A long soak in vinegar to tenderise, then slow cook for 8 hours.
Just kidding (excuse the pun), am really talking about kids who cook and the joy of passing on knowledge to them. Am sitting writing this while the smell of spag bol is wafting up the stairs. The 12yr old has done a pretty good job.
I think it’s harder to find the time to teach children to cook these days but I don’t think it’s reasonable to say there is NO time to do it. Parents should make time, just a little every so often to teach their children some very basic dishes. And that goes for boys as much as girls. One day, my 12yr old will be out on his own and I want him to understand that it’s possible to cook something good in less time than it takes to get in the car and drive to the takeaway.
I cooked a lot with my mum, but then she didn’t work when I was little. I’m sure there were things that came before it, but the first thing I remember learning how to cook was bechamel sauce. I also cooked a lot of cakes-my mother would put newspaper all over the kitchen bench tops before we started. I particularly remember her teaching me about how to tell when a cake was cooked.
When I was older, I used to go to visit a little old lady who lived next door, Mrs Lobbly. She had a lovely collection of biscuit cutters and bowls and taught me how to make biscuits and scones. On the other side we had another neighbour who made the best lemon meringue pie. My brothers and I would shamelessly go over to her house and flatter her cooking skills so she’d make us one. Inevitably, while my brothers ran off, only to come back to share the spoils later, I stayed and watched how she did it.
Certainly at the age my son is now, I had a much bigger recipe repertoire. I asked right now what he thought he could cook all by himself, and the answer was :a few pasta dishes, some salad, a tortilla (Spanish) and a souffle (! my mother taught him). Actually, he makes a pretty good risotto too and loves making parmesan wafers.
I think the reason I don’t cook with him more is that supervising him cleaning up the mess afterwards is so time-consuming but for the rest of this year and into next, I’m going to ramp it up and make sure there are at least five dishes he can cook with confidence.
Most kids would never make it to Masterchef status, but for me the top dishes I’d teach a child today would be:
1. Pasta with a tomato sauce. Easy (once you’ve impressed on them how to cook pasta al dente!) and they can add things such as olives or anchovies or tuna or fresh basil or some bacon or pancetta perhaps.
2. Risotto. Risotto is easy and like pasta, there are infinite possibilities.
3. An omlette or tortilla. Again, can be transformed easily using whatever’s in the veggie drawer.
4. A steak. Simple, but starting with a good piece of meat, we should teach them how to get the best from it.
5. A sauce. For a child- (as well as a tomato sauce) I’d probably teach something like a pesto. Why? It doesn’t really require cooking and you can use it with all the above- a swipe on a steak, tossed through linguine, dotted into a tortilla or stirred through risotto with some peas and parmesan.
6. A salad. Ok, it’s not cooking, it’s constructing but salads can still be impressive- how easy is a tomato and mozzarella salad? Or a green salad with a bit of avocado? Or even a home-made coleslaw.
So what would you (or are you) teach kids to cook? What did you first learn to cook as a child?