Cook­ing up ideas

With the heat of sum­mer and the school hol­i­days kick­ing into full gear, Emily Price takes a look at easy recipes and fun meals that chil­dren can make them­selves

The National - News - Arts & Life - - FOOD -

Cook­ing is, quite sim­ply, one of the most im­por­tant life skills with which we can equip young peo­ple.

We live in a fast- paced world with con­ve­nience eat­ing and fast-food de­liv­ery ser­vices ga­lore, but there’s still no sub­sti­tute for hav­ing the abil­ity to take raw in­gre­di­ents and trans­form them into some­thing de­li­cious and nour­ish­ing.

Be­ing able to do this – and we’re talk­ing ba­sics here, noth­ing fancy – is ben­e­fi­cial in terms of health (both now and in the years ahead), and will also help your chil­dren save money in the fu­ture and en­cour­age so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

Get­ting chil­dren in­volved in the kitchen has im­me­di­ate ad­van­tages as well. With weeks of school sum­mer hol­i­days ahead and the hu­mid­ity ris­ing, cook­ing is an in­ex­pen­sive way to while away time in­doors.

Ide­ally , this shouldn’t just mean bak­ing sugar-laden cakes and bis­cuits. Fo­cus in­stead on whole­some, healthy, re­ward­ing recipes and you will pro­vide a counter to the idea that cook­ing is about treats and in­dul­gence. Hav­ing fun in the kitchen and ex­per­i­ment­ing with tasty, sim­ple dishes will con­vey that cook­ing is achiev­able, pro­duc­tive and grat­i­fy­ing.

It will also help to pro­mote a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards not just food prepa­ra­tion, but con­sump­tion, too. In­tro­duc­ing chil­dren to a range of in­gre­di­ents and pro­cesses early on en­cour­ages them to eat more widely and de­velop bet­ter habits, and while they may not like ev­ery­thing they try, a new favourite in­gre­di­ent could well be dis­cov­ered.

The recipes and ideas that fol­low are tai­lored to dif­fer­ent ages and are de­signed to al­low young peo­ple to be as hands-on as pos­si­ble, un­der adult su­per­vi­sion and guid­ance.

So the next time you’re look­ing to fill a few empty hours as the inevitable “I’m bored” cries be­gin to sur­face, head straight to the kitchen. There may be mess, but it will be worth it.

Pick-and-mix salad (for ages 3 to 5)

This is more of a gen­eral idea than a recipe. Rather than pre­sent­ing young chil­dren with a ready-pre­pared plain salad, of­fer them an ar­ray of dif­fer­ent pickand-mix items from which they can make their own salad bowl.

While there’s no ac­tual cook­ing , this is all about get­ting chil­dren in­volved in and ex­cited about what they’re eat­ing, and em­pow­er­ing them as they de­cide what they’re go­ing to try.

The more vis­ually ap­peal­ing the spread, the more pop­u­lar it’s likely to be, so in­clude a mix of brightly coloured in­gre­di­ents. Think about shapes and tex­tures, too. Cut radishes into pa­per-thin slith­ers, slice pep­pers into strips, add crunchy cu­cum­ber, soft mini balls of moz­zarella and crisp br­uschetta or crack­ers, as well as a dress­ing or dip, such as the yo­gurt-based one be­low. Then leave it to the lit­tle ones to build their own cre­ations.

Cu­cum­ber yo­gurt dress­ing Serves 4

½ cu­cum­ber, grated

200g nat­u­ral or Greek yo­gurt 1 tbsp olive oil

1. Put the cu­cum­ber in a sieve sus­pended over a bowl. Squeeze out as much wa­ter as pos­si­ble (lit­tle chil­dren will en­joy do­ing this). Dis­card the liq­uid.

2. Tip the cu­cum­ber into a bowl and stir in the yo­gurt and olive oil. Keep in the fridge un­til needed.

Easy home­made pizza (ages 6 to 8)

While this recipe re­quires adult su­per­vi­sion, apart from putting the pizza in and out of the oven, the chil­dren can take care of ev­ery­thing else. The raw tomato sauce gives the fin­ished pizza a lovely bright, fresh flavour. Feel free to treat this recipe as a base and add as many top­pings as you please.

Serves 4

230g strong white bread flour, plus ex­tra for dust­ing 3g easy-blend dried yeast

4 tbsp olive oil

200g ripe cherry or plum toma­toes

½ gar­lic clove, crushed

Large hand­ful basil leaves

½ tsp caster sugar

2 tbsp tomato puree

125g ball moz­zarella 30g Parme­san cheese

1. First, make the pizza base. Mix the flour and yeast to­gether in a large bowl. Make a well in the cen­tre and add three ta­ble­spoons olive oil and 120ml of luke­warm wa­ter. Stir to form a dough, then tip out onto a lightly floured sur­face. Knead for five min­utes un­til smooth. Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 min­utes. 2. While the dough is ris­ing, make the pizza sauce and pre­pare the top­pings. Tear three-quar­ters of the basil leaves into strips. Put the toma­toes, gar­lic, torn basil leaves, sugar and re­main­ing ta­ble­spoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Use your hands or a potato masher to squeeze the toma­toes un­til they break down. Place in a sieve sus­pended over a bowl and set aside.

3. Pre­heat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7. Tear the moz­zarella into pieces and grate the Parme­san. Line a bak­ing tray with bak­ing parch­ment.

4. Re­move dough from the cling film, place on a lightly floured sur­face and lightly punch it to knock the air out. Knead briefly, then use a rolling pin to roll it into a rect­an­gle shape ap­prox­i­mately 30 cen­time­tres long and 20cm wide.

5. Care­fully trans­fer the dough to the pre­pared tray and spread with a thin layer of tomato puree, fol­lowed by the raw tomato sauce (dis­card the liq­uid in the bowl). Add the moz­zarella pieces and re­main­ing whole basil leaves and sprin­kle the grated Parme­san over the top.

6. Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 min­utes, un­til the base is golden and the cheese melted.

Sticky chicken drum­sticks with gar­lic bread and beet­root and ap­ple coleslaw

The great thing about this recipe is that it puts older chil­dren in charge of pre­par­ing an en­tire meal, rather than just parts of it. Gar­lic bread is cheap to pre­pare, fill­ing and tastes great, and the honey-mus­tard glaze can also be used on fish, seafood and even roasted veg­eta­bles. If beet­root doesn’t ap­peal, swap it for grated car­rot or red cab­bage.

Serves 4

1 large baguette

45g but­ter, soft­ened

2 gar­lic cloves, peeled and crushed

10 to 15 basil leaves

4 to 6 chicken drum­sticks

3 tbsp olive oil

3½ tbsp runny honey

2 tbsp Di­jon mus­tard

1 tbsp lemon juice

250g shred­ded beet­root ( buy ready-shred­ded ones)

4 tbsp chopped mint

2 tbsp ap­ple juice 1. First, pre­pare the gar­lic bread. Us­ing a ser­rated knife, make in­ci­sions in the baguette ev­ery 2cm or so, be­ing care­ful not to slice all way through.

2. Mix the but­ter and gar­lic. Add a lit­tle gar­lic but­ter to each of the in­ci­sions in the baguette, fol­lowed by a basil leaf. Set aside. 3. Pre­heat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Put the chicken drum­sticks in an oven­proof dish and driz­zle with a ta­ble­spoon of olive oil. Sea­son with salt and pep­per and roast in the oven for 25 min­utes.

4. Mix the honey, mus­tard, lemon juice and a ta­ble­spoon of olive oil. Once the chicken has been cook­ing for 25 min­utes, ask an adult to re­move it from the oven and pour over the honey- mus­tard mix­ture. Stir the chicken so that all the pieces are cov­ered with the glaze.

Re­turn the bak­ing dish to the oven and add the gar­lic bread on a dif­fer­ent tray. Cook for an­other 15 min­utes.

5. While the chicken and gar­lic bread are cook­ing, make the coleslaw. Put the beet­root in a bowl, add the chopped mint, re­main­ing olive oil and the ap­ple juice.

Mix well with a large spoon. Serve the chicken, gar­lic bread and coleslaw to­gether.

Pho­tos by Scott Price and Sukaina Ra­ja­bali

Clock­wise from above, cook­ing is an in­ex­pen­sive way for chil­dren to while away time in­doors dur­ing the sum­mer; sticky chicken drum­sticks with gar­lic bread and beet­root and ap­ple coleslaw; and an easy home­made pizza.

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