Claire Matern - Culinary Writer
We’re big foodies even though we don’t know our way around a kitchen like master chefs. We appreciate any delicious cuisine and where the ingredients come from, much like how we appreciate slow fashion (minus the delicious cuisine part). Claire Matern wants to show everyone that you don’t need to be an expert cook or even to follow a recipe to feel confident in the kitchen. Claire is a culinary writer who provides helpful tips and easy to make healthy and tasty dishes. She even walked us through a recipe any woman on the go can quickly make to meal prep her week! Get hungry and find the recipe below as you get to learn more about Claire.
What do you do and where are you from?
I’m from Brooklyn. I grew up in Park Slope, but as a kid I lived in Switzerland for 3 years, then in London and Costa Rica as a student. Living abroad has influenced my life and career as much as New York has.
I’m a culinary personality, expert and writer. Growing up in the industry has given me the unique perspective of being around food my whole life—from shopping for it, visiting farms and factories, cooking with family—and of course eating.
What prompted you to get into the food world? What is your mission?
Growing up in food heavily influenced me with getting in to the industry. I worked in fashion before, but there is such a strong pull when it’s a world you’ve grown up in.
My goal is to share all the knowledge I have accumulated from my dad—a trained chef and specialty foods expert and cheesemonger. I want to show how approachable cooking can be. I want to bring ease to the kitchen and ingredients—to take away food pretension and make it accessible.
Where did you learn how to cook?
Everything I know about food and cooking I learned from my dad. It’s surprising how much I picked up throughout childhood, even though I wasn’t a hands-on kid in the kitchen. So many lessons and habits become ingrained just by being around them: like the importance of holding a knife properly (choking up the handle to pinch the bottom of the blade with your thumb and first finger) or the idea of cleaning as you go so a mess doesn’t become overwhelming. I just started doing them from the get-go when cooking for myself like they were already programmed in me.
The biggest lesson I learned from my dad, and the one I’m now instilling through my videos and writing, is that you learn to trust yourself in the kitchen—that’s what learning to cook really is. You learn to use your senses, and to trust what they’re telling you (and that includes my favorite bonus sense we all have: common sense.)
What do you always make sure you keep in stock in your kitchen?
There are some pantry essentials that can be used in countless ways I always have on hand. They include: onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, dried pasta, rice, beans or lentils, eggs, and some sort of leafy greens (often spinach.) Using those, and then adding in whatever else is in season or you have around you can make a quick pasta and sauce, or a soup, an array of egg dishes for breakfast or dinner, or dips and spreads that can be used on salads, in sandwiches or countless other ways.
How do you come up with your recipes?
Everywhere—and anywhere. I don’t cook with recipes, and am even trying to get away from the word. The way I’ve been raised to cook is to expect, and accept, that most meals are a one-of-a-kind. There will always be a different outcome because you’ll make small tweaks every time you make it. But I gain inspiration from books, both fiction and nonfiction, articles, traveling, TV shows (seeing what characters are eating and taking notes is a big one). But mainly it’s about seeing what’s around—that’s the difference between cooking from a recipe and having the confidence to cook for yourself. To cook for a recipe is to buy a whole bunch of stuff and then stress over having leftovers of ingredients you don’t know how to use. Or, what I want you to have is the confidence to go to a market or shop, buy items that look good, are in season, you can afford, and that you like, and then use them however you want.
What recipe do you recommend most for the many women who are constantly on the go and don't have time to prepare healthy, delicious meals?
One of my favorite one pot meals that also uses a lot of pantry essentials is a three bean, sweet potato chili. It’s a great option for “meal prepping” without being a boring meal-prepped meal that feels repetitive. You can enjoy it throughout the week alone as a big bowl of chili with all the toppers (sour cream, cheese, avocado, corn bread etc.) or on a grain bowl, in tacos, on top of a baked potato, or with polenta (either topped or as a baked casserole.) It can also be leveled-up with a handful of greens or by adding ground beef or turkey, or a vegetarian or vegan alternative. And then at the end of the week with the last little bit you can add stock to it and stretch it into a soup.
What you’ll need:
garlic (you choose, though 4 or 5 cloves normally does the trick)
3 cans of beans (any color combo you like. I often do chickpeas, black and kidney but any would work)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 can diced tomatoes
chili powder (a couple teaspoons for a milder chili—go up from there depending on your preference)
chipotles in adobo (optional, but 1 or 2 chopped up adds great smokiness)
corn meal (optional)
What You’ll Do:
Prep all the ingredients: finely chop the onion and garlic and set aside. Peel and cube the sweet potato, and open, drain and rinse all the beans.
In a deep pot, add a splash of olive oil and heat over a moderate/high heat and add the chopped onions and garlic. Stirring well so they don’t burn, cook them for about 2 minutes before adding the chili powder and chopped chipotles (if using) and allow all the aromatics to cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the cubed sweet potatoes and the tin of of tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and stir. Add water until the sweet potatoes are just covered. (Tip: hot from the kettle is best because cold water added will stop the cooking process)
After giving the sweet potatoes a 5-10 minutes head start add the beans (remember, they’re already cooked so they don’t need as long.)
Allow to cook over a low heat with the lid on until the sweet potatoes are tender. About 5 minutes before it’s finished add a small handful of corn meal and stir through (if desired) for a thicker chili.
Serve up and enjoy!