything, just fast, Naples style. At the market, clams, garlic, parsley were all purchased. We didn’t speak Italian, the boys didn’t speak English… it didn’t matter, we knew what had to be done. The Grandmother was back home waiting for us. Terrifying and wearing a completely brilliant 60’s housecoat style apron, the granny cooked this pasta dish with an ease and brilliance I have seen few cook like before or since. In the time it took for the pasta to cook, the clams were swished about in water, garlic fried, chilli flakes added, a slosh of white wine and in went the pasta and parsley. This was vongole lore – no lemons, no tomatoes. This was her way, this was the only way – anything else was not linguine con vongole. We ate the pasta (it was sensational) in this tiny flat with one bedroom that housed four grandkids, two parents and the grandmother, and us too for one night on a sofabed in the hallway. What generosity and what a cook.
I’ve never been back but I intend to and soon. The night boat to Stromboli the next morning was our next adventure. A crashed motorbike (sorry about that handsome waiter, it wasn’t you, it was me and all that limoncello), my knee bandaged in loo roll, I returned home soon after and was back at university with a profound love of Italian cooking.
Tell us about your day in food…
With three kids to get up and off to school I’m pretty well versed in speedy, boring breakfasts. Porridge or bircher muesli in the morning or granola made by my 10 year old Grace (it’s her job to make the household granola - she loves it).
Desk lunch! Avocado on rye or an omelette mostly.
Depends on whether we are eating with or without the kids. Check @5oclockapron for nightly inspiration!
What ingredients couldn’t you live without?
Lemons, olive oil and tinned tomatoes
What have you got coming up?
I’m looking forward to going on Cerys Matthews BBC 6 Music show again on Sunday 3rd December. I think she's great!
If you’re doing the cooking what are you making for Christmas?
This year we are cooking turkey. I’ve never, ever cooked a turkey before as we mostly have beef. I especially love cooking vegetables so will no doubt make these the main event.
The US version, The Art of the Pantry is available from Amazon.com and bookshops across the States.
Photography by Mike Lusmore