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'I love to cook and to chat... I've cooked all over the world'

Food writer and chef Claire Thomson discusses her culinary highs and lows with Ella Walker

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Claire Thomson has just written a new cookbook, Home Cookery Year

Claire Thomson has just written a new cookbook, Home Cookery Year

Press Association Images

The spelt cooked in cider

The spelt cooked in cider

Press Association Images

Claire Thomson has just written a new cookbook, Home Cookery Year

Claire Thomson, chef, writer and Instagrammer (her account 5 O'Clock Apron is full of weeknight dinner ideas and shows her kids cooking as much as she does), is back with a brand new cookbook, Home Cookery Year. Here, she relates her most memorable moments cooking and eating...

Thomson's earliest memory of food is...

"Probably sitting in Africa, and my mum making my brother and me eat shepherd's pie three nights running, because she said, 'No, we've got to eat it, it's fine!' And every night we put more ketchup on it, and by the third night it was brought out again, we were like, 'Don't make me eat it!'

"That, or I must have been three years old, sitting on the step in our house in Africa peeling lychee, and the juice just doodling all down my bare legs, and finding that a really fun thing to eat, sitting there by myself and all the ants coming up on the step.

"(Also) my mum says that when I was about 18 months old, I was sitting in the garden eating a banana and a baboon came over the wall and came and took the banana out of my hand, and my face dropped and I just started screaming."

Her culinary high is...

"We went to a guesthouse in Laos, and we asked to learn how to make this amazing green curry. We didn't speak Laos, (and the woman showing us) didn't speak English.

"We were so excited, and she took us to the market and just bought the green curry paste from the guy who makes the green curry paste! (She told us it was) 'The best - no one buys it from anyone other than him'.

"We were like, 'Oh' - but that's so reassuring, isn't it? There's not some woman who has 110 spices, bashing them out in a pestle and mortar, you go to the man who sells the good stuff, bring it home and add coconut milk. It was just so funny.

"I've cooked all over the world. I love cooking and chatting to people about food."

And her worst kitchen disaster has to be...

"When I first started as a commis chef, I had to cook these beans - different ones like cannellini and borlotti - and I was a bit eager and exuberant and put them all in a big pan.

"I thought I'd done a really good thing, put them on to boil, and the chef, who was a bit of a nightmare, came over and said, 'What an imbecile!', shouting that all the beans cook at different rates, 'How could you be so stupid?' Then he made me sit on a crate, and I had to separate the whole pan of beans, that was quite hard. Never did it again. Lesson learned."

Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson, photography by Sam Folan, is published by Quadrille, £30

Spelt cooked in cider with ricotta, grapes and lamb’s lettuce

What you'll need:

Serves 4

180g spelt or farro

150ml apple cider

2 bay leaves, scrunched a little

100ml good olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

100g lamb's lettuce, rocket or watercress

1 small bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped

150g red grapes, halved

200g ricotta cheese

50g walnuts, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Pour 400ml of water into a medium saucepan. Add the spelt or farro, cider, and bay leaves, season with salt and bring to a simmer over a moderate heat. Cook until the grains are tender and all the liquid has evaporated - about 30 minutes should do. If all the liquid evaporates before the grains are tender, add a little more water. Remove from the heat, let cool and discard the bay leaves.

2. In a salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and a good seasoning of salt. Add the spelt or farro and mix well.

3. To serve, add the lamb's lettuce (or other leaves), mint and grapes, seasoning the mixture well with salt and pepper. Finish with the ricotta and the nuts.

Belfast Telegraph