10min catch up with Miriam Cooper of Mimi’s Bowl - Dotty Dungarees Ltd

10min catch up with Miriam Cooper of Mimi’s Bowl

10min catch up with Miriam Cooper of Mimi’s Bowl

With the start of a new season, we sit down with our friend Miriam Cooper from Mimi’s Bowl to chat all things motherhood, healthy cooking, and dungarees of course!

Thanks so much for agreeing to catch up with us. You have built a strong brand and community with Mimi’s Bowl, how did it all start? What was the inspiration behind Mimi’s Bowl?

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me into the Dotty Dungarees community. I am a long-standing customer and fan. Even more so now that I can buy a pair for myself.

Mimi’s Bowl started in 2015 about a year after I had my daughter Jemima. I felt very isolated and was at home overwhelmed by weaning. It felt like an impossibly difficult hurdle, after emerging from the bubble of the first 4-6 months of parenthood. I started to gently share online what I was feeding her (and myself), dipping my toe into the pool of social media. I am naturally a very private person, so it was a challenge and it forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Contrary to how it may seem, I still find talking on camera or having my photograph taken for content challenging. However, I found such a warm and engaged community, it helped me to connect with other parents who also felt overwhelmed by cooking for their families. Overall, it has been an incredibly positive experience and something I’ve loved doing for all these years.

In 2018 I had a second child, my son George. In 2021 I then sadly lost my mother very suddenly and unexpectedly. Through all these changes my life has shifted and with it my content and cooking. I am in the process of re-designing and re-launching our website and social channels; whilst Mimi’s Bowl was the starting point, I’m moving more towards writing under my own name and sharing more seasonally focused recipes. It is a change of direction which feels more reflective of my life now, as my children are older. I hope to do more writing too.

You mention on your website some mishaps, we are imagining clips from Julie & Julia! What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt on this journey?

So many! All the practical mistakes; buying an expensive baby pureeing machine only then to be faced with the challenge of taking it apart to clean it… (all you need is a hand blender with an attachment that goes straight into a washing machine). My “batch cooking phase” when I’d make big quantities of recipes my children then refused to eat… Trying to copy animal face pizzas and “fun food” which was both stressful and not something the rest of my family wanted to eat at all. All these steps and missteps I have shared through Instagram (firstly in posts and latterly in stories). But the biggest lesson on this journey must have been becoming a parent and then sharing my ups and downs online, or where I have felt comfortable to do so. Through the lens of food, I’ve connected with many other parents in a very humbling way. I feel grateful for this chapter in my life.

For parents who are just getting started with healthy eating, where would you suggest they start? Any easier recipes, or useful gadgets to speed things up?

Healthy eating for my family and I means not judging success by one meal or even day but taking a view of the whole week. We often feel so defeated if a meal hasn’t gone well, but really, we should step back and look at the overall week and take the pressure off ourselves. My children eat vegetables, but also pizza!

Variety is key, so not getting stuck in a rut. Trying new foods, or recipes. Eating with the seasons helps encourage this. Eating together as a family, when we can, this may just be at weekends, but eating is so much more enjoyable as a communal experience, it is as much about connecting and togetherness as what everyone is eating. Modelling to our children what a healthy and varied diet looks like.

I’m very boring and anti-gadgets. I honestly think a good quality cooking pot, a hand blender, and an ice cube tray with a lid, is enough to get started. As parents we are bombarded constantly with products we need to buy. Simple is best, invest in a few good quality kitchenware pieces and save your money to spend on other things.

It’s easy with a busy life to cook the same thing week after week, how do you create variety each week, while not spending hours in the kitchen?

It absolutely is and I can get stuck in a rut too. I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen either, so I try and always plan ahead. I write a meal plan every week from Monday to Friday, this saves me a lot of time in the week. It also cuts back on top-up shopping which is both time consuming and expensive. I order a seasonal vegetable box every two weeks – this helps me add some newness and seasonality into our meals and pushes me to try new things.

Finally, I try one new recipe a week, its inspiring and I learn new skills. I have a huge folder on my phone of recipes I have bookmarked and want to try.

What’s your favourite recipe, which is super quick, simple, and yummy?

A Homemade Pesto is my got to quick, simple and “everyone wants to eat it dish”. In the Summer using basil and in the Winter I use Cavolo Nero. I like to experiment.

Our family favourite is always Roast Chicken – it’s not super quick to cook, but it is quick to prepare and then it just cooks away in the oven. A great roast is such a useful skill to learn as a home cook, it spins into a few more delicious meals.

Which of your recipes are your children’s favourites?

My daughter loves Homemade Minestrone, I make a batch every few weeks with whatever I have, and she also loves any pasta dish. My son George loves curries, roasts, and a great burger. He craves protein, to keep him fueled, and is very active. They are both generally good eaters and are used to having to try new recipes regularly.

Which is your favourite recipe so far? We noticed your Peanut Butter Cups on Instagram and are eager to try that one!

That is a great quick snack and a good one for tired parents, I keep them in the freezer, so they are on standby if I need an energy boost.

Favourite recipe is a tough question! For the past few years, I have been cooking through a lot of my late mother’s recipes. Writing up her recipes and sharing them has been a beautiful experience and has helped me with my grief. She was a wonderful natural cook, who could make mountains of food at the drop of a hat. She remains a huge source of inspiration for my food writing. Any recipes of hers are very special to me. If I had to choose one it might be her Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. She made this almost every weekend when we were children, the hum of the kitchen and her ice cream machine was really the soundtrack to my childhood. I never asked her for the recipe, I’m not sure she had one, she just judged it by eye and experience. Last Summer, I made ice cream every weekend, in her ancient and trusty ice cream machine, until I felt I had perfected it. It’s a lasting connection to her and her love for our family.

I’ll be sharing a collection of her recipes on our new website called “Recipes from my Mother’s Kitchen” in her memory.

How do you come up with new recipes? Do your children inspire you with new ideas?

My recipes are always nostalgic, and I am often trying to recreate food I ate as a child. A beautiful rice pudding, or a comforting chicken casserole. The recipes I work on have to be simple and easy to make, time pressured parents are always in the back of my mind. I will cook a recipe again and again until I feel it’s been reduced to its most simple execution, without compromising on flavour.

I am inspired by my childhood and my parents’ home in Kent, we take the children there on the weekends and they can run free. The garden there and its seasons inspires a lot of my food writing. My mother planted an orchard, fruit cages, a vegetable garden. There are also local producers for meat and dairy. The garden itself has its own bounty with an ancient Mulberry tree, for making mulberry jelly and wild blackberries. It is very special to us all.  

Was cooking a big part of your life growing up? Where did your passion for healthy cooking come from?

I am the eldest of four children so I would always be helping my mum in the kitchen. From a young age I was used to making dinner for us kids, or packed lunches for picnics outdoors or trips to the local horse stables. All my siblings are good cooks, so food was a skill we all learnt growing up. My parents must have specifically encouraged my cooking as I remember when I was 10 years old attending a Junior Cordon Bleu 12-week training course in Marylebone; then later when I was 16 years old, I spent a Summer at the Ballymaloe Cooking School, in Ireland.

My mother was a brilliant home cook, but I later discovered both her parents were great cooks. Her father Peter Norton was a confectioner who manufactured sweets and chocolates. At home he would make wonderful homemade pickles, chutneys, jam and preserves. She grew up in South Africa where there was plentiful produce and fruit trees. Her mother Sheila was a very accomplished cook who aspired to cook complicated European dishes, mostly French, for very elaborate dinner parties. In my mother’s recipes were also all her parents recipes and their dinner party logbooks, it has been fascinating to look at my family history through the lens of food and their cooking.

My father’s family founded Marks and Spencer, so food retailing, production and sourcing are part of our family heritage. Although the business was made public long before I was born, food retail is often a topic in our family.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self when you first started?

Goodness, I want to say something wise and helpful. Truthfully the advice might be – you won’t have all the answers and really you don’t need to.

And finally, we have to ask, what is your favourite thing about a pair of dungarees?!

Comfort. I am also a big believer in investing in pieces that stand the test of time. We have to buy more consciously, which means making better choices.

Did you dress your children in dungarees as they were growing up?

Yes, absolutely. My children are very tall so anything I can buy that wears well and can be handed down is a win win.

And lastly, our quick-fire questions!

Tea or Coffee? Both. Sorry what a get out. I’ll try and be more specific a strong cup of tea first thing when I wake up, then coffee during the morning, with a sharp cut off after lunch. Finally, a herbal tea at the end of the day.

Movie or Boxset? Movie, at home with my husband William. We can never agree on a box set or series.

YouTube or Netflix? Anything I can watch the Real Housewives on. I am addicted.

Cosy night in, or Evening with friends? Friends. In my life friends have been like family to me, I would always want to have that time with them.

Beach BBQ or Sunday Roast? Sunday Roast with loved ones. Our local beach in Kent is cold and very pebbly!

Starter or Dessert? Starter, I don’t have a sweet tooth at all, savory all the way.

Summer holidays or Christmas? Summer, my birthday is in June, so I am a Summer baby through and through.

Trainers or Heels? Flats always. I don’t stop moving, heels would slow me down.

To find out more about Miriam and access all of her recipes, head to her blog, Mimi’s Bowl. For all her latest recipes and happenings, join her community on Instagram.

Want to know more about our founders? Miriam interviewed Georgie and Alice back in 2022 to find out more about our brand and how it all started. Read the full interview here.