Friday, 28 June 2013

Cooking with kids - plus a couple of my own recipes

Michela prepping a cake tin
I recently received a copy of BBC Good Food magazine alongside a press release mentioning a Cooking with Kids survey. My daughter and I love to make drop scones (aka Scotch pancakes) on Sundays and bake cakes. She likes to grease the tin with my silicone brush because it's like painting, albeit with oil.

Cakes were the first 'dishes' I learnt to make too. I think I was around 10 when I decided to bake my own cakes - my mother, who is a very good cook - didn't have a magic touch with cakes, although she excelled with Mont Blanc and rice puddings.

My grandmothers were both excellent - one actually ran a restaurant on the ground floor of our house, so I grew up in a restaurant kitchen. She made this great dessert by wrapping a pear in pastry, like a pear in a basket and baking it for us as a treat (my brother and cousin too). I helped to make ravioli and was waitress/dishwasher at weddings for pocket money. Running a restaurant and bar is hard work, so we kids passed on it - the restaurant is still going though, my parents and uncle/aunt are renting it out.

I capitalised on my 'knowledge' and love for food a few years back by developing recipes for baby and family meals for Made for Mums. Here are my recipe for Easy, Spanish-style Paella and Italian-style rice pudding. There are several more on the website, these were all tried and tested.

BBC Good Food - the survey
Back to the survey, this included 1,349 parents and children and revealed that the combination of an abundance of TV cookery shows and a more relaxed attitude to household roles means that children are cooking from the age of 6, compared to an average of 10 years old for their parents’ generation.

This is spot on, although Michela started earlier by assisting me with cupcakes for school and local fetes. I also went to her preschool when she was 3 to make gnocchi with the kids and they all loved it. The survey acknowledges this, six is the average age so I'm sure there are other younger kids out there holding the pastry brush.

Kids love activities and cooking is a winner because there is something yummy to eat at the end of the process. The survey was commissioned in support of BBC Good Food’s ‘Get Kids cooking weekend’, which coincided with Father's Day. This is another sign of the times, my partner does most of the cooking at home, he is a Masterchef fan and likes to watch countless cookery shows. Acquaintances find it strange as I'm Italian and he is British, but he can cook Chinese, Indian and British classics pretty well. He also cooks pasta al dente.

The survey's key findings were:
  • Only 40% of adults say their skills were better than their children’s skills at the same age.
  • The average age parents with children under 16 learned to cook is 10. The average age their children are learning is 6.
  • Today’s children are learning earlier than their parents on 10 skills polled, from cooking an omelette and chopping an onion to making a white sauce.
  • According to parents, the top reasons for the previous generation learning later were: parents being less relaxed about kids in the kitchen, (27%); cooking having a lower profile than today, (25%) and it previously being regarded as a girl’s task (16%).
  • According to parents, the top reasons kids enjoy cooking at a young age is that 50% of parents view cooking as an essential life skill, 47% of children are inspired by television cookery shows and 41% of respondents see it as good family bonding time.
BBC Good Food's editor Gillian Carter commented: “It is easy to forget that for years home cooking was the preserve of the adult woman of the household, and often children were shooed out of the kitchen. Today cooking, inspired in part by television, is seen as an opportunity to spend time together doing something fun and practical. 50% of parents view it as an essential life skill and the great thing is Dads are just as involved as mums. We want to capitalise on this enthusiasm with our children’s cooking campaign.”

Back to BBC Good Food magazine, I thought it was full of sensible, realistic recipes that I want to make. Many cookbooks are just eye candy - the list of ingredients is long and scary; the processes are long and complicated... Parents are short of time, we can't spend a whole day 'nurturing' a piece of meat. However, freshly made food is important for us, we only resort to ready-made food on occasions. We shop from various sources to get the best ingredients - supermarkets, markets, farm shops, ethnic shops, organic shops....

I was pleased to see the magazine has retained its identity and is not following food fads. I freelanced at BBC Good Food years ago, when it was across the road (sort of) from the television centre and I thought they had an impressive test kitchen. The new kitchen looks great too!

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