My mother was a brilliant cook and a fabulous baker. She was always in the kitchen whipping up treats to fill the stash of cake and biscuit tins that lined the pantry.
Like many beginner cooks, I got my start hanging around the kitchen waiting to be given the cake mixer to lick. There would always be arguments between my sister and I about who got the bowl and who got the beater, and we would both complain bitterly when our mother scraped everything so clean there was nothing left to lick.
Before long, I was won over to the magic of transforming such simple ingredients as butter, sugar, eggs and flour into gorgeous fragrant baked sweet treats. It started with helping to roll out biscuit dough and measure ingredients and then before I knew it I could bake my own simple cookies, cakes and slices.
Thanks to that time spent cooking with my mum, it’s something I've always done with my children too. Back when they were little we had hours of fun baking and cooking up a storm, trying out new recipes and creating some of our own. Sometimes the results were spectacular and sometimes not so much – but it was all part of the fun, and we would always manage to find a way to use up the less successful creations.
As a consequence of our early kitchen adventures, my two kids are now both pretty handy with a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon – in fact they find themselves in charge of the cooking wherever they go. Knowing how to cook is a key part of the jigsaw of crafting a good life, and I feel so thrilled for them that they have discovered the pleasures of cooking.
If you find your children getting bored during the school holidays or even the weekend, spending time together in the kitchen is a great way to have fun and teach them important life skills. It also encourages them to try new ingredients, as they are much more inclined to try a new fruit, vegetable or dish if they’ve been involved in preparing it.
The first step is to find a recipe you want to cook together. Choose one that doesn't have too many expensive ingredients and complicated steps or require too much fancy equipment. Kids like to take a hands-on approach, so look for recipes that involve lots of rolling, stirring, moulding, cutting (safely of course) and sprinkling.
Here are a few ideas from my website to get you started:
- Pizza – let the kids choose their own toppings
- Chicken and Mint Salad Rolls – kids love rolling these up
- Bacon and Egg Pie – a family favourite
- Cheesy Rocket Scones – leave out the cayenne for younger children
- Mexican Burritos – use chicken instead of beef mince if you prefer
- Choconut Slice – super simple, simply scrumptious
- Gingerbread Cookies – what kid doesn't like getting busy with a cookie cutter?
- Strawberry Custard Tarts – a snip to make using frozen pastry sheets and shop-bought custard
- Sticky Buns – discover the miracle of yeast
- Chocolate Truffle Fudge Cake – leave our the whisky or rum if cooking for kids
Once you've found a recipe you want to cook, line up all the ingredients on the bench – engage your young ones as ‘kitchen explorers’ so they discover where things are kept.
Now the fun begins. Get the kids to measure out the ingredients and without even knowing it they’ll be learning about fractions, volumes and quantities.
The more kids feel they have done themselves the better, so resist the temptation to take over when it all looks like it’s getting too messy. You'll be much more relaxed if you just accept that the kitchen is going to end up looking like a bomb hit it, and then make cleaning up at the end (or as they go along) part of the adventure.
Once they're done celebrate the results – whatever they may be! Maybe take a photo of them with their creations for posterity (or my Facebook page). Enjoy sharing the food you have made together, or help them package up a sample so they can show off their efforts to grandparents, neighbours, aunts or cousins.
I’d love to see how you get on, so take a photo and post it to my Facebook page. And most importantly, have fun!