I’ll start by stating the obvious that cooking for kids and cooking together with kids are two very different things indeed… Because I’ve always found the kitchen to be a place of retreat and preparing a meal to have a meditative quality, I am the first to admit that cooking can be a wonderful opportunity to have some time for one’s self, away from children!

Being often a service to the family, cooking is an entirely guilt-free experience, and once you re-emerge from the kitchen with plenty of food on the table for your family to enjoy, there is also a sense of achievement and sometimes even gratification, assuming that all the fussy eaters in your household are on their best behaviour!

If your kids are keen to help, getting them to pod peas and broad beans, deseed pomegranates, leaf parsley and other herbs and also set the table are a good way to keep them entertained while you can get on with it.

On the other hand, cooking together with kids requires a different mindset- these are not the moments when you prepare a 15-minute meal or quickly improvise with whatever you can find in an empty fridge. Nor is it the time to begin cooking a more elaborate meal.

This kind of cooking is not everyday cooking, but rather an exciting project that you set out to do with your kids. The planning, looking through photos in cookbooks, deciding on the recipe you’ll make together and gathering all the ingredients is half the fun. Kids love to take part in it all.
The fact that the end result is something edible that you can serve as a meal is a very favourable side effect! But the main objective here is to engage kids in a creative food activity. It’s about fiddling around with ingredients, getting messy in the kitchen, tasting (try to get my 5-year-old to stop picking at the cookie dough. We usually end up with only half of the amount for the shaped cookies!),experiencing the smells and seeing the constant state of transformation.

So, set some time aside, choose your recipe well, make a few advance preparations for the event, and you are ready to go! Here is one of my favourites:

Rice castles with hidden treasures

This recipe makes kids feel so creative that it verges on being an art project.

It’s also a great way to introduce fussy eaters to a variety of different colours and textures in food.

The idea is to have separate bowls with different varieties of cooked rice which is then formed into ‘castles’ (think of sand castles) by layering the different rice colours inside a small cup or bowl and then tipping it over on to a plate.

The ‘treasure’ element of it is that half way through the layering, your child can place small pieces of vegetables that are then covered up with more layers of the colourful rice.

So, begin by choosing together the types of rice that you will use to make your castles.

(List of suggestions: basmati rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice, white rice boiled with a touch of turmeric for a yellow colour).

Then choose your ‘hidden treasure’ (peas, boiled cubes of carrots, sweet corn, pieces of roasted butternut squash, Broccoli. Basically, anything goes!)

With the help of your child, measure the rice/water ratio for each type of rice and place in different small pots.

Cook separately according to the packet instructions (probably best to give your child a short break at this point).

When your collection of rice pots have finished to cook, transfer the rice from each of them into a small bowl, and arrange your selection of colourful rice bowls on a table.

Form your castles by placing spoonful’s of the rice into a small see-through cup until your layers reach the very top, and remember to hide the vegetable treasure somewhere in the middle.

Carefully flip the cup on to a plate. All goes well, the castle will hold its shape until someone will go hunting for the treasure.

Maya Meron, Quince Organic


About The Author

Maya Meron
Quince Organic

Maya Meron was born in Jerusalem, and grew up in Canada. She founded Quince Organic in October 2013, a Hampstead based organic food company which now delivers daily hot lunches to 5 schools in North London. Maya studied music at Indiana University, Bloomington, and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Prior to creating Quince Organic, Maya performed as a violinist and viola player with some of the leading artists in the classical music scene.

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