Chef and host of TV show Kitchen Whiz, Laurent Vancam, encourages parents to gradually involve children in the preparation of food.
Chef and host of TV show Kitchen Whiz, Laurent Vancam, encourages parents to gradually involve children in the preparation of food. Natalie Mccomas

Kids in the kitchen a winning recipe

ROLL up your sleeves, put on an apron and get ready to teach your kids some valuable life skills.

Parents looking for a fun, affordable and educational activity to keep kids entertained these school holidays need to look no further than their own kitchens

Chef and host of TV show Kitchen Whiz, Laurent Vancam, said cooking with children was a fantastic way for families to connect, have fun and enjoy great food together.

The Kitchen Whiz said he understood how difficult it was for parents to find the time to teach children how to cook during the hectic working week.

School holidays provided the perfect opportunity for parents to unwind and see cooking dinner as a way to spend quality time with the kids rather than a chore, Vancam said.

But what age can children start helping out in the kitchen?

Chef Laurent said five to six was a good age to introduce children to cooking. Giving kids small duties like peeling vegetables or getting ingredients and equipment out and ready to cook with were best for young beginner chefs, he said.

Kids aged eight or nine were "a bit scary in the kitchen", he said with a laugh and may require a little extra supervision.

The popular chef said the best time to encourage cooking was between the ages 12 and 16.

"This is a time where you will learn the skills you will need for the rest of your life," he said.

Vancam said the cooking techniques, recipes and knowledge children pick up in the kitchen at this age would be extremely useful to them later on in life, especially when they leave home and live independently.

Cooking with kids was also a creative and hands-on way for parents to show kids the many tasty ways to enjoy vegetables and fresh healthy produce.

The more children cook with vegies the more likely they are to not only consume them but also want to cook with them again, Vancam said.

And because every kid loves cooking sweet foods and treats, and that's most likely all they will want to cook, the key to keeping kids interested was to teach a mix of both savoury and sweet dishes.

Give kids the responsibility of cooking dinner one night a week, perhaps a pasta dish or simple meal he suggested.

The enthusiastic chef warned parents cooking with children required patience. He said teaching kids a recipe usually involved three steps:

  1. Demonstrate the recipe - the parents cook and the children watch.
  2. Cook the same recipe together with your child.
  3. Let the child cook the recipe by themselves.

Chef Laurent's Snail Recipe

DOUGH INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g baker's flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 5g yeast
  • 40g soft butter
  • 130ml water

CUSTARD INGREDIENTS:

  • 160ml milk
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 30g custard powder or cornflour

FILLING INGREDIENTS:

  • 60g sultanas
  • 60g apple, diced.

METHOD:

Mix all the dough ingredients together until well combined. Knead dough on floured bench for two minutes. Set aside.

To make the custard, whisk eggs, sugar and custard powder or cornflour together until smooth. Stir milk over low heat until it comes to the boil. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk milk into custard mix. Stir over low heat, without boiling, until it thickens. Spread custard in bain-marie dish and refrigerate.

To assemble, roll out the dough into a square 30cm wide x 30cm long. Spread custard over the top of the dough. Sprinkle sultanas and apple over the custard. Tightly roll the dough lengthwise into a log. Slice the dough into about 10 slices around 3cm thick. Lay flat on greased baking trays, tucking end of pastry underneath. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size. Bake in oven at 180° C for 15 minutes or until golden.

Makes: 10 half size snails

Recipe from the cookbook Chef Laurent caters for Families


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