PAlisa Anderson’s children followed her into the kitchen from a young age. Now in their tweenage years, they have reached full-fledged sous-chef status. “I feel like people really underestimate how capable kids are at that age,” she says.
Chopping, peeling and picking are now part of their tasks in the kitchen – and they are particularly adept at the last task. Whilst children aren’t your normal kitchen handlers as much of Australia is in lockdown, cooking together can be a great way to spend time and learn something new.
Here are a few recipes to get you started.
Pancakes and pizza are both classic dishes to make with kids, between sifting flour, sprinkling, and relatively quick gratification. That makes Beth Bentley’s recipe for magic pizza a double winner – it’s a pizza and a pancake at the same time, and it can be made in under half an hour.
Not quite as quick but just as easy is David Atherton’s pasta bake, which is endlessly customizable between choosing pasta shapes and choosing “whatever you want,” he writes.
If you’re looking for a dish that kids can make unaided, “Eggs are great,” says Anderson. If you have a rice cooker, she recommends an especially nutritious make-it-yourself meal for kids. “My kids know how to cook rice in a rice pot,” she says, noting that first-time users should be taught to pay attention to the steam that comes out when the pot is opened. Have your kids put on a portion of rice, and when it’s half-boiled, wash an egg carefully, put it in the rice cooker with the shell and all, using a spoon to avoid getting burned, and wait until the Rice ready is ready cooking. “Then, when it’s cool enough, you peel the egg,” it says back into the rice, “and mix it with some fish sauce.”
For younger kids, try something that’s part meal and part play dough, like Rachel Roddy’s handmade pici pasta with pea and ricotta sauce. “Kids like mixing flour and water and then beating into a dough, stirring, separating eggs, baking pizza, slicing cookies,” she writes. “They’re completely immersed in the process.” Making these worm-like pici is “pasty fun.”
When making soup, Anderson applies her children’s nimble hands to the quest for treasure – by picking stick bones clean. “You can pretty much use any bones, chicken carcasses… Basically you separate the broth from all the parts and once the parts have cooled, the kids go hunting. It’s like an archaeological dig, but for food.” Recently, she made a broth with beef bones that lived in the freezer, and “after the bones cooled, I gave the kids crab pickers and asked them to pick all the meat off the marrow bones , all the sticky bits from the knuckles, the soft bits of sinew… all the jelly bits that the kids are responsible for, and then they go back into the soup. Along with the good texture, there’s an added benefit: “They pick it a lot cleaner than me, it’s like picking your nose.” Anderson simmered and skimmed her broth all day, using vegetable peelings and other leftovers, and adding at the end fresh vegetables, boiled beans and fried fish. But if you’re new to bearing making, here’s a guide.
Yotam Ottolenghi suggests preparing his mozzarella rice cakes, which require shaping with your hands, on a full stomach. That’s because kids are “a lot more focused when they’re not hungry — so these are ideal because they can be made a day ahead and fried the next day.”
Uyen Luu compares Vietnamese summer rolls to sandwiches – “you can put anything in them and kids love them”. Her recipe uses omelet and avocado, and while making the dish, the kids are “allowed to touch everything and assemble the roll however they like.”
If you are afraid of getting burned, even young children can get involved in preparing recipes without cooking, which is also an exercise in patience. Made from chia seeds and blueberries, the overnight oats by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl have a pleasantly sticky frog spawn quality.
For Felicity Cloake, it’s not only fun to say fruit fools, but it’s “just right for little kids” because it’s delicious and “stupidly quick and easy to whip up…you can make it with just about any fruit you like, Make it vegan, dress it up for a special occasion, or make it so healthy you could even eat it for breakfast.”
Even in the depths of winter, making homemade paddle pops is still fun – especially these relatively healthy, very pretty ones from Ottolenghi, made with yoghurt and surprisingly beetroot.
If you’re looking for an intricate, multi-day, part cooking, part craft project, Kim Joy’s Chocolate Cake Terrarium is for you. The jelly rocks need to be made several days in advance, then there are the dinosaur cookies, the colorful sprinkles, the chocolate mousse, and the cake itself. It all culminates in the final act of fun: assembling the dish. Just make sure you have a fishbowl lying around before you start.
For something simpler, Jackie Middleton’s impossible cake, which bakes with a “perfectly wobbly” custard center, can be made in just over an hour. “I’ve taught my kids the recipe and made dozens of variations along the way,” she writes.
After all, there’s always a bag cake mix for a simple win. Canstar polled 1,300 Australians to find the best of the bunch, and Aldi’s White Mill version came out on top.
What did you cook with your children? Share ideas and suggestions in the comments.