Young Cooks

Our granddaughters are getting older (and we’re not getting any younger!) so they were enlisted to cook dinner when they came to stay with us.

Although you can surf the net and find zillions of recipes I still think you can’t beat a good cookbook, especially for young cooks starting out. So I had a pile of them ready for them to peruse.

Miss 15 who is vegetarian chose to bake a crustless quiche which included lots of chopped vegetables. She served it with corn cobs and oven baked potatoes. For dessert we had Tip Top boysenberry ice-cream and blueberries.

Miss 12 loves pies so was inspired by a recipe in Who’s Cooking Tonight by Claire Gourley (a cookbook for teenagers by a young New Zealand food writer) to make a slimmer version of bacon and egg pie. It has a lattice top so uses less pastry.

She pierced and microwaved 4 scrubbed potatoes on high for 10 minutes. Then she chopped them and arranged them with pieces of bacon (fat removed), cherry tomatoes and sweetcorn in a pastry lined baking dish, and broke in the eggs. The trickiest part was cutting and fitting the leftover pastry to make the lattice top. But as Claire wrote “You can be a bit rough here as it will look alright when cooked.”

I tried to hover around the kitchen to keep a watchful eye as she lined the tin with pastry and to check the oven temperature but was shooed away. So keeping my fingers crossed I retired to the lounge for a pre-dinner wine.
It was huge success and very filling. She served it with hunks of iceberg lettuce drizzled with Kewpie mayonnaise and cherry tomatoes. For dessert we ate slices of chilled water melon.

There were some emotional moments in the kitchen. Our delightful Miss 10 had kept us entertained all week by doing what my partner calls her Dan Carters (high kicks) and cartwheels on the lawn and writing and drawing very witty mischievous stories about our pets and her sisters. She has her own creative approach to cooking.

Her main course proceeded without any dramas. The contents of a couple of tins of crushed tomatoes were whizzed briefly in the food processor and then simmered in a pot until slightly reduced. This sauce, along with some tinned tuna (from which the oil had been drained) was stirred through pasta spirals. Lots of cheese was grated on top. So easy and we all enjoyed it.

But there was a meltdown when it came to dessert. Her own recipe for little sponge cakes baked in mugs in the microwave failed to rise and was inedible. She had copied it down from an Internet site and added an egg which had worked perfectly when she’d tried it at home.

When the tears had dried I explained that different microwave ovens can perform differently, and that you have to measure very accurately when baking. I persuaded her to switch to a reliable Alison Holst chocolate cake in a mug which as one would expect turned out perfectly.

There was a birthday coming up. Our twelve year old was about to turn 13. Baking is my oldest granddaughter’s favourite hobby. She made an amazing triple tiered chocolate birthday cake for her sister, covered in buttercream icing and decorated with hand coloured buttercream flowers. It took her all day but the result was amazing.

And as a thank you present for our neighbours who always let them swim in their pool she made Alison Holst’s Rich Chocolate Cupcakes but added her own salted caramel icing. It was one of those incredibly easy recipes where you just put all the ingredients in a bowl and beat them for two minutes, but it lived up to its promise and tasted great.

Out of all the cookbooks we had looked at The Complete Home Baking Collection by Simon and Alison Holst had been the most popular. I think I need to send a copy home with them as every young cook needs some reliable, tasty and economical recipes.

Chocolate Mug Cake Holst 2In the meantime here’s Miss 10’s favourite:

Five Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
Yes, that is chocolate mug, not mud, cake. This is our version of a recipe that we were emailed, where the mixture was stirred together, and then baked in a coffee mug. We’ve moved away from this a little, but it’s still amazing how you can get such a good result in a short space of time. Chocolate cake is only five minutes away any time of day!

(Reproduced from The Complete Home Baking Collection by Simon & Alison Holst, published by Hyndman Publishing, RRP$45.00, available nationwide)

For 2 small cakes:
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp canola or other light oil
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
¼ cup self-raising flour
¼ cup milk
¼ tsp vanilla essence
pinch of salt

➊ Measure the sugar into a small bowl, add the egg and oil and whisk until pale and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and stir just enough to combine.
➋ Non-stick spray two microwave-safe teacups or two 250ml ramekins or teacups. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared containers, then place them in the microwave.
➌ Cover with a square of baking paper or a paper towel, then cook on High (100% power) for 2.–3 minutes or until the centre of the cakes is firm.
Remove the cakes from the microwave, then tip them out of the cups/ramekins. Cool on a rack for a few minutes or enjoy immediately.
➍ Some yoghurt, whipped cream or ice-cream make the perfect accompaniment.

By Lyn Potter. Read more here.