Getting the kids into the kitchen can encourage a greater interest in food and a more open palate. The more they know about the process of cooking, the more they appreciate the work that goes into it.
Each child’s cooking ability is very different, depending on how much previous experience they’ve had or how strong their motor skills are. Here’s a really basic guideline for cooking with kids. Naturally they need monitoring; even teenagers need a degree of monitoring (I know this personally, because of all those tea towels I’ve ever set on fire and had to hide in the garden).
4 – 8 year olds
– Kneading dough, using cookie cutters, rolling, shaping, mixing, whisking are great tasks for younger children as they love tactile tasks
– Retrieving ingredients from the pantry or fridge is a fun task for children and helps them get better at identifying different types of food before they are cooked
– Using measuring cups is an easy task for younger children to manage
– Using measuring cups and scales with specific measurements is great to for children who have knowledge of basic numbers and maths; it encourages the development of their understanding quantities
– Graters are easy to use but make sure they go easy and slow right down as they can grate their hands accidentally if they’re being enthusiastic
– From this point onwards, if the child is focussed you can teach them very simple knife skills and show them the way you roll your fingers under your knuckles to hold what you’re cutting so you only ever have a chance of nicking knucklebones and not ends of fingers. Otherwise using scissors with cutting herbs is a great task for late pre-schoolers to early school age children
8 – 12 year olds
– This age group can really enjoy reading and following a recipe, preferably with parental guidance for clarifying instructions. It’s great for boosting reading skills and for learning new words
– Again, this age group is a good opportunity for developing very basic knife skills and safety. Also using a peeler and can opener can be achieved at this age. Always with supervision.
– Simple appliances can be used at this stage, such as an electric hand mixer, blender, food processor, stand mixer etc. Always give them really careful guidance, make sure the appliance is turned off before blades or attachments are removed etc.
– The stove, oven and microwave can be used with careful monitoring. This age group can appreciate the dangers and applications of heat and fire.
Children over 12
– Most children over 12 will be able to do all the above kitchen and cooking tasks with proficiency. At this point they can have much less monitoring and will be able to ask specific questions and for help should they need it
– Children over 12 will be able to follow recipes and complete dishes on their own, so this is a great time to offer them a chance to have responsibility for a dish and watch them impress you with their skills. Cooking is a lot more fun than most other ‘chores’, so starting the habit of a weekend or several school holiday meals cooked by an older child can be fun for the whole family and a great opportunity for mum or dad’s overworked hands to be given a rest
The following recipes are simple, delicious and well loved by children. Younger children can contribute to the preparation of meals and older children should be able to complete them on their own.
Oven Coddled Eggs
To serve four people you will need 4 medium sized ramekins or oven proof dishes. This also makes a lovely breakfast or lunch dish.
4 free range eggs
A knob of butter
8 tablespoons of cream
A couple of tablespoons chopped soft herbs like parsley, dill, chervil and chives
A cup and a half of additional ingredients such as smoked salmon, trout, ham or pre-cooked vegetables like lightly cooked chard, silverbeet, kale
Handful of grated tasty or parmesan cheese
2-3 slices of toast per person.
- Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius.
- Grease each ramekin with a knob of butter. In each ramekin, add a tablespoon of cream.
- Distribute your extra ingredients in each ramekin on top of the cream.
- Crack an egg over the extras.
- Add another tablespoon of cream over each egg. Sprinkle herbs over the cream.
- Sprinkle cheese over the top.
- Place the ramekins in a deep baking dish. Pour boiling water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Place in the oven and cook for 17 minutes or until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Serve with toast.
Home-made Oven Fish Fingers and Chips
800g white fish such as flathead, ling or whiting
2 cups breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs
1 cup flour
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
4 large potatoes
Green Salad to serve.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
- Cut the potatoes into wedges or chips. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Spread out on a greased baking tray and put in the hot oven.
- Meanwhile, cut the fish into desired ‘finger’ shapes.
- Prepare 3 bowls: one with flour and ½ a teaspoon of salt and some pepper, one with 2 eggs beaten with milk, and 1 one with breadcrumbs with ½ teaspoon of salt and some pepper.
- Dip each piece of fish first in flour, making sure it is completely coated. Dust off the excess flour. Dip the fish in the egg mixture next, allowing excess to drop off. Finally dip the fish in the breadcrumbs and lay on a greased baking tray.
- When the potatoes have been cooking for 30 minutes, place the tray with the fish fingers in next to the tray of potato chips.
- Cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Remove both trays from the oven and serve fish fingers and chips with a green salad.
Also, find our gluten free, big batch Sesame Seed Fish Finger recipe, here.
Polenta ‘Gnocchi’ with Tomato Sauce
2 garlic cloves
2 cans of tinned tomatoes
1 cup basil leaves
Salt and pepper
1 litre of milk
250g coarse polenta
½ grated nutmeg
½ cup grated parmesan
100g grated mozzarella to serve.
- To make the sauce, finely dice the onion and garlic. In a small saucepan, add a tablespoon of oil and heat. Add the onion and garlic, sauté until tender.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, simmer for 10 minutes.
- Finely chop the basil. Add to the sauce.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
- To make the polenta, grease a large sheet of baking paper and place on a tray.
- Add the milk to a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil.
- Pour in the polenta and whisk continuously. Bring the temperature down to low. Cook whisking continuously for 2 minutes.
- Add the parmesan, grated nutmeg, and butter. Whisk to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet to a thickness of about 1-2cm. Allow to cool for 30 minutes at least.
- Using a biscuit cutter or a butter knife, cut the polenta into desired shapes.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Get a ceramic baking dish and spread half the tomato sauce on the bottom.
- Lay the polenta diagonally on top of one another in rows. Top with the rest of the sauce and grated mozzarella.
- Bake for 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.
Other recipes you and your kids could try: