Category Archives: Kids Cooking

Roast Vegetable Hummus and the Simplest Flat Bread Ever

Okay, it’s been a while and sadly I’m not about to regale you with fabulous tales of holidays and adventures that have filled my days. It’s just that Peter (the husband) is away in Antarctica for a few weeks and my life seems to be a hectic (read chaotic) combination of working all over the place at funny hours (a result of being freelance that I usually embrace) and farming Imi out to wonderfully supportive family, friends and neighbours (three cheers for “Spare Granny” Sasha) at both ends of the day.

The amazingly bright autumn weather (not today – the S.A.D. lamp is definitely on), a few trips to The Bristol Lido to swim outside and some very special one-to-one time with Imi have thankfully made the chaos pretty wonderful too. I feel so blessed living in Bristol where I took these pictures just 5 minutes walk from the house. Last Sunday, the 1st of November, just felt like a bonus, an almost summery day, before we hit the colder weather – everyone was out (and I remembered that I really, really need a dog).

One of my Autumn highlights has to be the day spent at Victoria Park Primary School, in Bristol, helping with their Healthy Schools Week. I was working with Ramona Andrews: a school Mum, food writer, social media guru, producer (she’s a talented lass) and we a ball (a tiring one, but oh so rewarding). The idea was to get kids cooking, tasting and experimenting with simple recipes that happened to be healthy too, rather than the didactic approach.

With over 30 kids at a time, in the school art room, it wasn’t going to be individual soufflés so we settled on flat breads and hummus. It was all about tasty, simple and accessible recipes that the kids would most likely eat too and with Halloween looming we thought we’d throw some roasted pumpkin into the hummus. The room was filled with great wafts of garlic, cumin, baking bread and lots of noise (good noise, enthusiastic, excited noise).

One thing that I’ve learnt about cooking with children is that everyone wants, and needs, to be busy for every available second (I so, so appreciate you school teachers – it’s knackering). We had plenty of grating going on to keep everyone gainfully employed and made a massive bowl of salad. Radishes, beetroot, carrots, cucumber, apples, pears, seeds, herbs, lemon zest – it all went in, and of course there were a few doubters (some rather more vociferous than others) but pretty much everybody tried the end result and, best of all, most of them loved it.

So here you have my recipes from the day and though I do admit to buying hummus sometimes, and pitta bread too, this reminded me how simple, cheap and adaptable they are to make. The children were amazed at how easy it is to prepare the basic flat breads with plenty of scope to play around sprinkling with different spices They’re ideal for baking with some eager little helpers but worth throwing some together for yourself too.

Halloween may be over, pumpkin fever a thing of the past, but there are plenty of squash around in the markets and shops to experiment with. The texture is fabulous in hummus and the slightly nutty, caramelised flavour works well with Middle Eastern spicing or you could try some rosemary instead. The children devoured this, one even suggested that it would be good for “dipping KFC chips in”! (you can’t win ’em all) but the best thing was the palpable excitement  at eating something they’d prepared.

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Hummus

1 x 400 g can of chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin (roast and grind your own if you have time)
juice of 1/2 -1 lemon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt and ground black pepper

Whizz up the the chickpeas in a food processor with the garlic, the juice of 1/2 the lemon and most of the cumin.

Blend for a moment or two before adding the olive oil. If the hummus is very stiff you can add 1-2 tablespoons of water. Blend again until you have a nicely textured, rather than smooth, paste.

Season with the black pepper. Have a taste and decide whether you want to add more lemon juice.

Coriander or parsley are great stirred in at the last moment (no earlier or your hummus will look a murky khaki colour.

Roasted Vegetable Hummus

600 g carrots or pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1 x hummus recipe above

Pre heat the oven to 200ºC, fan oven 180ºC, gas mark 6

Put the carrot or pumpkin pieces into a roasting tin and add the olive oil, tossing to coat the vegetables and sprinkling with a little salt. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until they’re beginning to brown and caramelise.

Add the vegetables (hot or cold, it doesn’t matter) to the food processor  (or whizz with a stick blender), purée until smooth and then stir in the hummus.

Tip: Try using other vegetables such as roasted peppers, onions or aubergines too.

Simple Flat Breads (12)

250 g self raising wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
250 g natural yoghurt

Just mix everything together in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Squash the dough around in the bowl with your hands until it feels smooth and then roll the ball in a little four to stop it sticking the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or tea towel for at least 20 minutes

Divide the dough into 10 (easiest to chop in half and then cut the halves into 5 each- get the Maths going) Roll out until they are the thickness of a pound coin and bake in the hottest oven possible or cook on a ridged griddle until baked through..

Brush with oil and herbs ( try za’atar : sumac, sesame, tried thyme and salt) or garlic butter and eat straight away.

Grated Fruit and Vegetable Salad

You don’t need a recipe really but here are a few suggestions – a great moment to empty the veg’ basket and fruit bowl. It’s a fab’ way to introduce new flavours to kids, pile in plenty of the familiar and then just a little of something new.

Dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning1 apple/pear
1 beetroot red or golden or even candy-striped (the kids loved these)
2 carrots
1 -2 sticks of celery
Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, dill or coriander.

Put your dressing into a bowl and grate the r fruit and vegetables into it (turning so that they don’t get a chance to brown)
Mix everything together ( it’s best to stir in beetroot at the very end or you will end up with a Barbie-pink salad – you may want to wear gloves whilst you are grating).

Taste and season , then add nuts, seeds, herbs whatever you fancy.

 

 

 

Deconstructed Minestrone

Minestrone SaladIt does sound seriously poncey I know, but this salad came about quite by mistake and not as some highfalutin cheffy notion. A couple of weeks ago I was running a workshop at Imi’s Primary School with an entire class of Year 3 (7-8 year olds) and had planned on making a huge minestrone soup showcasing some of the vegetables picked in the school garden. Of course that particular day turned out to be the heatwave of the century (it did only last a day) and hot soup really did not fit the bill at all. SO, deconstructed minestrone it was and how tasty it turned out to be too.

I’ve started teaching regular cooking workshops with the help of some enthusiastic parents at my daughter’s primary school; it’s quite a challenge as we’re working in the dining room, have just one small oven and no individual hobs as yet. Interestingly these limitations forced me to really think how to go about the sessions and now we have a great formula. In each class we have a core recipe such as a bulgur wheat salad, or Turkish borek (little folded filo pastries) or in today’s case minestrone with about 4 or 5 key ingredients and a few basic instructions. Then we let the kids loose on a whole variety of other vegetables, herbs, cheeses, spices and seasonings (or any other appropriate bits) that I’ve arranged on a huge table. The children work in small groups on their recipe; it’s quite extraordinary to watch the peer pressure and competitive spirit at work -suddenly previously green-phobic kids are diving into pea shoots, raw courgette, dill and avocado.

Perhaps the most gratifying  thing about our Food Group sessions is the parental feed back, some children are even sending their mothers off with shopping lists so that they can reproduce the simple meal back at home, others are being more adventurous in their food choices. There’s no doubt that cooking is key to getting children excited about eating healthy food (it’s not just about making chocolate brownies and cup cakes – I could rant now but we’ll leave that for another day)

But back to the Minestrone –  a classic Italian dish that translates as “big soup”, it varies with the region and the season but is quite definitely never a salad! So get off my back Italophiles.  I know that it doesn’t really make sense but the ingredients (with the obvious omission of the stock) are basically the same – just raw rather than cooked.  This “Deconstructed Minestrone”  is great way of plumping up a summer salad into a substantial lunch dish and also using up any random vegetables that are good eaten raw. It’s up to you how many ingredients you throw into the mix.

Deconstructed Minestrone.

Minestrone Jenny Chandler

70’s Style Still L ife

The Base
250 g cannellini or haricot beans ( 1 x 400 g can of  beans drained or home – cooked – it’s up to you)
100 g tiny pasta e.g.  orzo (like tiny rice), acini de pepe (literally pepper corns) or stellette (little stars )
250 g ripe, tasty tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces
3 or 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely slice
A large handful of basil leaves, ripped into small pieces
Shavings or parmesan or pecorino cheese

The Dressing
Juice of 1 lemon
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Optionals
Fresh peas straight from the pod
Courgette, cut into very fine slices (yes, raw courgette is delicious and a winner with the kids)
Celery, chopped finely
Red or yellow pepper cut into tiny dice
Carrot, diced finely
Parsley, dill, mint, oregano, rocket, pea shoots, baby spinach
French beans or baby broad beans, blanched until tender.

Rinse the cannelloni or haricot beans and place them in a large salad bowl.

Boil the pasta in salted water until just “al dente” it’s pretty quick with all these tiny, soupy shapes so keep an eye. Drain the pasta and add it to the beans.

Now add the remaining vegetables and dressing to the bowl, holding back on tender herbs, salad leaves and the cheese shavings until you are just about ready to serve.

The salad only improves with a few extra hours in the bowl with all the flavours getting to know one another.

You could add tinned tuna (leave out the cheese), anchovies, capers or olives to the mix but now we are really straying from the minestrone roots.

 

Sadly, hot soup seems the better option today as I sit at my desk in summer frock and flip flops desperately trying to think sultry sunny thoughts. We’re off to W.O.M.A.D. ( a fabulous music festival) tomorrow, the wellies and not-so-fashionable rain ponchos are by the front door but I’m crossing my fingers.

 

 

Homemade Granola and Mothering Sunday

Jenny Chandler Mothering Sunday

Last year I wrote a blog piece for Borough Market about Mothering Sunday and my hopes for a lengthy lie-in and simple day of feeling appreciated and loved. As I said, I have no need for a luxury pampering kit or a “Mum in a million” mug and really no desire to be woken up with the dawn chorus to eat breakfast in bed.

Surprise, surprise. I was woken at seven (can’t complain too much, but not exactly a lie in) by Imi and Peter with a “Mum Rules” mug and two trays of breakfast delights for us to spill on the sheets. And yes, the sheets were filled with scratchy crumbs when I got to bed that night and there was jam on the duvet cover. They’d also been up to some baking………. Just in case you haven’t read my blog before and assume that I have two children, Peter is in his fifties, Imi was seven at the time. They managed to confuse tablespoons for the teaspoons of baking powder in the recipe so that the chocolate cake literally erupted leaving a small chewy biscuit in the bottom of the cake tin and a rather large cowpat of molten chocolate lava burnt onto the bottom of the oven.

SO….if you’re reading Peter (or any father for that matter, who might just manage to steer proceedings in their own household) This is my dream Mother’s day morning.

Having a lengthy doze in bed whilst Imi spends a ridiculous amount of time laying a beautiful table, adorning it with a few flowers (provide a suitably small vase or the garden/window box could be decimated) and serving up some fabulous homemade treats. Imi and I have been cooking and baking together quite a lot recently so she’d be up to scratch with some muffins….. But, my dessert island option would be this homemade honey granola with tangy rhubarb compote and a bowl of Greek yoghurt.

Jenny Chandler granolaHomemade Granola

50 g unsalted butter or 4 tablespoons of coconut oil
150 g honey, maple syrup (or even,at a push, golden syrup)
300 g rolled oats
150 g raw nuts such as cashews, almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios
100 g seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower
100 g dried fruit such as apricots or figs, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 150 ºC.

Add the butter and honey/syrup to a large saucepan (it’s a good idea to weigh the syrup directly into the pan set over the scales or you will have lots to wash up).

Now heat until the butter has melted and then stir in your other ingredients until everything is well coated.

Pour the mixture onto 2 lined roasting trays and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Stir a couple of times along the way so that the granola gets evenly and wonderfully tasty. Once golden, leave to cool and then store in an airtight container.

Try
-Adding a splash of rosewater or vanilla extract to the honey and butter mixture
-Stirring a good pinch of cinnamon or ginger into the oats for the last 5 minutes of baking.
-Throwing raisins, toasted sesame seeds, dried cherries, cranberries or barberries or  roasted coconut slices into the granola once it is ready.

The granola is delicious eaten with milk or yoghurt but a spoonful of fruit compote is the icing on the cake.

Rhubarb Compote

– to make a large jar
About 500 g of rhubarb chopped into large chunks
Juice of 1 orange
75 g light brown sugar (such as muscovado)

Put all the ingredients together in a pan and simmer gently for about 5 minutes until just soft.

Remove about a third of the rhubarb pieces and then blend the remaining rhubarb and juices to make a thick compote. Replace the rhubarb pieces, leave to cool and serve.

Try
-Replacing the orange and sugar with a couple of knobs or crystallized ginger and a few tablespoons of the syrup.
-Eating the compote with icecream, folding into a rhubarb fool or layering in a trifle.
-Making other fruit compotes with raspberries, plums, apples or whatever is in season.
-Freezing in old yoghurt pots for quick fix fruit smoothies when whizzed up with yoghurt.

Ideally, weather permitting, breakfast would be in the garden. There’s so much going on out there right now – hellebores, daffodils and some pretty rampant frogs.

I’d better add, just in case anyone thinks that I’m an ungrateful old bag, that I fully appreciated all last year’s efforts – crumbs, encrusted ovens and all. The best bit of the entire day was getting Imi’s  carefully drawn voucher for a 1000 hugs, to be used through the year.

And just a bit of history about Mothering Sunday

You’ll be pleased to hear that some indulgent eating has always been tied up with the traditional Christian Mothering Sunday celebrations that gave us today’s, often more secular, Mother’s Day. In the Downton Abbey era Mothering Sunday was the one and only day of the year that every servant had a holiday; the time to go home to their “mothering” church where they were baptised. It was the family get-together of the year and the story goes that everyone gathered wild flowers from the hedgerows for their mothers as they made their way home. Other classic names for the day are Mid-Lent Sunday or Refreshment Sunday as the church allowed us to break the Lenten fast with Simnel cakes and puddings. So, all in all a day of joy and very good excuse for a feast.

 

 

 

 

 

Paddington and Marmalade Days

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“Every home should have a marmalade day”  Paddington, the movie 2014

It’s taken me a while to fall back in love with Paddington Bear. I adored the books as a child but then, as a teenager, I was a given a toy Paddington as a present by a local farmer/admirer. He’d spotted me in the church choir (social highlight of the weekend in 1970’s rural Worcestershire) and decided to make a move. Although I was rather too old to be excited about a huge, stuffed bear with a duffle coat and red welly boots, I was also appalled to be the subject of someone who seemed twice my age’s attention. My tweeded suitor also presented me with a multiple choice questionnaire with reasons why I would, or would not, like to go out on a dinner date – I couldn’t bring myself to fill it in. The entire episode was a hideous embarrassment, the Family Service was never quite the same, and in my eyes Paddington’s reputation was sullied for decades.

A couple of weeks ago we went to see the film of Paddington – it was an absolute delight, so much so that I’ve dug out my 1960’s paperbacks and managed to put all the teenage angst behind me. I saw some Seville oranges in Reg The Veg up the road and thought that Imi, fired up with Paddington’s enthusiasm for the sticky stuff, would be up for making some marmalade.

I wrote a piece for Borough Market last year, as a “marmalade virgin”. I’d always been put off making any myself by all the mystique that seemed to surround the stuff so I decided to try out the simplest method around, which came from Fiona Beckett. I’ve tinkered with the recipe a little and, although I’m quite sure my marmalade wouldn’t sweep the board at the W.I. show, it tastes wonderful to me and is a great thing to make with kids.

Opinions are divided when it comes to marmalade methods, infact it’s almost better not to ask for advice since everyone will have the “very best” recipe. Purists seem to swear by slicing the fruit and leaving it to soak overnight which apparently gives a more delicate, crystal-clear result than the quicker, boil-the-fruit-whole approach. I went for the latter, it may not be perfect but certainly knocks the socks off anything I’ve bourght in the supermarket.

Experienced jam makers can jump the list of handy hints below, but as a novice I needed to go back to basics, and you may too.

  • Unless you already own a preserving pan, or are planning on opening a B&B I’d just stick to making the marmalade in a heavy stock pot or better still, if you happen to have one, the base of a pressure cooker.
  • You need a piece of muslin in which to tie up the pips and pulp (they are rich in pectin which sets the jam) No muslin, well (and I know that this sounds rather unappetising but it’s very convenient!) a NEW pop sock will do nicely, just give it a rinse before using.
  • A couple of plates in your freezer or fridge will help you when testing “the set” of your marmalade.
  • To sterilise jars you can place them in an oven at 130 °C for 1/2 an hour or wash with cold water and zap, whilst damp, for 40 seconds in the microwave. The jars must be hot when you pour the hot marmalade into them, otherwise they could shatter.
  • If your lids do not fit tightly then use a cellophane cover. A seal is important otherwise your precious marmalade could go mouldy. It’s advisable to cover the surface of the marmalade with a disc of waxed paper too, if you are keeping the marmalade for any length of time.
  • A jam funnel is a blessing, enabling you to ladle in the marmalade quickly and saving on time wiping sticky jars later. Otherwise just use a jug, but go carefully.

 Simple Seville Orange Marmalade

This makes about 6 average-size jars of marmalade, but it’s wise to have a couple of spares at the ready just in case you need them. Smaller, attractively shaped jars make great little gifts too.

I kg Seville oranges
1 unwaxed lemon
1.75 kg granulated sugar (no need for preserving sugar)

Wash the oranges and lemon well and then put them in your pan and cover with water. I weighed down the fruit with a casserole lid to stop it bobbing above the surface. Cover with a lid and then boil for 1-2 hours until the peel feels soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile enjoy the ambrosial citrus scent wafting around your kitchen.

Remove the fruit from the water and allow to cool. Measure the liquid left in your pan, you will need about 1.25 litres. If you have too much you can reduce it by boiling, too little – just add a splash of water.

Now for the fun, it’s time to prepare the fruit. This is the moment to get the kids involved, as many hands do make light work. You will probably end up with a rather coarse -cut result but hey this is the home-spun approach.

Quarter the oranges and lemon. Take a spoon and scrape the pith, flesh and seeds into a large sieve set over a bowl.

Slice the peel into coarse or fine shreds, the choice is yours (it wasn’t mine as a a couple of  impatient 8 year olds will always mean thick slices). Put the peel into the pan with the measured cooking water.

Take a rubber spatula and squash as much juice as you can from the pulp in the sieve and tip this into the marmalade pan. Put the remaining pips and pulp into a muslin square and tie up (or take the pop sock approach) and then dangle this down into your pan too. The pith and pips contain masses of pectin which will set the marmalade later.

Bring the pan up to the boil and then remove your bag, or sock, and give it a squeeze to release as much of the valuable pectin as possible.

Tip in the sugar and place the pot back on a low flame. Once the sugar has dissolved you can up the heat and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. Watch it carefully you don’t want it bubble over. Give it a stir and skim the froth from the surface from time to time (or you will have cloudy marmalade)

Now you’re on the home straight. Your marmalade will take about 25 – 45 minutes at a fast boil to reach setting consistancy (there are so many variables- the heat, the width of your pan, the amount of pectin, so I can’t be precise). Test the setting consistancy after 25 minutes by spooning some hot marmalade straight onto one of your plates from the freezer, allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Now push the marmalade with your fingertip, if it’s ready it will form a wrinkly skin as you do so. If not, continue to boil and check at 5 minute intervals.

Once the marmalade’s ready leave to cool for 15 minutes, skim off any last foam and ladle into the hot jars. Cover with waxed disks if using, and seal with lids or cellophane at once.

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

It’s win, win all the way. Imi and her friend Eleanor not only loved the marmalade making they also earned a few more points for their all-important Brownie hobby badge and we’ve got a cupboard filled with marmalade which I intend to make ice-cream with aswell as eat on toast.

It’s also always wise to buy a few extra Seville oranges as they make a pretty damn good addition to a Gin and Tonic……talking of which, it is almost 6 o’clock.