School's out for summer! Well, nearly anyway. It can be tough keeping your young ones occupied during the long hot weeks of the holidays, and just as hard steering them away from unhealthy snacking. We’ve teamed up with the awesome Amanda of Cook School, who has created a mini chef-friendly recipe to get them in the kitchen and cooking confidently.
We asked Amanda, who are Cook School?
“We are a pioneering, not-for-profit, innovative, nationwide organisation teaching children aged five to nineteen years to cook, inspired by children for children.
Over the last 18 months we have worked with head teachers, local councilors, ITV and Veg Power, The Food Foundation, Abergavenny Food Festival and Hay Festival along with local community centres to deliver classes to over 11,600 children to cook from scratch.”
Written by leading food writer and children's cookbook author Amanda Grant the recipes teach a number of life skills, introduced at the right time to suit the child’s age and developmental stage, building their confidence and independence in the kitchen. The children become equipped with the building blocks that enable them to cook a number of healthy, well-balanced and affordable meals for themselves, their families and their friends. The course also helps to educate their families on a healthy balanced diet and the importance of nutrition for long-term health.
“Cook School is a community of amazing passionate home and school cooks and chefs, teachers, TAs, retired teachers, nursery staff and students.
We encourage Cook School students to be ambassadors of change by sharing their pictures, ideas and their recipes.”
What inspired you to become a children’s recipe writer and to start Cook School?
“My mum. Sadly, she died a number of years ago now, at only 54. She was amazingly inspiring. She cooked a lot of Mediterranean-style food using olive oil, tomatoes, fresh herbs, vegetables, fresh fish and vegetarian meals before it was really fashionable. It was exciting helping her to cook as she would always ask me to taste things as they developed. She was also very calm in the kitchen, which I am sure was because she was a confident cook.
It meant that I felt happy and relaxed when I was cooking with her. She taught me that cooking and eating uses all your senses. It was without a doubt because of my mum that I ended up with a career in food. I realised quite quickly that not every child has the same experience in childhood and I’ve always had a deep desire to pass this experience on to as many children as possible. Learning the life skills that my mum taught me can be life changing. Having devoted most of my career to helping families and children to understand food through the written word, radio broadcast and TV, setting up Cook School felt like the natural next step.”
How important is getting kids involved in cooking in shaping their attitudes towards food?
“Equipping children with the skills they need to prepare a wide variety of nutritious family meals will have a long-term impact on their health. Our fun courses are teaching a basic understanding of nutrition as well as life skills, helping to grow children’s self-confidence, teamwork and an interest in good food.”
“(Amanda’s) approach is surely the best weapon against our obesity crisis.” Sophie Morris, I News.
What skills do children learn during a session?
“During the ten-week courses running during term time, children learn at least one new skill each week. In our whole school day sessions children will learn at least one new life skill like how to use a knife safely or how to grate."
Why is organic important to you?
“Apart from pesticides? Given the current focus on climate, I believe organic farming really is one way of the best ways to help protect our land for generations to come.“
At Cook School it’s all about the kids, with as little supervision from grown-ups as possible to help them develop kitchen independence. Just in time for picnic season, Cook School have created a tasty Tomato and Herb Galette (a rather fancy tomato tart) to do just that. To help, Amanda has created some child-friendly techniques to make this possible which you can try at home with your own sprouting chefs this summer:
Kitchen skills: Hold the handle of the grater with one hand and then push the cheese downwards over the grater teeth. Always keep your fingers away from the grater teeth as they’re very sharp.
Tomato bridge cutting technique: Hold the food between a thumb and finger of one hand to make a bridge. Hold a small paring knife in the other hand, put the blade under the bridge and cut downwards through the food.
Pastry making: when you are rubbing the butter into the flour try to only use your fingertips as your hands are hot and they will melt the butter.