The 5 o’clock apron…

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to lunch by Claire Thomson, after ‘chatting’ a little on Instagram, we realised we had a friend in common, Cathy of Bristol Parenting Cafe blog.

Claire, has cooked all her life in one form or another and now a mother of three, she is on a mission to ‘inspire and invigorate the concept of family cookery’.  Her recipe book ‘The 5 O’Clock Apron’ is set to do just that.  I must admit, I do love cooking but only when the pressure is off.  Concocting dishes out of days old veg and lentils is probably what I am best at.  But for my kids, well, I tend to do the same old routine, Spag bol, fish fingers and chips, pizza and jacket potato with tuna mayo. BORING!

Littlegreenshed blog - 5 oclock apron

Desperately I needed help, a new family ‘favourite’ and something that my fussy eldest would wolf down, without stopping to look for onions!.  I needed Claire’s help.

So there we were, Cathy, Laura, Eli (Laura’s littlest), and I, sat in the sunshine being entertained by Claire’s two year old daughter – Dot.  Claire had made us the most delicious of feasts, and as we tucked in Dot charmed us with her chat.  We ate panzella salad, slow cooked cauliflower, lentils, mozzarella cheese, olives and more… washed down with Rhubarb cordial.  It was delicious!!

Sitting there eating with old friends and new, we talked about everything, as you should when dining with friends.  It was a perfect afternoon.

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On returning home, I vowed to get my ‘cook on’, and provide proper food for my kids.  So yesterday I cooked Claire’s recipe of ‘Whole Chicken roasted over rice with cinnamon’ for our supper – needless to say they ate the lot – onions and all.  Well done boys and thank you Claire!

Whole Chicken roasted over rice with cinnamon

Serves 4


  • 250g basmati rice
  • 1.5kg whole chicken
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken in half)
  • 10 cardamon pods
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 500ml of hot chicken stock or boiling water
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 180c / gas mark 4
  2. Soak the rice in a bowl of cold water while you prepare the chicken.
  3. Rub the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a heaped teaspoon of salt and half the ground cinnamon.  Put half the whole spices, 2 bay leaves and an extra pinch of salt into the chicken cavity.
  4. Heat a large deep heavy-bottomed casserole pan (big enough to take the whole chicken and a with a tight fitting lid – though you can use foil if necessary) over a moderate heat and pour in the remaining olive oil.  Add the chicken breast side up.
  5. Put the casserole, un-lidded for the time being, into the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes per 500g.
  6. Meanwhile remove the husks from the rest of the cardamoms and grind the seeds with the remaining allspice, leaving the remaining half of the cinnamon stick whole.
  7. Drain the rice and take the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken to a plate. Leave the oven on. (do this after the chicken has only 30 minutes left to go)
  8. Put the pan on a low heat and add the diced onions with the rest of the spices and the remaining bay leaves.  Add a pinch of salt and cook the onions in the cinnamony chicken fat and the olive oil, stirring often, until soft and sweet, 8-10 minutes.
  9. Add the well-drained rice, to the onion mix and stir well.
  10. Make a well in the middle of the rice mixture and put the chicken into it.  Add the hot stock or water.  Bring to a simmer, then return the pan to the oven with the lid on.  Cook for about 20-25 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice and chicken are cooked (the juices should run clear).
  11. Remove from the oven and allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes with the lid on – I place a clean tea towel between the lid and the chicken when resting, to absorb any excess moisture in the rice.
  12. Serve with wedges of lemon to squish at the table, and give the rice and chicken a final seasoning with salt and generous grinding of pepper.

(recipe by Claire Thomson)

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This is our new family favourite!

All images by Mike Lusmore Photography

Claire is kindly offering one Littlegreenshed reader a copy of her brilliant book – The Five O’Clock Apron – just fill in the widget below… good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Our current favourites are roast lamb studded with rosemary and garlic, served with cous cous, and mini shell pasta with bacon / ham, peas in a lemon juice, creme fraiche & Parmesan sauce.
    Looking for new ideas for my girly duo! Would dearly love to win a copy.

  • Lou, that looks absolutely glorious. Also, I regularly use cinnamon in cous cous, so why haven’t I thought of using it in rice?!

  • We love a family friendly chickeb paella here but always looking for new ideas. Sounds like a lovely book.

  • This book is my kitchen bible!!! I just love love love it.. My mum brought it for me and I use it as often as I can.. I have a 10 month old who eats everything we give him and a very fussy toddler but he is intrigued when I make something from here and he always eats it!!!

  • I don’t have a favourite, I like lots of different things. I’m quite partial to a nice curry.

  • We all love homemade chicken pie, served unorthodoxly with Yorkshire puddings as my youngest won’t eat potatoes! Plus lots of veg and gravy, my boys actually cheer when they come to the table – a very rare event :-)

  • Lovely time, cooking with your little ones tasting, discovering, playing next to your in the kitchen. Lovely photos. And interesting recipe, never tried it.

  • LOVE this! One of our favorite things to make is balsamic chicken (cooked in our pressure/rice cooker!) burritos with Greek yogurt, guac, cheese and lettuce. It’s so yummy and easy to whip together! Her cookbook sounds fantastic! Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

  • I have borrowed this book from the library but would love a copy of my own. At the moment we are eating a lot of things made with peas from the allotment, including pasta and pea pesto.

  • Thanks for the lovely give away Lou
    our current favourite family dish is chicken & pitta – with 3 rather picky young eaters, but of course not picking on the same items, I can put a few bowls on the table with chicken, grated carrots, hummous, cucumber, grated cheese, and everyone finds his own happy combination

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