Saturday arrives and the kids were up nice and early to get started on their first meal of the day: Spelt pancakes with white chocolate chips taken loosely from the Skinny Bitch in the Kitchen recipe book. Charlie managed to read the ingredients and they both pour everything in, with the exception of the baking soda and powder – that’s still my job as precision is key. Although if nothing else is precisely measured, I suppose those don’t have to be!
They grabbed their cooking stool and headed over to the stove to do the cooking and flipping. They’ve both been taught before not to touch anything except the frying pan handle so the pancake making goes rather well – although my leftie son had some troubles with the spatula and the pan handle. Charlie’s made pancakes before, but Milo’s not been allowed to do his own flipping so he was totally thrilled to be allowed to flip and have perfectly browned pancakes.
Lesson learned: Do not trust children with an open jar of maple syrup on the table.
Verdict: Best pancakes ever.
Next up was a lesson in preparing ahead – before they dashed off to their ballet class, they had to make the sauce for their lunch gnocchi. My favourite kind of kid cooking – just place the giant pot, tins of tomatoes and basil on the floor and let them dump it all in. If it spills, who cares! I think this is key to cooking with kids – you’ve got to let them make a mess and really get into the food. If you’re too careful or hovering, then they won’t enjoy it and neither will you.
The pot on the stove, the kids off to ballet. When they got home, the sun was shining and they just wanted to ride their bikes so Charlie asked very kindly if I would put the pot on to boil for the pre-made gnocchi. Simple step so I was happy to comply. I called the kids in when it was done and Charlie served up for everyone with their delicious homemade sauce.
Lesson learned: When they make it and serve it, they give themselves the biggest portions.
Verdict: Perfect meal to fill up before an afternoon of gardening.
Again a lesson in prep – if they wanted pizza for dinner we’d have to start the dough in early afternoon so before we went off to the allotment we (Charlie and I – Milo was lured by Lego) got stuck into some dough making. Charlie’s been hooked on Paul Hollywood’s Baking show the past few weeks so she was full of kneading and flouring ideas!
Both of my kids have been fascinated with dough lately and will spend an hour making it into different shapes. They never spend this much time with play dough – I think it’s the appeal of knowing they’re going to eat what they’re making. Charlie decided that just letting a ball of dough rest isn’t quite good enough so she made a duck in a nest to rest. When we got home, to everyone’s surprise the duck had been absorbed back into the rest of the dough.
This kicked off an epic dough shaping session where they both seemed to forget that the objective was pizza. Charlie argued that they could add the topings after their creations were cooked, so that’s exactly what we did. They put all the potential toppings (sauce, courgette, peppers, etc) into bowls and after their bread was cooked, we all just dipped and smeared.
Lesson learned: Creativity and fun trumps tradition every time.
Verdict: Still tastes like pizza if the toppings are added after – yum.
Overall, the day was a roaring success. They learned about planning, prepping, cooking and serving and throughout it all took incredible pride in being in charge of the entire days’ worth of food. They’re both eager to do it again and I would trust them to do so even more next time, such as letting them go around the supermarket with even more freedom and giving them more challenging recipes. It may not become a weekly event, but certainly a bi-weekly or monthly event.
I asked Charlie for her thoughts on the day and she said: “Mummy, I’ve always wished for a day like this.”
I think every parent should be doing this regularly with their children – the confidence built and the skills learned are invaluable. The most important thing is that you’re in the kitchen cooking and the kids are seeing you do this and helping you where they can. Here are some of the simplest ways they could help out:
- Measuring ingredients
- Snipping herbs with scissors
- Pouring out tins
- Peeling bananas
- Pouring ingredients into jar to make salad dressing
- Shaking dressing.
Any of these would involve minimal supervision depending upon your child’s age and will actually help you out. But keep in mind that just as it took them a while to learn how to ride a bike and you had to push them along those first few goes (hours), so it is with cooking. Focus on one skill at a time and give them your attention when they’re first learning. Eventually you’ll get to a point where they’re skilled enough that it’s enjoyable for all. As my son said about recently learning to ride his bike: “ I’m not doing it for practice anymore, I’m doing it for fun!”