lookit-cookit

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Raspberry easy-issimo

Otherwise called five minute raspberry yogurt.

This comes from my children’s cookbook Lookit Cookit. Any child would love to make it - it involves mashing, squashing and stirring. And when they’ve tasted it, they’ll never want to eat a shop-bought one again.

If it’s not obvious from the pictures, you can find out more (and get dozens of other ideas for games and experiments) by buying the book. It’s available on the iPad here http://bit.ly/15iTHZB and as a paperback copy at www.lookitcookit.com

You don’t have to be a child to appreciate this. It’s perfect, light food - summer in a bowl.

Irresistably buttery

I’d like to show you how to make these. I wish you were in my kitchen so you could watch because they are not difficult, but the process is quite long to describe. They’re called Butter Whirls and although they look like Danish pastries made with a complicated yeast dough, they don’t require any special skill. The process involves rolling, spreading and folding. You absolutely can’t buy them in a supermarket. I make them for son No. 4 who eats them for breakfast!

The recipe comes from a book I wrote a long time ago. It’s called A Feast in Fifteen Stories. It’s out of print now, but you can get a second hand copy very cheap ($2) from Amazon. Click on the picture to find the link.

Can you beat it?

Few people can resist chocolate. This light cake is filled with custard cream. Since I like playing with food I devised a way to get the word ‘choc’ on the top. For those with less patience, you can simply cover the cake with hot chocolate sauce.

Talking about playtime, I still have a few FREE vouchers to give away for the iPad download of my book Lookit Cookit. To get your free download, go to Ask me at the top and send me your name, email address and the country where you live.

Raspberry meringue with cream

Meringues are the cheapest things to make: they just contain sugar and egg whites (left over from the yolks used for custard). Would you ever think of attempting something like this with a child?

My cookbook Lookit Cookit features on the cover a boy holding a bowl of uncooked meringue over his sister’s head. He’s waiting for the mixture to fall on her, but she knows it won’t since she’s just learned how to make meringues.

Click on the photo to find out more.

An apple a day

English apples are in the shops. You can now find Coxes and Worcesters among the piles of French Braeburns and Golden Delicious, but what’s written on the back of the pack? Nothing to tell you that these apples taste great; that they go well with cheese, and can be used with celery to make a crunchy salad. No, there’s the horrid counting game of the Five a Day.

Some of you may know how I feel about Government guidelines telling us we have to eat five portions of fruits or vegetables a day. The way it’s presented is just like offering medicine to children: ’come on, just one more, you’re nearly there’. I put up dozens of pictures of fruits and vegetables, but there’s never any need to say ’this is good for you, it helps maintain healthy gums and nerves.

I think pushing people to eat green and coloured foods is counter-productive; they’re just going to grab a burger and fries. The way to get children to try a variety of foods is simply to put a choice of things on the table, with no pressure to ‘eat them all up’. I play a game where I give kids paper and pencils and invite them to rate everything from 1 – 5, according to how much they like the food and whether they’d give it a try another time. Even those who’ve never tried a red pepper, a radish, a broccoli 'tree’, or scooped up a creamy dip with a crisp lettuce leaf, will soon be joining in with adults and eating 'real food’ rather than 'children’s food.’

Last chance to get a FREE iPad download of my children’s book Lookit Cookit this week. Click on Ask me Anything above, and send me your name, email address and the country you live in.

Cracked it!

For some while I’ve been experimenting with molten chocolate puddings: the warm round cakes that have a melting chocolate sauce inside. I’ve tried maybe a dozen recipes and even with careful timing it’s almost impossible to get the inside consistently soft, with the outside just cooked.

Now, by accident, I’ve found the answer: surround the cake with the sauce, instead of the other way round.  You make a cake with a creamy filling and a jug of rich chocolate sauce. Keep them both in the fridge till an hour before the meal.

Then to transform these into individual puddings, cut the cool cake into squares and just before serving pour over a generous amount of the hot chocolate sauce.

The result is perfect. As well as being easy, there’s absolutely no last minute baking (or worrying).

To find the How-to, click on the picture and go to Today’s Recipe.

Meat and four veg

Looks good, doesn’t it?  And it’s easy enough for a child to make. Next time you do some cooking with children, think beyond the usual cup cakes and sweet things.  This braised lamb with onions and new carrots is easy enough for a 12-year old to do with minimum help.

The recipe comes from my book for children, Lookit Cookit.  Click on the picture to find out more.

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Playtime

As many of you know, I love playing with food - specially when it brings children into the kitchen and encourages them to try new things.

Here’s an idea that comes from Japan, from superkaara. She did it with thick slices of Frankfurters. Using smaller viennas or cocktail sausages, you need to push short strands of spaghetti through the sausages (as in the first picture) and then gently boil them for five minutes (using quick cook pasta). If you use longer spaghetti it tends to break off. The result is a bit of fun.

For more ideas about cooking with children, go to www.lookitcookit.com to find out about my book of games, experiments and quizzes.

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Two-minute salmon

The man in the Armchair Kitchen would eat salmon 5 times a week if I provided it. Oily fish is good for you, but intensive farming has meant that the flavour is not what it used to be. What it needs is a very short cooking time so you get flakes of fish rather than a solid lump. A sauce is good too - lemony hollandaise or a buttery reduction of wine - but far the simplest is to add the flavour before the fish is cooked.

This recipe is adapted from an idea I saw in the Lakeland catalogue (everything brilliant for the kitchen). I could hardly believe that it could be as good as it was, since it took 5 minutes to prepare and 2 minutes to cook. The Asian flavours of ginger, chilli and garlic are not evident in the finished dish; they just lift the salmon out of the ordinary and make it special enough to serve to guests.

There was a time when it was thought fish should be well cooked, i.e. firm. An American friend once came to London in the summer and said she was fed up with being offered salmon mayonnaise in every home she went to. No doubt one of her objections was that the fish was cooked so long that it was hard. The 2-minute microwave method means that the pink flesh slides off into moist and tender flakes.

To find the details of how it’s done, click on www.lookitcookit.com and go to Today’s Recipe.

To go with the salmon, cook a couple of jacket potatoes - coming up next.



Potato latkes

There are some dishes that few restaurants get right. An example is potato latkes: a treat eaten at the Jewish Festival of Chanucah, which lasts all this week. Latkes are light pancakes made from grated potato and onion and fried till crisp and brown. They’re good served with sausages or cold meat – or as a snack with apple sauce and sour cream. Either way the home-made version is usually far better than what’s served up from a restaurant kitchen.

Why is this? First they are rarely freshly made. Reheated fried food is a disaster. Then they add flour which makes the latkes solid and heavy. Then they are usually too large – one big fat latke is not nearly as appetising as three of four small ones. It’s like those giant chips – too much inside, not enough crisp and brown outside.

If you want to know how to make them, click on the picture and go to Today’s Recipe. It comes from Lookit Cookit kitchen games for curious children. You may think “I’m not a child” but it’s clearly not just for children since frying is quite dangerous and needs some supervision. Part of the fun is squeezing out the starch from the raw potatoes.

Check in soon for another fantastic Chanucah treat: the best ever doughnuts.

FREE BOOK FOR iPad USERS

The boy in this photo is hoping the uncooked meringue mixture will fall out and drop on his sister’s head. She knows it won’t. How does she know? Because she has read through the games and experiments in my children’s cookbook Lookit Cookit.

It’s now available as a download for anyone who has an iPad. The paperback version has been getting sticky marks on the pages for some while. Now it’s been updated for the digital generation and costs as little as a cup of Starbucks coffee!

To get your FREE copy, click on About Me above and send me your name, email address and the country where you live. The first 20 will receive the free download.

(Remember, this version is only for the iPad)

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Lemon cake

Cake is by nature sweet, but it’s even more delicious if it has a tang. This one has the lemon zest in the mixture and the juice made into a syrup which is poured over the cake when it’s cooked.

The recipe is on the website for my children’s book Lookit Cookit. This is because, like all the other recipes I feature here, it is uncomplicated and can easily be made by a child. That’s not say that it won’t be appreciated by an adult, so if you want to know the How-to, as it’s called, please click here: www.lookitcookit.com and it will take you to Today’s Recipe.



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Meringues

Meringues are to be avoided by the overweight or the diabetic. They contain nothing but egg whites and sugar.

Children usually adore them - and they like to make them too. I chose to put a photo of a girl and a boy making meringues on the cover of my children’s book Lookit Cookit. Click here www.lookitcookit.com and you can see the picture. The boy is looking happy because he thinks the meringue mixture is going to fall on his sister’s head. She is happy because she has just been making meringues with me and knows that the stiff egg whites will not fall out of the bowl.

What’s missing from the picture is whipped cream - the magic ingredient that makes meringues melt in the mouth.

You can find out how to make them in the book and also see dozens of other experiments, games and quiz questions.





Halloween and Playing with food

It’s not only pumpkins that are carved into patterns. Here is an apple, photographed by my colleague (ilian@ilian.co.uk). 

When I was writing my children’s cookbook, someone warned me against allowing young children to use knives.  My response was that you’ll never learn to cook unless you do.  A small sharp knife is safer than a large blunt one that can slip.

For more ideas on kitchen games for children, please click on the picture.

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Pumpkins

In England we don’t do much with the insides of pumpkins. There are, of course, many recipes available, but the flavour hasn’t yet become a favourite here. The display in the top picture is from a local shop near the American school in London, so with Halloween this evening, there will be a big sale for the many varieties of the vegetable - waiting to be turned into lanterns.

The lower picture is from my book Lookit Cookit - kitchen games for curious children. It shows a boy cutting into a giant pumpkin which he had won at a fair. He had guessed closest to the correct weight - 95 pounds. His mother then turned it into enough soup and pies for about 80 people!

Chocolate and cherries

Anyone can be a chocolate artist! Melt a few squares of plain dark chocolate in the microwave (less than a minute).  Take a spoonful of the melted chocolate, hold it up above a cold plate and drizzle it in a pattern.  It will harden quite quickly, but if you don’t like your design, simply put the plate back in the microwave and melt it again. Then try again on a clean plate.  

For more fun ideas (specially if you are a child) please click on the photo. 

Stages

This is meringue with berries. I put up a similar dessert a while ago, but I’m using it again because I love the square shape (just a bit different from the usual round pavlova).  Also it reminds me how one can ‘get ahead’ when entertaining. The meringue can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer. Then when you have the whipped cream and berries the whole thing can be assembled in fifteen minutes.

Making meringue is not as hard as you might think.  In fact, I feature it on the cover of my book for children, Lookit Cookit. It’s simply a matter of whisking egg whites in a clean bowl (very important not to have anything greasy in the bowl) till they are almost stiff.  Then you add the sugar slowly until it gets thicker and thicker.  When it is really firm you can hold the bowl upside down and the mixture will not fall out.  That’s the test of when it’s ready to bake.

Pipe or swirl the meringue on to baking paper on a tray and cook it in a very low oven (about 120C/250F) for about an hour.  It should stay white and will be hard -  but not rock hard - at the end of that time.  

When it’s cold, add the whipped cream and berries and keep it in the fridge till it’s time to serve it.  Then just wait for everyone to say Oooooooh.

Gateau de pommes

The title of this recipe is a joke: it’s simply an English apple cake, but I wonder if the French name will attract more (or less) attention?

The idea comes from a book by Mary Berry. Leafing through it, I found at least fifteen recipes I wanted to try. This one couldn’t be easier. It’s a simple cake mixture covered with sliced apples and topped with brown sugar and butter that give it a caramel-like glaze. Click on the picture to find out how to make it. Because it is so undemanding I’ve included it in Today’s Recipe on the website devoted to my children’s book: Lookit Cookit - Kitchen games for curious children.

Mini shepherd’s pies

Shepherd’s pie was always a Monday dish. That’s because it was traditionally made from the leftovers of a Sunday roast.  Cold roast beef (or lamb) would be minced with onion and seasonings and covered with a thick layer of mashed potato.

These little ones are meant to be eaten in your fingers while you are having a drink. They have the traditional creamy topping and savoury filling but have a base of thin toast to make them manageable. You could use pastry instead, if you prefer.  

Either way, click on the picture to find how they are made. The details are in Today’s Recipe on the left. 

There is also a vegetarian version for those who prefer mushrooms to meat.