If you’re looking for something to do with the children during the school holidays, then CASA’s Maria Broadbent suggests teaching them some key skills in the kitchen. . . and cooks up some great recipe ideas for you to try with them
The summer holidays are here and many will feel the children have only just gone back after all the Covid closures. Perhaps the summer stretching ahead fills you with excitement at all those activities, however, for many the thought of entertaining children over the summer fills them with dread.
Home schooling became a necessity at times in the last year and being confined to barracks meant that many more people rekindled a love or at very least lost their fear of cooking. Furthermore, we all owe it to our children to send them out into the world as self-sufficient and capable young adults. Key skills needed include being able to launder their own clothes, cleaning, do a food shop, budget for the basics and prepare nutritious meals.
MAKE IT FUN
It is important children find a task engaging and they love being able to do a ‘tah dah!’ at the end of a task. Putting something homemade and edible in front of a loved one and basking in the praise is a great encouragement to further endeavours. Baking cakes is an obvious crowd pleaser but is not always the easiest of jobs and is certainly not the healthiest if repeated too frequently. I have included a few recipes in this article to give you some starter ideas – but let your own tastes, preferences and imagination take the lead.
There are a number of elements in teaching your children to make a meal:
Using a sharp knife safely, grating, using the cooker, using measuring apparatus, the right tools for the right job and timings, to name but a few.
Washing hands, keeping food types separate, sources of food poisoning and keeping your kitchen clean are good starting points.
Discuss the roles of protein, carbohydrates, etc, plus the dangers of excess salt and sugar. Intolerances and allergies are worth looking at, too, as these are on the increase.
This would include budgeting, using all ingredients to prevent waste, finding recipes and ensuring a balanced diet.
Looking at where our foods come from. The impact on the environment, animal welfare and air miles/carbon footprint can be considered. Growing your own ingredients and, of course, reducing dramatically the amount of food waste we produce.
LIST OF BASIC EQUIPMENT
Knives and a knife sharpener (sharp knives are safer than blunt knives)
Chopping boards (colour coded are good to keep raw meat away from veg, etc)
Hand balloon whisk
Mixing bowls (set of nest ones of different sized is good)
Temperature probe (if you feel this would improve confidence)
Set of saucepans with lids (heat up quicker with lid and uses less power)
Non-stick frying pan small/medium and larger deep-sided sauté pan with lid
Set of metal skewers
Masher (not just for spuds but any root veg and also for squishing chopped tomatoes)
. . .and of course a bottle opener (that’s for the grown-ups, of course!)
RECIPE AND MENU IDEAS
Jacket potatoes –an easy and nutritious base for all sorts of toppings. Keep it as simple as baked beans and cheese – or push the boat out and make a chilli and some salad.
Pasta bakes – good, for younger children you can pre-cook and cool the pasta so they are mixing ingredients at room temperature.
Fajitas – another popular dish with youngsters as these can be made as spicy as you like (or not, as the case may be). They introduce the cutting of vegetables and perhaps raw meat, too. Pan frying is also a skill encountered in this recipe. You can buy fajita seasoning in a packet or make your own spice rub or marinade – depending on time and how cheffy you are feeling.
Omelettes – simple and more filling than pancakes. Fillings can be just fresh herbs, mushrooms, crispy bacon, cheese or combinations of the above.
Cottage pie – again you can shortcut with frozen mashed potato or cook from scratch depending on time and budget restraints. Mince beef can be substituted with quorn mince for a vegetarian option or lamb to make shepherd’s pie. This is a fantastic way to use up either cooked or uncooked veg lurking in your fridge.
Meatballs or koftas – easy and fun to make. They can be served on a skewer with pitta and salad, homemade coleslaw or in a tomato sauce. Recipe for our Spanish meatballs is on the Cook Casa YouTube channel.
Fishcakes – leftover mash with any cooked fish. Seasoning, herbs and an egg to bind – dust with flour and pan fry. It is not necessary to cover them in breadcrumbs as this increases the amount of fat they absorb and detracts from the flavour.
Cheese on toast – just the basics or ramp it up and create Welsh Rarebit (not a bunny from Cardiff, but a posh cheese on toast).
Simple baking – could include muffins (sweet or savoury), flapjacks as these can be made more as a breakfast bar with reduced sugar, brownies, scones – including cheese scones – and simple gingerbread men.
The BBC Good Food website is generally a safe source of recipes if they have 4 stars or more – I find the recipes invariably work out well. Plus, all the ingredients are the English variation and the measurements are in metric. If you go down the American route, you will also need a set of cup measures!
4 teaspoons olive oil
600g beef mince
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1-2 celery sticks, chopped – or any other lurking veg
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Bisto beef gravy granules (own brand varieties do not dissolve well enough)
½ tablespoon tomato purée
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
For the mash
900g potatoes, chopped
100g cheddar, grated
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large sauté pan and fry beef mince until browned – you may need to do this in batches. Set aside as it browns.
Put the remaining olive oil into the pan, add finely chopped onions, chopped carrots and chopped celery sticks (additional veg) and cook on a gentle heat until soft, about 20 mins.
Add finely chopped garlic clove, tomato purée, increase the heat and cook for a few mins, then return the beef to the pan.
Pour in the water and boil to reduce it slightly before adding Worcestershire sauce, bring to a simmer and stir in gravy granules – this saves using flour and beef stock.
Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 mins. By this time the gravy should be thick and coating the meat. Check after about 30 mins – if a lot of liquid remains, increase the heat slightly to reduce the gravy a little. Season to taste.
Meanwhile, make the mash. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes which you’ve peeled and chopped, in salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender.
Drain well, then allow to steam dry for a few mins. Mash well with the milk, butter, and three-quarters of the cheddar cheese, then season with some salt and pepper.
Spoon the meat into an ovenproof dish. Pipe or spoon on the mash to cover. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
If eating straight away, heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and cook for 25-30 mins, or until the topping is golden.
COOK CASA CLASSES
We were in the fortunate position to acquire the old winery (Peatlings) during lockdown to give us the additional space to provide social distancing. Now we are returning, all be it slowly and carefully, to normal, we have new plans for this space.
In addition to it being available for private hire and party bookings, we will be running a series of cookery demonstrations with meals and some cookery classes in here. The classes will be varied and some will be a short course and others one off for a particular audience.
We are holding a couple of pre-university courses to equip those headed off this Autumn to the joys of self-catering!
A tapas master class with lunch and drinks is also on the menu.
For those of you continuing with home schooling, we will be running some small bespoke groups from September.
For further details of these and other upcoming courses please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds
Tel 01284 701313