Jom Kerridge has the best trick for getting her six-year-old to eat vegetables.
“It doesn’t matter who your parents are – I’m a chef with two Michelin stars and I always try to get my little man to eat cabbage,” says the father-of-one. So he tries to ‘trick’ his son Acey into eating his greens, telling him that’s what a ‘dinosaur’ likes, or ‘Lewis Hamilton or Ronaldo eats it’.
“I try everything to get him to eat something new, but he already has a preconception that it tastes awful – that’s the problem with children,” says Gloucestershire-born Kerridge, whose pub, The Hand and Flowers in Marlow, was the first gastropub to be awarded two Michelin stars. Fortunately, his wife Beth’s cache-vegetable bolognese usually does the trick, he says.
As a busy working parent himself, Kerridge, 49, knows the reality of feeding a family when you have little time and energy. This is why his new book, Real life recipes, is written with modern life firmly in mind. For his 10th cookbook, he wanted to avoid the pitfalls of “beautiful and ambitious” food, instead offering something you could whip up quickly on a Tuesday night. “I tried to make it a bit more connected to the reality of the current life that we live in. Everyday ingredients in everyday life.”
For many families, that probably means not eating together as often as they would like and making last-minute meal decisions based on what’s languishing in the fridge – perhaps with an ingredient or two picked up on the way. return. “I’m probably home two nights a week,” admits Kerridge. “Parental guilt is something we all [parents] to live with. It’s huge, it’s inevitable, you can’t avoid it.
As Acey enters her second year at school, Kerridge hopes her simple, family-friendly recipes will help parents who are getting back into the routine of their “normal life of running and being busy and at eye level.” Think a platter of sausages with honey mustard glaze and chic fish fingers – “Foods that people know, they’re simple, they’re easy to make.” Some are a little more sophisticated — “But not full of cheffy” — like shrimp tacos with chili salsa and vegetable bhaji burgers.
Importantly, many are achievable in 30 minutes or less (“The time zone most people have”), with standard supermarket ingredients.
“We would all like to live in a provincial French market town, stroll through a market stall, pick up two aubergines and a zucchini and some red peppers, freshly caught fish, then go to the bakery and then go to the butchers – but we don’t don’t live our lives like that,” he observes. “We’re very busy, under a lot of pressure, and it’s always at the last minute that we wonder, ‘What have we got? for tea?'”
Like many of us, Kerridge’s family shop online every week for basic necessities and supplement it with trips to the supermarket – but as food prices and the cost of living in general increase, he says planning meals for the week is so “you’re not just ordering things willy-nilly” is key to keeping costs down, and batch cooking and freezing extra portions also helps. He says, for this book, “Trying to be a little more user-friendly was extremely important”, as well as listing ingredients that weren’t specialized or expensive.
Many of her new recipes are labeled as “low shop” – meaning you can use lots of the basics you probably already have in your kitchen, like her pantry spaghetti or fridge raid soup. And who knew you could whip up a coffee and nut cake out of almost any store cupboard essential?
“It’s about using those things that float, things that you’ve used once or twice,” Kerridge explains. “If we say use curry powder but you only have chilli powder, just use a little – it’s about trying to free those rules…And trying just to use what’s there.”
The cost of living crisis is “here now, and we’re going to have to deal with it,” he says. And as the owner of six restaurants, he describes future food and energy price hikes and inflation rates as “incredibly frightening”.
He recently shared in an interview with The Telegraph that energy prices for one of its pubs have risen from £60,000 to £420,000 a year.
“There’s no price cap on the energy that goes into a butcher or a slaughterhouse or a fishmonger or a big vegetable wholesaler, so that cost has to go to a restaurant, which also doesn’t have price cap,” he explains. “It’s very nerve-wracking to see what’s going to happen in October when the clocks roll back and the heating starts running and the fuel goes up again.”
And, of course, not only will the cost of outings invariably increase, but people will likely have less money to spend. “Which in turn will mean a lot of trouble for many restaurants, bars, clubs and spaces that operate in hospitality,” he says. “It’s almost the perfect storm – you can’t get around it.”
‘Real Life Recipes’ by Tom Kerridge (published by Bloomsbury Absolute, £26; photography by Cristian Barnett), available now.