Approx 660 words.

Co-op food editor Gregor McMaster puts on the ultimate holiday cookery school class, teaching kids (and grown-ups!) his top chef skills.

School’s out and the summer holidays are here! But if you’re not sure how you’re going to entertain the kids for the next few weeks, why not send them back to (cookery) school? I’m talking about getting them in the kitchen to learn some basic cookery, from chopping to baking to how to poach an egg. These are practical skills for life – plus, I’ve always noticed that fussy eaters are much more likely to try something they’ve made themselves!

While little ones can help with stirring and measuring ingredients, I’d recommend introducing any more advanced skills to kids aged 10 years and over, such as chopping or dealing with very hot things. Safety is always a priority too, so make sure to supervise your children at all times.

1. Basic baking

From bread to biscuits, teaching children a few key bakes will open up a whole new world of cooking. There are a few main rules I tend to live by: be as precise as you can when measuring ingredients, keep an eye on your bakes as they cook (oven temperatures can vary) and if it goes wrong, no worries – just try again! Start with something simple, like scones or soda bread, which help children learn the art of mixing, measuring and rubbing together ingredients – many of which are transferrable to other recipes.

Give it a go:
Simple soda bread
Carrot cake cookies

2. How to poach an egg

Watching an egg poach might just open up little eyes to the science of cooking. Bring a pan of water to the boil, then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Give the water a stir to create a whirlpool effect, then crack in your egg (this will help keep the egg white together). Cook for 2 minutes for a runny yolk, 3 minutes for a medium yolk and 4-5 minutes for a firmer texture.

Give it a go:
Carrot fritters with poached eggs
Brussels hash with crispy chorizo and poached egg
Loaded lentil dahl

3. How to chop with a knife (safely)

Safety first! Youngsters will need adult supervision when learning any new kitchen skill, especially when using sharp knives, so keep a close eye. Chopping firm fruits and veggies can be a challenge, but by following a few simple steps, you can do so safely. First, stabilise your chopping board by putting a damp cloth underneath it. Next, create a flat edge on the fruit or vegetable you’re chopping (by cutting an onion in half, for example) – by placing the edge flat on the chopping board, you can cut the rest much more easily. It’s also a good idea to curl your fingers under slightly when cutting, to keep the tips away from the sharp blade.

Give it a go:

Indian-style cucumber salsa
Watermelon & Feta lettuce cups

4. How to peel vegetables

It’s important to encourage children to eat the rainbow from a young age, so you may as well get them used to preparing and eating veg as much as possible. Peeling is a fantastic way to add different textures to dishes. Peeling courgettes or carrots into ribbons, for example, makes them perfect for salads and means you don’t have to cook them.

Give it a go:
Courgette & corn salad
Prawn cucumber noodles

5. How to make a tomato sauce

There are so many recipes that use a tomato sauce, and it’s easy to adapt it to suit different dishes. Once you’ve mastered the ultimate tomato sauce, why not add extra veg for texture, dried herbs for flavour or pulses for bite and heartiness. Every chef has their favourite style of sauce!

Give it a go:
Gnocchi in tomato sauce
Sardines on sourdough toast

Discover all our recipes here, for everything from midweek dinner ideas to brilliant breakfasts and speedy snacks.

Gregor McMaster
Food editor

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