Get the idea: Kids in the kitchen
Many years ago we sent our 10-year-old son to a kids’ cooking class, after which I had never seen him more excited and pleased with himself. It confirmed what I suspected, that kids love cooking.
I think all kids should be taught to cook or at least be around cooks so that the love of home cooked food is transmitted to them. Cooking expands your food choices, gives you power over your diet, insures a healthier diet and is a crucial tool in the socialisation of the young (and everyone) as it is at the shared table that you learn your manners or how to behave.
In old cultures kids eat what adults eat. The idea of special “kids’ food” is just a clever marketing ploy in most cases. So get those kids into the kitchen, let them make as much mess as they like (don’t be a control freak) — as they start to enjoy cooking they will soon learn that mess is annoying and slows you down. Here are a few ideas to get them going.
Show them how to roast a chicken. Simply slice a lemon and squash about 4 cloves of garlic and stuff them into the chicken’s body cavity with a couple of sprigs of thyme or rosemary. Place chicken, breast down, in a roasting dish, add a cup of water, a big drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and season.
Roastat 200C for 45 minutes, turn over, roast another 45 minutes then remove. Skim the fat and use the juices for a gravy, made with a little chicken stock lightly thickened with cornflour dissolved in cold water. Let the kids decide — and cook — what veges to eat with it.
Pasta and meat sauce: slow-fry a chopped onion, finely diced carrot, thin-sliced celery stick, a couple of chopped cloves of garlic and 1 Tbsp of dried oregano in 4 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil until the onion is soft. Add minced beef and/or minced pork and fry until browned a little, add a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes in juice and simmer for 20 minutes until thick, like chutney. Serve tossed through al dente boiled pasta (let them choose the shape) with plenty of freshly grated parmesan.
Fish cakes are easy. Mix flaked and boned smoked fish (or drained canned tuna) with cold mashed potato, finely chopped red onion, chopped parsley, a beaten egg, salt and pepper (taste it before seasoning). Form into cakes, dust with flour, brown in extra-virgin olive oil, place side by side on a baking paper lined tray and place in a 200C oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking. Serve with a salad that they make.
Buy some good pizza bases, make the meat sauce above without the meat and use it as the sauce for the pizza. The kids choose the toppings.
Make a velvety pureed vegetable soup by boiling diced peeled agria potatoes, pumpkin and carrots (just covered with water or vegetable stock) until the potatoes are soft. Add baby spinach leaves and simmer another couple of minutes. Puree until smooth, taste, season and serve sprinkled with grated cheese and with crusty bread.
Chicken schnitzel: slice chicken breast across the grain of the meat about 2cm thick. Gently beat out each slice with a meat hammer (they will love doing this) and then dust each slice with flour, dip in beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Fry gently in vegetable oil until browned and cooked through. Serve with a slaw of grated carrot, thinly sliced savoy cabbage, sliced spring onions, a few raisins, roasted chopped almonds and a dressing of yoghurt, mayonnaise and lemon juice.
Dessert could be a quick “ice cream” of equal parts frozen berries and cream whizzed in the blender with a little icing sugar to sweeten and served with a sauce of sweetened frozen berries, brought to the boil with sugar and lemon juice then chilled and pureed.
Another could be cored apples, placed side by side in a small roasting dish, drizzled with maple syrup and the juice of an orange, baked until almost collapsing in a 190C oven and served warm with whipped cream.
For recipes that will help your children prepare meals for themselves see our kids cooking collection.