Cooking with chidren can be fun and does not need to be stressful if you follow some fairly simple guidelines.
The first one is to get everything organised.
I like to follow fairly simple recipes that are quick. For these photographs, we made chocolate fudge cakes.
We needed a rectangular tin 30cm x 20cm, a mixing bowl, scales, a wooden spoon, a spatula, measuring spoons, baking parchment and a sieve. We pre-heated the oven in readiness and got our ingredients ready.
Before you start any actual cooking you will need to remind your child to wash their hands scrupulously - that is if you want to actually eat what they have helped you prepare.
My Son enjoys baking and helping me cook savoury meals. I have encouraged him to help me cook since he was very small. Whilst I am, by no means, a cookery purist, I do believe in teaching children to cook properly - without using hand or electric mixers. There is something quite cathartic about taking a wooden spoon and thoroughly beating margarine and sugar together until they are light and fluffy.
Teaching your children to rub butter into flour for pastry, beat butter and sugar together for cakes and to whisk cream or egg whites gives them valuable skills and adds to the fun but, of course, it does take a lot longer, so don't suggest cooking together unless you have a few hours to spare.
When you are cooking savoury dishes, taste tests, to adjust seasoning and so on, are vital. I know that you are not supposed to eat raw cake ingredients (especially those containing eggs) but I believe part of the joy of cooking is getting to lick the bowl at the end. I still remember fighting with my siblings over who would lick the wooden spoon or the spatula and my Mother trying to ensure that their was the same amount of cake mix on each spoon.
Reading recipes, weighing all the ingredients and splitting the mixture into cake cases, or dishing up are all practical ways of enhancing English, Maths and Science through 'play'. If you want to make cooking with your children even more educational, ask them questions as you go along - 'why do you think we need to beat the butter and sugar', 'why do we add garlic to spaghetti bolognese'? - and so on. You could also ask the child what they could add to make a basic recipe better? A basic apple crumble can be improved dramatically by adding blackberries, raisins or cinnamon to the fruit or oats or nuts to the crumble topping, for example - children have good imaginations and they might help you to come up with some interesting flavour combinations - you might discover something new and really delicious!
If family members have allergies, you will already be cooking most food from scratch to be safe. It gives children a wonderful sense of empowerment to know that they are taking responsibilty for their own safety or the safety of someone they love. Equally, if your children are 'picky' eaters, they're more likely to try the 'despised' foods if they've helped prepare them.
Washing up at the end of the session is also vital. I like the idea that the person doing the cooking doesn't also have to clear up, except when you are cooking with children. It may be that you will have to go through and wash everything up again once they've finished but I think it is very important to teach them that if they make a mess it is their responsibility to clean up afterwards. And it helps if they know how and where to put things away.
I also like to give responsibility early to my children for the small, very simple meals, like making themselves a sandwich or something on toast. Now that my youngest Son has started secondary school I have made him responsible for preparing his packed lunch every day. He has a small amount of money at his disposal for purchasing a school meal, in case he forgets and then he is given what I would otherwise have spent on school dinners as pocket money as the incentive to get him to complete the task daily.
For the chocolate cake recipe click HERE