When our adopted children first arrived one of the things I tried to do with them was to cook. Cook, so they’d get used to our food. Cook, so we could bond over making cookies. One of our first cooking sessions ended in disaster. You can read about that here. And after that, I dreaded cooking with my kids as each session turned into fights, tantrums and me downing utensils. But here in Paris, the kids initiated a cook with mummy session, and slowly I found myself learning to love cooking with my children.
Most schools in France have half-day on a Wednesday. But my children’s school works to the old style French school week: no school on Wednesdays. Yup, my kids only go to school four days a week. Lucky them!
Each Wednesday means dreaming up fun things for us to do. But around six weeks ago, when I asked the children what they wanted to do on their Wednesday,
The kids said: “Cook with Mummy.”
Me: “Huh, really? I thought you hated cooking with me?”
The kids said: “We love cooking with you!”
We obviously have different memories of our cooking sessions! Now every Wednesday we cook, chat, laugh, then eat.
What’s cooking in our kitchen
We started with easy peasy chocolate chip cookies. This time not from a packet! The cookies were a success, so we have been starting to get a little more adventurous.
We have made:
The children first tried Victoria sponge on our ski holiday and they loved it. They insisted we made this when we got home. But French flour is a little different to British and American flour. Our Victoria sponge was a little flat, a bit hard, and I couldn’t find whipping cream (should have just got the squirty stuff). But, the kids relished every last morsel because they made it.
Lemon meringue pie
I used a Mary Berry recipe which called for six lemons and six egg yolks. Seriously rich stuff. And the kids could not believe how much sugar went into this recipe.
I had never made lemon curd before, so this was a learning experience for me and the children. And they got to see how much work goes into whipping up a meringue!
This was a big achievement and it tasted delicious. Thanks, Mary Berry – we love you!
Chocolate orange cake
Chocolate and orange is a winning combination. I found this recipe in the Saveur, my go to French recipe magazine. It’s deep, rich and juicy with chunks of orange throughout the cake. Bearing in mind I had to translate the recipe from French, it turned out pretty well.
Chocolate fudge cake
Yes, a classic. I couldn’t get the kids’ heads out of the chocolate fudge cake mixing bowl. It goes without saying that this cake was a big hit.
Super Girl decided she wanted to try something savoury.
She found my Annabel Karmel Mummy and Me Cookbook. It was my very first Mother’s Day present and had until that point, I will shamefully admit, it had remained unused.
I think it is all those smiley, happy children, looking perfectly content to cook with their mothers in nice neat kitchens. It was so far removed from my experience of cooking with children, screaming, shouting, in a kitchen /disaster zone.
We made double quantities of chicken dippers, taking one portion to friend’s home as a snack for our Harry Potter film playdate. The rest was gobbled up the next day in one sitting. I think it was the crunchy Pringle coating that made these so superbly scrumptious.
How we prepare for our cooking with children
We have a few rules which make our cooking sessions run smoothly
- Take turns to choose the recipe – this avoids the fights and squabbles
- We scour websites, my recipe books and cookery magazine for ideas
- We try and be reasonable about what we want to cook (though it’s easy to get carried away!)
- There has to be a recipe, it can’t be I want to make a blue cherry cake, with a chocolate topping and green icing and when you cut it Smarties spill out. Nope. I’m not Willy Wonka or Mary Poppins
- The kids have to read through the ingredients list and the instructions
- The kids have to help me with the shopping list. There’s nothing worse than realising we’re out of butter half way through our cooking session!
- The kids help get all the utensils ready
- Then we cook
- I am realistic, the kitchen will end up as a disaster zone
- But if everyone has been nice to each other, no squabbles, bickering or fights then the kids can get to lick the spoon
Has cooking with children made a difference in their attitude to food?
This is purely observational. But I think my children might just be a little more appreciative of what is involved in cooking a meal.
I made sea bass for our Saturday lunch, and Super Girl didn’t turn up her nose, and utter her usual retort: “That’s disgusting, I’m not eating that!”
Maybe, just maybe, my children are beginning to understand they aren’t always going to have pizza. And they might just be OK with that.