'To help cook is one of the most enjoyable things of childhood - to say nothing of, being a sure way of producing good cooks.'
'The Hidden Art of Homemaking'
'The Hidden Art of Homemaking'
I have given you a glimpse of our surrounds at Eight Acres of Eden. In future posts I'll show you our vegetable gardens which have just been replanted following our summer harvest and I'll take you to the herb garden where the oregano runs wild, a never ending supply for pizzas, soups, stews and Greek style chicken. But right now I'd like to invite you to come and linger for a while around my kitchen island bench. This is where the freshly picked produce ends up, ready to be chopped into salads, frozen for desserts, juiced or preserved. These are our own bananas! Small, sweet lady finger bananas, the ideal toddler snack. They have all ripened now, so we are freezing them for banana ice cream, a delicious dairy-free dessert.
We also have cherry guavas which we had to harvest quickly, as the cat birds were starting to raid the tree. The guavas were turned into a guava jelly. The last of the tomatoes are ripening in the 3 tiered sprouter which I found to be a perfect mini greenhouse for my bench. I thought of using it when I had so many green tomatoes covering the bench there was no room to place dishes.
I am blessed to have a team of creative cooks in my kitchen. My eldest daughter is the chief baker and pastry chef. My second eldest girl is a novice chef who is growing in confidence and whenever we have a good supply of eggs from our chickens, I call on my youngest son to make his signature dish for lunch- omelets . We have two assistant cooks, my three year old twin girls and I claim the role of bread maker - I have to do something!
The assistant cooks, also act as recipe testers but having 'twin testers' means sometimes, we end up with two trays of biscuits instead of three! But I don't mind, as I know they are experiencing the pleasure of cooking. They are so eager to help, to stir the mixture, cut out the scones and knead the dough. They are actually becoming quite skilled at this early age, they know what ingredients are needed and can anticipate the next step in the process.
I have never given in to the temptation of buying my girls a 'play kitchen' with a plastic sink, plastic pans and plastic food - why? Because it would clutter up the house and why spend money, when they can play and learn in a real kitchen with real pots and pans, real utensils and real food and hey - you can't eat plastic food! The girls do have a cute play tea set but they much prefer to be alongside me or their sisters helping to make something delicious for afternoon tea. Here they are making a delectable chocolate mousse for tonight's dessert.
The twins are certainly taking after their big sister who was 'born to bake'. As soon as she could read sufficiently well, she was pouring over cook books, trying out different recipes and inventing her own versions. She had her fair share of 'disasters' but giving her the freedom to learn from experience (rather than intervening) and allowing her some 'free reign' to experiment has seen her become a competent, creative cook who would give Nigella a run for her money!
Desserts are her speciality and she loves to make them not only for the family but also for neighbours and outside functions. On Christmas day she made a sticky date pudding for our neighbour who is a widow. This was her idea. As it happened, she was having two friends over for dinner and the ladies enjoyed their pudding so much, they sent requests back, not for the recipe but could she please open her own restaurant in town? Who knows, maybe one day she will!
This is the dessert we enjoyed on Saturday evening, chocolate and honeycomb mousse. It was smooth and creamy with crunchy chocolate surprises!
Here are some ideas to inspire children in the kitchen.
1. Allow them in! Don't worry about the mess, it can be cleaned up and teach them to clean as they go. Once they are in, let them help, don't take over.
2. Have lots of accesible child-friendly cook books ones that have vibrant colour photographs. Your child will plead ' Can we please make this mum, it looks so good! I keep my collection in a basket under my island bench. My favourite cook is Jo Seager, she's a well known New Zealand tv cook and she has produced lots of cookbooks. I have several but my most used is her 'New Zealand Country Cook Book'. I also have a more recent edition of her classic 'You shouldn't have gone to so much trouble darling' Isn't that a gorgeous title! Her recipes work every time, I only ever use her muffin recipe but these days I tend to use honey or rapadura in place of refined sugar. You can find some of her recipes at her website www.joseager.com
3. Encourage your child to create their own recipe journal Have them write out recipes, draw or paste in pictures, or for a younger child, take photos of the stages of a simple recipe that they can follow. Also take photos of their finished creation!
4. For a keen cook consider as a gift, a subscription to a cookery magazine.
In the past, I have bought my daughter a year's subscription to Donna Hay magazine. She loved receiving a new book each month in the mailbox. Donna Hay also publishes an annual kids edition. Last Christmas I bought her the Cath Kidston recipe organizer which has dividers, recipe cards and really useful folders. I look through it and admire the gorgeous designs and dream of the day I will be able to afford to dress my home in her fabrics! That is probably not going to happen but the recipe folder was a very reasonable price.
5.Make or buy children their own aprons. For my husband's 40th birthday we hosted an 'All Blacks' dinner party, he's a Kiwi and a keen rugby fan. Not only was the table dressed in black but my children wore their black aprons which had their names embroidered in silver. I had this done professionally, it cost $5 per name and the cotton aprons were $10 from 'Spotlight'.
I also had the same apron embroidered with my name. When our guests arrived we stood in a line, wearing our aprons and served them drinks and appetizers. Our guests all wore black too and we enjoyed a wonderful evening with traditional kiwi fare, lamb and kumara (sweet potato) but plated up restaurant style. Personalized aprons are also a great gift idea for adults who like to cook.
6.Another wonderful gift idea for a young cook is to assemble their own special 'cooking kit'. Purchase a bright mixing bowl and fill it with useful kitchen accessories, maybe an apron, a cook book or blank recipe journal, a wooden spoon, cookie cutters, paper cake cases and even some ingredients to get them started in the kitchen. I personally would avoid cake decorations that have artificial colours. Wrap it up in cellophane and tie on a co-ordinating ribbon and add a hand made gift tag.... in the shape of a cupcake or a chef's hat. Use your imagination! I have seen cute kid's cooking sets in magazines but they are pretty expensive. Put together your own for a fraction of the cost. Closer to Christmas I'll share some more ideas for creative children's 'kits'. I've displayed these at my seminars (I have run Christmas decorating and gift seminars for more than ten years.. it's not a business as such, just something I love to do - inspire others!) The 'kits' especially the kitchen kit is always a hit with people searching for alternatives to toys at Christmas.
Hope this has provided some 'food for thought'. Cooking and serving food is something we all have to do, so why not enjoy it! Edith Schaeffer considered cooking to be a 'hidden art' and believed it should be:
'recognized and developed in everyone who has to cook, wants to cook or could cook!' She said that 'cookery, should never be thought of as a drudgery.'
And because I want my children to never consider cooking a drudgery I will encourage every culinary attempt, offer sympathy when it doesn't work out and praise every triumph!
With love and joy,