With nearly half a million followers under her original Instagram handle @What Mummy Makes (now moved to @RebeccaWilsonFood), Rebecca Wilson has just released her latest cookbook Family Comforts: Simple, Heart Warming Food to Enjoy Together. The book draws on her personal experience to help make the lives of busy families easier and to broaden children’s culinary tastes early; with over 100 recipes, Family Comforts brings families back to the table to enjoy a home-cooked meal together.
Interview by Amanda David
How did writing this book compare to the experience of writing your first book, What Mummy Makes? Did you do anything differently as a result?
To be honest - no! I followed the same sort of style and way I developed my first book's recipes because they were authentic and true to me – and turned out popular! I tend to write my recipes by going into my kitchen, seeing what I have in and creating recipes from what is available to me. I feel that it's really important to do it this way because it means I'm not using any super fancy ingredients.
Most of the recipes in the book can be created through what you've got in the cupboards already. Either that, or they're accessible ingredients which can be bought easily. This is really a priority because it means people are able to make my recipes easily and don't feel overwhelmed!
What do you think makes a dish comfort food? Do you have a favourite and is there a particular memory attached to it?
I absolutely love my Water Fried Chicken. My mum used to make a similar version when I was growing up and I always had the memory of the taste, but I never found out from her exactly how she'd made it! So, I spent a long time trying to piece together what it was and how she made it, until I figured it out...and it's my Water Fried Chicken! Well…it won't be exactly how she made it, so it's my version, but I love it and I think mine's better actually (ha!).
It's essentially fried chicken, but instead of using lots of oil, you use water. It sounds like a really crazy process, but, trust me. Follow the instructions, follow the method and you will be left with the most juicy, moist, crispy on the outside, soft in the middle chicken – it is just so moreish. You definitely can't just have one piece.
You have a huge following; why do you think so many people have engaged and connected with you?
Honestly it's the most lovely thing, and I feel so blessed so many people follow along with me on this journey, and I feel like I just have loads of friends now! I think it just comes down to the fact that I am a normal parent, normal mum, a Northern Mum - I mean there's nothing really fancy about me! And the food I offer embodies that. It's just normal food that everyone wants to eat.
I try to help as much as possible. I am driven by helping parents and families, everyday people, get into the kitchen and cook - because it really can be easy and simple. Feeding your family can be enjoyable and I want to help people see that and execute it.
There’s so much information online and on social media about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods; what is your take on this?
It depends on what source you're looking at. If you're on the NHS website, any mention there is good, honest advice - and nutritional advice I recommend that you do follow. But then, there are a lot of opinions out there and I think when it comes down to specifics, about the way you feed your family, I genuinely think you should do what you think is best and whatever fits in with you and your family. Follow advice from trusted sources or speak with your doctor or health professional. Try not to get bogged down too much by conflicting information, it can be very stressful. Just do whatever you feel is best.
What would your advice be to families whose work/school/social schedules mean they struggle to eat together?
It is definitely a tricky one to try to balance - especially when little ones need to be fed early and maybe parents don't come in from work until later. My advice is to try and eat together as much as possible, even if that's just on the weekend, that's okay. Just try to do it as much as you can. If your little ones are having their dinner earlier, try sitting down with them and have the smallest plate of what they're eating, almost like a little starter or amuse-bouche as they say!
This means little ones don't feel like they're eating alone, but also, watching you eat the same food as they are, especially if they are going through a moment where food enjoyment is not as high as desired, and sitting together with them, having the family experience is going to do wonders to help them enjoy their food more. Try not to worry too much that you're not doing it at every meal. It might be unrealistic to do that if it's not part of your family routine, so don't worry, just do the best you can.
You’ve just got in from a long day and didn’t manage to get to the shops; what recipe/s from the new book would you cook from ingredients you are likely to already have in the house?
Normally, I will have a loaf of bread in. Usually, I'll have a tin of tuna in the cupboard (at the back somewhere!). And I always try to keep some spinach in the freezer. Quite often I'll have some in the fridge as well, but it goes off quite quickly so I try to have frozen spinach all the time.
So that is all perfect ingredients to make my Curried Spinach and Tuna Toasties. They sound like they might not be a bit of you, but honestly…they are so, so tasty. There's veg in there, nutritious fish and a comforting spiced flavour that give you a big warm hug, especially when it's toasted and with some cheese…!
If this book were to achieve exactly what you hoped when you were writing it, what would that be?
Really…to help as many families as possible and see lots of people enjoy my recipes. Seeing my recipes being enjoyed and used to feed families, receiving positive feedback too. I love to see people using my first two books, and I really wish the same for this book too.
Finally, at the time of writing you are number 10 on the Amazon Bestseller Books list – only two places behind Jamie Oliver! How does that feel?
Elated! It really does. This book-fighting world is still very new to me, but to be up there with the big names, people who I have up on my cookbook shelf at home sincerely is … just to see my book sitting alongside them makes me feel so incredibly happy and proud of everything we've all built.
Congratulations Rebecca on an incredible achievement - and for championing family mealtime as something to be shared and enjoyed!
Buy Family Comforts on Amazon here.
Chatting Food contributor: Amanda David
Freelance food writer, copywriter and blogger, Amanda David is dedicated to sharing news about London’s restaurants, bars, events and general wonderfulness. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.
She has also just launched a new website, A Cook's Bookshelf, reviewing cookbooks old and new, with side-by-side photographs of recipe illustrations next to her home-cooked version.
Follow Amanda at:
Instagram: @LondonGAT and @a_cooks_bookshelf