The cooking legend, 83, says much of her success can be credited to learning the basics from her home economics teacher as a schoolgirl, something that children now often miss out on, as Food Tech is no longer an essential part of the National Curriculum.
“When they leave school and they’re living in a rented room with one ring, they should be able to create a meal quickly from a few ingredients – and enjoy them,” she told The Sunday Times Magazine, adding that she would like all children to be taught how to make gravy and cook vegetables.
So, if kids aren’t learning these skills at school, how can parents step in to ensure they know how to cook?
Getting younger kids involved in cooking dinner with you will inevitably mean it will take a little longer to get food on to plates, but it doesn’t need to become a major undertaking as they don’t need to be involved in every step of the process - it could be as simple as them learning what a saucepan does, what a frying pan is and that you chop up vegetables before you cook them.
Chef Chantelle Nicholson advises prepping ahead to get things done that you know will take a long time before involving your junior chefs, such as marinating something or making a dressing. “If they won’t take you that long, get it ready so you can save the small, quick jobs for the children,” she says.
If you can, plan in advance a time that you’re able to get your kids involved with cooking. Leiths chefs, Belinda Spinney and Annie Evans, who run parent and child cookery days, say when cooking with young kids, set aside time (and mental space) to create a fun, sensory experience, “Encourage tasting as they go along and allow mistakes to be made - it makes it more fun and creates more of a learning experience,” they advise. “Try not to be precious about your kitchen. Let children make a mess whilst also encouraging tidying up afterwards.”
And Organix’ children’s food expert Lucy Thomas adds if you want kids to get even more excited, get some child-size utensils, like a small sieve, a tiny wooden spoon and a small whisk.
As your kids get older and are in secondary school, you can work together to cook simple and quick meals that they can they go on to cook themselves alone. Try not to over-complicate things, here are three options from the chefs:
Spinney and Evans say this is a great one to teach your kids to make as it’s quick, healthy and will allow them to use vegetables of their choice. While watching you, they can also learn how to use knives safely when chopping up all the veg. Show them it’s easy by chucking everything into a pan and cooking it all together, then choose whether to put it with rice, cous cous or noodles. This is a great recipe to follow.
Nicholson advises showing kids the basics of how to make vegetable soup - which can be used as a starter, lunch or healthy dinner. “Humble ingredients can be turned into something hearty and delicious, plus you don’t need a perfect dice of everything to create flavour,” she says. Plus, it’s a great healthy meal. Try this recipe with your kids.
Making dough is a hands-on experience and something children can very easily do, advise Spinnery and Evans. You can find simple dough recipes online to make pizza bases. Ask your kids what they would like to put on and use this as an opportunity to introduce different flavours.