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How I got the kids to go gourmet at teatime How I got the kids to go gourmet at teatime; We try out the cookbook that chef Claire Thomson devised to get children out of their comfort food zone We try out the cookbook that chef Claire Thomson devised to get children out of their comfort food zone.

Byline: Anna Burnside

FIVE PM is known, among frazzled parents, as "the witching hour". It's the time when, faced with grizzling hungry weans, we turn on CBEEBIEs and move into macaroni mode.

The kale risotto can wait for another day. Most of us are glad to get through to bath time without blood, never mind tomato sauce, on the carpet.

Claire Thomson knows the five o'clock pain. Her response, however, does not include frozen pizza, fish fingers or oven chips. As a chef, she spends her days cooking fresh, highly flavoured food for paying customers. Why would she give processed pap to her kids at home? Her first book, The Five O'Clock Apron, is her guide to getting children eating quince, nettles, pumpkins and courgettes - and liking it. Thomson's three lovely girls, Grace, Ivy and Dorothy, are dotted throughout the pages, glowing with health, gnawing corn cobs and also enjoying corn cobs and also enjoying chickpea-based picnics. chickpea-based picnics.

It's easy, looking through the charming pic tures, to daydream charming pic tures, to daydream about a life of making halloumi about a life of making halloumi (that's the squeaky Middle (that's the squeaky Middle Eastern cheese most of us buy in Eastern cheese most of us buy in vacuum packs) and using left-over vacuum packs) and using left-over whey in bread dough. Of wearing whey in bread dough. Of wearing Boden dresses and baking beans, Boden dresses and baking beans, gathering wild garlic leaves and gathering wild garlic leaves and smoking mackerel in the garden. smoking mackerel in the garden.

I live in Partick in Glasgow.

Mackerel is not what is normally Mackerel is not what is normally smoked by the locals. So what will some Primark-wearing, pie-eating kids make of Thompson's well-intentioned recipes? I enlist my son Joe, nine, and his friends Ruby and Tommy, to find out.

Stage one: menu planning. I reject a cabbage, bulgur and all spice pilaf because it sounds so brown. Meatloaf is out because I'm running late and can't face squishing mince in my bare hands. We will have pink rice (also known as beetroot pilaf), slaw (coleslaw, kind of) and pasta with pesto (which contains not a scrap of pesto). For dessert: flapjacks. Woohoo.

Stage two: shopping. Mums like Claire do not go to Iceland. They go to Waitrose and buy beetroot, caraway seeds, creme fraiche and dill. They refuse to be defeated when said store does not have radicchio (purple lettuce) or sumac (Turkish spice). They use more cabbage, or leave it out.

Stage three: prep. As the clock ticks past 5pm I grate beetroot, matchstick apple, chop broccoli and toast seeds. Pumpki n, sunflower, cumin, caraw ay, coriander. Claire puts se eds in everything. Dobbie's Gar den Centre has nothing on my kitchen.

ticks past 5pm I grate beetroot, matchstick apple, chop broccoli and toast seeds. Pumpki n, sunflower, cumin, caraw ay, coriander. Claire puts se eds in everything. Dobbie's Gar den Centre has nothing on my kitchen.

The pink rice bubbles happily as the slaw comes togeth er. Instead of opening pesto, I put chopped broccoli and pasta into boiling water at the sam e time. The theory is that, by the time the pasta is perfect, the broccoli with The pink rice bubbles happily as the slaw comes togeth er. Instead of opening pesto, I put chopped broccoli and pasta into boiling water at the sam e time. The theory is that, by the time the pasta is perfect, the broccoli with have collapsed into the water. Once the lot is drained, then mixed with grated parmesan and garlic and rosemary fried in olive oil, no one will be any the wiser.

Stage four: the judging panel gathers. I assemble the pink rice as Claire recommends, with garlicky yoghurt, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped dill and chilli flakes on top. (Rare is the dish in The Five O'Clock Apron that does not need chilli flakes on top.) I leave out the sumac because there is none to be found in this borough, and the browned butter because life is too short to deal with milk whey and lemon juice at teatime.

Joe, an enthusiastic eater used to his mother's experimental tendencies, thinks it's great.

Tommy, a polite lad, gives it a go and is pleasantly surprised. Ruby, however, is horrified, and not because there is no browned butter. It is the most alarming thing she has ever tasted. She swallows one mouthful on the condition that she can abandon the rest.

Joe swoops in to polish it off. Ruby does, however, rate the pasta and tidies up every last fragment from the pan. Tommy dislikes the strong aftertaste of the rosemary, but goes for it with the rice and salad.

As they wander off with their flapjacks - flat, chewy, so healthy it hurts - they look well fed and happy enough. No one is pleading for a tub of slaw to take home, or planning to buy the book with their pocket money.

But no one is whining for a piece and jam either.

The adults are with Joe on the pink rice and Ruby on the pasta. It's a good idea and I will definitely be swapping bought pesto for disintegrated broccoli again soon. Some of the other recipes from the book - an easy rose ice cream, a ham hock and barley soup - have also gone down extremely well.

I like to think that, one day, I will even get round to baking my own beans. But smoking my own mackerel? Never going to happen. ?The Five O'Clock Apron, Claire Thomson, Ebury, PS20

'Tommy gives it a go and is pleasantly surprised'

CAPTION(S):

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS Anna, main, cooks up a feast while, top, her son Joe and his friends Ruby and Tommy enjoy the result. Pic: Garry F McHarg

TAS T TY TREAT EAT EA S Joe and pals look at the recipes, top, and flapjacks are sliced, above, before they enjoy pink rice
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 31, 2015
Words:997
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