One of the key messages of the #NoJunk campaign is getting your kids cooking, so this post is all about meals younger kids can make without using the hob. It's homecooking with the first hints of you not having to do it all and there's no junk in sight.
Sometimes asking your kids to help round the house is not all that successful. Washing-up leads to tidal
waves of suds, the hoover probably makes them cry and folding laundry turns into ‘soft play’. However, there are some very good reasons why getting your kids to do some of the cooking has got to be a good thing. From the labour-saving - there might come a point where you don’t have to do all the cooking. To the practical - your kids will become competent grown-ups who can feed themselves properly. To the educational – all that measuring, weighing and general kitchen alchemy is all good learning. To the emotional – the endearing and disproportionate pride they’ll feel in feeding you for a change.
So, here are four simple suggestions for very first dishes your child can cook; you’ve got three all-in-one mains and one pud. There’s no hob involved, so all the construction can be done cold. Levels of independence and supervision are your call. Useful kit includes these brilliant serrated, but blunt knives, which even very small children can use safely (once they are past the eye-poking, chewing-things stage of course).
Salad actually has a lot going for it as a first meal for children to prepare; it is cold and instantly ready. There’s also something about the throw-it-in, chaotic nature of salad-making that appeals to kids. Give them all the usual salad suspects to cut or rip up, then offer them a random collection of goodies from the fridge and let them create.
Or go for a more coherent approach and make prawn cocktail, provide cooked beef strips for this Sesame beef salad or pieces of cooked chicken with a jam jar dressing: a splash of olive oil, wine vinegar, a squeeze of honey and a blob of whole grain mustard all shaken up in a jam jar.
Parcel based cooking is great for children, because they get to create a complete dinner for each family member. This can be made with fresh or frozen fish, in fact there’s no need to defrost it first. You might need to sneak in and check the parcels are secure before cooking, or switch to foil which is easier to scrunch together.
· 4 handfuls of washed spinach
· 1 courgette, chopped
· 1 red pepper, chopped
· A few cooked new potatoes for each person
· 1 tin of tomatoes
· 1 tsp pesto
· Four pieces of white fish
· A few basil leaves
· Black pepper
· A few black olives/ frozen prawns if you like
1. Take four large pieces of baking parchment and add a pile of spinach to the middle of each. Then pile on the chopped vegetables and potatoes.
2. Tip the tomatoes into a bowl and stir in the pesto. Pop a fish piece on top of the veg and spoon over the tomatoes. Add basil leaves, black pepper and olives.
3. Seal up the parcel as best you can – I find the Cornish pasty approach the best.
4. They can sit in the fridge for a few hours at this stage if that’s helpful. Cook for 20-25 minutes at 200, or less if they’ve sat in the fridge defrosting.
Another parcel-based recipe, but because this one takes longer to cook you can put the potatoes in raw. Obviously have a conversation about raw chicken and get children to wash their hands carefully afterwards and consider using tongs to pick up the chicken. There’s no real need for a specific recipe, lots of things work in a parcel with chicken and potatoes, see what the kids think:
- · Thyme, crème fraiche or full fat soft cheese, mushrooms
- · Carrots, squeeze of orange juice, black pepper
- · Same as the fish parcels above
These will need to be wrapped in foil and baked for about 35 minutes at 200 degrees, always check your breasts though, in every sense.
This is a satisfyingly simple little pudding to put together, it’s just bread, butter, pear and brown sugar, yet it creates a pretty impressive looking pud. Even if it doesn’t end up looking impressive, it’s still going to taste good. Make sure you’re using very ripe pears though. You could peel them or not bother, depending on whether peeling is achievable for your kids.
· 4 tablepoons of very soft butter
· 4 or 5 very ripe pears (you could even use a tin of pears…)
· A few teaspoons of brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 200. Brush the insides of a pudding basin with plenty of butter. Then spread the rest on the bread.
2. Cut the bread into strips or pieces and line the bottom and sides of the basin with bread, try to overlap it a bit. Save a bit of the lid
3. Chop up the pears and add them to the basin, layering them with sprinklings of sugar.
4. Make a lid out of bread and bake until it’s golden and crispy. Serve with ice cream.