The three weeks of home-made cooking were fun and informative for all of us involved. It has proven to be a good thing to cook and eat together to encourage trying new flavours, textures and to generate discussion about where our food comes from, food miles and the impact of that on the planet.
We chose recipes that were seasonal, so we could often buy British sourced vegetables, bought from our local markets and supermarkets, and from the zero-waste stall in Uppingham market. We also were fortunate to be able to use veggies from our community allotment for two of our dishes!
We talked a lot about hygiene and started each session, looking at the steps that we needed to go through to ensure we were clean and ready to prepare food. We put hair up, took hats off, rolled up sleeves, took off any jewellery, and washed hands. Children were encouraged to clean up the workspace when necessary to maintain a clean area and to use the correct chopping boards for the appropriate foods. We also saved any raw peelings for our compost and disposed of any rubbish appropriately in refuse bin or recycling bin.
Our meals were ambitious with a group of eight children!
Week One Week one involved a two-course meal of parsnip soup with a range of Indian spices. Pasta Pomodoro was our second course. Children in the group loved pasta and this was an easy one to please.
The tomato sauce was made from scratch to demonstrate how easy it is to make a sauce, rather than buy a ready-made one. Some had cheese on top of the pasta and we discussed the vegan alternative to cheese and noted that Lesley in Nature’s Dispensary, Mill Street, sells it.
Week Two Week two was more elaborate; a meal with many elements to it. We embarked on creating falafels with a base of raw beetroot. This was a wonderful vegetable to work with because of its colour. Our hands, the chopping boards and the falafels turned purple so the opportunities for chatting about colour and dyes was inevitable.
We made a side dish of coleslaw. Two different types were made, one with cheese and apple and mayo and the other a vegan option of carrot and apple and vegan mayonnaise. Both were delicious and though apple might not be in a usual ingredient in coleslaw, it was good to see how fruit could be incorporated into a savoury meal. We also made flatbread to go with our falafels, which was easy for the children to make.
This week because of all the different types of preparation; grating, mashing, whizzing, chopping, and mixing there was so much washing up. The washing up was not the favourite activity of the course, but again demonstrated all that is involved in cooking. We had conversations about having a dishwasher at home and for some children, they see and participate in washing up less and less.
In this session we invited children to think about what their favourite foods were, and we had a range of answers inevitably. Some food was healthy, and some fast-food. We also enjoyed working out where the country of origin of those foods and talked about how different foods grow in different climates and how its transported around the world.
Week Three We decided that week three, we would make burgers; both vegan and meat. We would also make our bread dough to make the buns needed to put our burgers in. The two different types of burgers we made were both delicious. The vegan burgers were enjoyed by a few children in the group and the meat burgers enjoyed by more children.
The children enjoyed making and kneading the bread dough, although the gluten-free option was a totally different texture to the wheat based dough and slightly resembled a paving slab! We talked about adding Xanthan Gum to the Gluten-free mix to enable the dough to become more stretchy.
We recognised that the very act of cooking and eating together creates a sense of community. Working out people’s food needs and likes takes cooperation and respect, a real lesson for all of us.
The evaluations returned by the children were positive and it would seem, that they have been encouraged by their cooking together to take a keen interest in the future.
Thanks for being part of this food community! Many thanks to The Healthy Rutland Grant for funding this project.