If you’re of a certain age then you too may have had a copy of My Learn to Cook Book – a large A4 hardback featuring a cat and dog sat next to a (now) retro cooker. Both my husband and I recall cooking classic seventies recipes from this book, from Apple Snow with cubes of crunchy apple in a frothy mix to squidgy Baked Bananas, or rich Chocolate Mouse to Lemon Fizz drink – a substitute for lemonade as I recall. Over 30 years later it’s fitting that our 10 year old daughter is equally drawn to its bright hand-drawn images and simple, step by step recipes.

While on holiday this summer in Normandy we had lots of fun making pizza, tarts and puddings. On our return this interest was reignited by a great holiday cooking club (thanks Wooden Spoons).  Collecting my 7 and 10 year old with the remains of their creations, they were keen to explain to me how they’d made scrumptious burgers, apple coleslaw and Eton mess. Since then our house has been like a heat of Masterchef! First both made 24 beef and tomato relish burgers for a family reunion, delicious by all accounts. Next came a surprise breakfast of hand-pressed tomato juice; yogurt and muesli served with grated white chocolate (a wonderfully indulgent twist); then eggs baked in tomatoes – gorgeously browned eggs cooked in the scooped out tomato shells.  In the afternoon, with shopping bags unpacked, my daughter set to work on making the most delicious crepes I have ever tasted. Rich, crisp and unctuous these eclipsed all other pancakes that I’ve tasted and that’s nothing to do with being biased!

Image

After burning off some energy it was time to start making pizzas for tea. Vigorous kneading transformed dough covered sticky fingers into squidgy soft dough. Then came the fun of adding our own toppings to the bases – mozzarella, green pepper, onion, mushroom, spinach, tomato and cheddar for me and pepperoni and a mix of toppings for everyone else. The result was mouth wateringly delicious, cheaper than shop bought pizzas, healthy and lots of fun to make.

Just when I thought we’d exhausted our culinary interest I was proved wrong. In fact it doesn’t get much better on a weekend morning to a) have a lie in and b) be woken up by a ‘waitress’ taking your order for breakfast! And so Saturday began with yoghurt, muesli and grated chocolate; a fruit cocktail drink (fresh orange, mango, caster sugar, sparkling water and ice in case you’re interested); eggs in tomatoes (this time with the seasoning fine tuned); and cheese and bacon croque monsieur! What a start to the weekend!

Image

Cooking has so many benefits from the learning to be gained from measuring, following instructions and discovering the properties of different substances first hand; the creativity of experimenting and adding a personal twist; understanding of what food is and where it comes from; interest in healthy eating and what goes in our food; and the sensory workout as the sights, sounds, smells and tastes infuse memories. Cooking is also a great way of giving children agency and control, building confidence and supporting children with food aversions.

With many children and adults unsure of where food comes from and the seasons barely noticeable from the food on our plate, I love this focus on cooking. The only challenge is making time for a brisk walk in readiness for the next heat of Masterchef! 

Advertisements