Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Kool Kids Cooking Club


Most of us want to encourage our children into the kitchen.
Some of us struggle with how to do this.
Maybe we are worried about what to start off with, maybe we are worried about the mess, maybe we don't have the skills ourselves or maybe you were just waiting for this!

I designed this pack as a way to help everyone to be able to get their kids in the kitchen and have some fun while you are at it.


For me, being in the kitchen is my happy place.
I would love it if I can encourage this for lots of children.
Helping them find their groovy feet in the kitchen is the aim I have.
To be able to grow up knowing what a great feeling it is to be able to make something delicious from scratch is one of life's simplest and greatest pleasures.

I think it is really important to get our children helping in the kitchen from as early as possible. Children are much more capable than we often let them be.
One of my children was able to make scrambled eggs from scratch without my help when he was 3 &1/2 years old.  Not because he was born with some sort of cooking super powers but just because I give my kids the skills and the space to do it.
I was cooking a meal once a week for our family of seven when I was aged 10. The only skill I was given was the belief that I could do it. And so I did. Often the only thing stopping us is our mindset.


 "Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't.
You are RIGHT".
Henry Ford.


YES - it is messy.

NO- that is not a good enough reason to not get your kids in the kitchen.
Teaching them to be responsible for their own mess and teaching them the skills to clean up as you go is JUST as important as the actual cooking.

Most kids want to start off cooking sweet things. That is A-OK.
Cooking ANYTHING from scratch is what we want to see. It is about using REAL ingredients and learning new skills.
Every time your child bakes or cooks, they are developing confidence, learning how to read a recipe, working out the science behind cooking, understanding flavours, knowing what utensils to use, tasting new flavours, working out the physical actions required, learning about ingredients,  learning skills for life, and hopefully gaining an appreciation of how great real food cooked from scratch really is.

The pack I have created has 6 different recipe cards, each using different skills and with different flavours and levels of difficulty.

The recipe cards are Black & White hand illustrated (by me) cards with the recipe on the back.

There is no picture of the 'finished' product, but instead hand drawn illustrations of the ingredients, so each child can rejoice in their own success of how their final dish turns out without the stress of looking at a picture and thinking that theirs 'doesn't look anything like that'.
As grown-ups we don't realise how it is those kinds of things that can worry kids and stop them feeling like a success.
The success part is that they gave it a go- and if they are not happy with how it turned out let's encourage them to try again and see what happens next time. They would have learnt something every single time.

There are Good Food puzzles and coloured pencils and a fun surprise gift in each pack.
We all know that the best learning happens when we play- when learning is fun.
Cooking is no exception. So this pack is designed to be playful and fun.

By practising in the kitchen using the cards in this pack as a starting place, my hope is that your children go on with new confidence & all the skills necessary and feel as if they could pick up any recipe book in your collection and be able to have a go.



"No-one was born a great cook"

Julia Child


Practice is what makes anyone a great cook.

Each SINGLE PURCHASE pack contains:

  •  6 Black & White hand illustrated (by GG) recipe cards
  • a pack of mini-colouring pencils to decorate your recipe cards
  • 1 GG Kool Kids wooden spoon
  • A page of 'Tips n Tricks' advice for supervising adults
  •  GG Good Food puzzle cards
  • A secret Goodie gift in each pack
  • Detailed recipe notes for each of the six recipe cards explaining origins, techniques and it's Clog-O-Meter level of difficulty (1 clog easy - 5 clogs hard). 


The recipe cards are put into a hand sewn Recipe card pouch and posted in a Kitchen Proof plastic pouch with the other goodies.
The pack is designed to get your kids into the kitchen and to have fun.
They will develop skills that will help them be able to tackle more difficult techniques and recipes as they develop confidence.
It is all about HAVING A GO and Cooking with a SMILE.

A big YAY to Kool Kids in the Kitchen!

These packs are suitable for children as young as 3 up to teenagers.

(NB: this pack is available for International buyers- HOORAH.
Please email gourmetgirlfriend@me.com for rates)

xx
GG

You can click HERE to go to my online store to order.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Family Table: Part 13: Caro Webster



A couple of years ago when I first started writing this blog I thought about what it was that I wanted to share.

It started as a way of me sharing my food knowledge and my passion for preparing real food for our families.

More importantly though I like to think that I give people the confidence to appreciate that the magic that is the Family dining experience is NOT just about the food.


While the food is what draws us to the table it should be considered but ONE of many things that are shared and indeed NOT the most important one.

LOVE to me should always be the single most important ingredient that is shared at our family table. Without LOVE the food and the entire dining experience is just another meal. But with it our souls as well as our tummies are nourished.

It is with this in mind that on Fridays I will be sharing with you my series- The Family Table- where super special guests share their family dining experiences with us. It is a way of appreciating that there are infinite ways of dining together & that the term 'Family' is a wide & wonderfully differing thing.

My wish is that every single one of my readers makes The Family Table part of their own family life.

It has been WAY too long between Friday Family Tables!
I am so sorry- what can I say? Life in 2014 proved to be WAY busier than even I could have imganined.
So here are in 2015 reviving this much loved Friday series.

This week I am sharing with you another lady of the interwebz.
Caro Webster is a keen cook and writes of her adventures on her blog Caro & Co.
We share quite a lot in common but it is our combined love of encouraging children into the kitchen that cemented our friendship.
We have talked online for a long while but we finally got to meet and have breakfast together in real life last year, along with our dear pal Barry Humphries- who thankfully had worn purple corduroy slacks for the occasion. Phew!

I am thrilled to have Caro share her Family Table with us this week.

1.) Can you please share a little about how your family shares food? 

It starts by cooking together every day. My daughter Grace is a mean baker, which is ace because I am not. She’s currently trying to perfect Pavlova and Tiramisu, so we are eating them over and over (no complaints from me). My son enjoys whiz-bangery so he’ll happily blend, chop, grind or grate ~ anything that involves a machine.  We eat about 90% of our meals together. It’s much-cherished family time.  My husband would readily admit he’s not a cook so he’s the pot scrubber of the family. It’s the perfect arrangement.


2.) Do you have hard & fast eating rules?

Only that ALL technology is shut off and put away so there’s no competition with conversation or fighting to be heard and so we can fully engage with one another.  I must admit to being a bit of a stickler for table manners and the way the table is set. We use fresh linen serviettes every night, condiments in dishes rather than jars, fresh flowers, no elbows on the table, cutlery must be held the right way, no licking plates with fingers (Grace and I are notorious for that). When the kids were little I used to tell them that Mickey Mouse would never come for dinner if our manners were bad and we didn’t make the table look pretty and colourful….

3.) Can you share with us where your cooking influences/inspiration are from?

My passion for homegrown, seasonal food and cooking initially came from my grandmother.  She wasn’t an adventurous cook but had a few old-fashioned recipes that were super yummy. Tuna Mornay with pineapple (yes, pineapple), homemade chocolate custard drizzled over her sponge cakes, lamb loin chop stew with rice, the best-ever crumbed veal schnitzel with lemon sauce and piles of creamy mash, golden syrup puddings and so on.  Although she horribly overcooked any vegetable that came her way, so we always preferred her casseroles and stews! She took great delight in feeding her grandchildren and made me want to spend time in the kitchen. My Mum, however, would have to be my greatest influence. She was a corporate housewife so nearly every Friday or Saturday evening she and Dad entertained business acquaintances and clients. This was always followed by family lunch on the Sunday which I recently wrote about here.
I was paid a pittance to be helper in the kitchen and serve the food. I actually did a silver service course so was able to impress guests with my deftness using serving implements!  It was the seventies, so I remember lots of dishes like Avocado and Prawn cocktail, Garlic Prawns, French Onion Soup, Beef Wellington, Chicken a la King, Chicken in a Basket, Fondues, anything cooked using a crockpot, stuffed vegetables, gratins. Our greatest triumph for one dinner party was to make a croquembouche from scratch, complete with drizzled toffee like a spider’s web and vanilla ice cream.  I remember being very proud of my choux balls. Mum continues to inspire me, often sending me recipes she’s found and whilst she’s now only cooking for herself, she still enjoys being in the kitchen. I love her to bits.

The talent of chefs such as Stefano Manfredi, Yotam Ottolenghi, Hetty McKinnon of Arthur Street Kitchen, Nigel Slater, Maggie Beer, and my mate Ruth Bruten ;) inspire me no end. And, um, I also have a huge soft spot for Rick Stein and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

4.) Do you have a favourite cuisine?

If I had to be restricted to one type for the rest of my life (sigh) I’d have to say Mediterranean ~ because that gives me all the countries hugging the Mediterranean Sea to choose from right? Or is that just plain greedy?  I adore everything Yotam Ottolenghi, and avidly watched his fabulous “Mediterranean Feast” series on SBS. 

5.) Can you recall a super special meal or eating experience that has stayed with you forever?

It was at our farm in the dead of winter about 10 years ago.  I did a 23-hour slow-cooked pork shoulder.  The recipe called for basting every two hours. I felt like the mother of a newborn, getting up regularly to breastfeed! We served it the next day with the creamiest mashed potato, homemade apple sauce and wintergreens from the garden. I remember because it was ‘old-fashioned pork’ (none of that new fangled stuff thank you very much), the crackling was a triumph. The meat was meltingly good. By the time we sat to eat, the fire was blazing, corks had been pulled from a couple of sensational reds, the table had been set beautifully, with small vases containing Hellebores from the garden running down the centre. The room was slightly steamed up from cooking, with misty condensation on the windows. It was so happy and snug and inviting.  It was the most convivial afternoon shared with friends and family that I can think of.  If I remember rightly, we even had snow in the afternoon. Perfect, just perfect. 

6.) Would you please share the recipe of your favourite family meal with us?

Crikey, there are so many that I’d love to share with you, but I’ll choose my oven-baked Ocean Trout because it’s dead easy and spans across the seasons. I make it often and love the delicacy of Ocean Trout.

Oven-baked Ocean Trout with roasted Kipfler potatoes and greens
Serves 4

You will need:

4 Ocean Trout fillets (skin on or off depending on your preference)
Juice of half a Lemon
Juice of one Orange
EVOO
S&P
10-15 sprigs of Lemon Thyme, leaves only
10-15 sprigs of common Thyme, leaves only
10-15 sprigs of Tarragon, leaves only 
Fennel seeds
24 Kipfler Potatoes, washed and scrubbed, cut lengthways into long thick chips
100g toasted slivered or flaked almonds
Butter

For the greens:

Cold outside? Then you’ll need:

1 large bunch of washed English Spinach roughly chopped stems and all
2 bunches baby asparagus or baby zucchini
25-30 trimmed French green beans

Warm Weather? Then you’ll need:

Small bunch of baby rocket
1 baby fennel sliced thinly (include the feathery tops)
1 Orange halved and sliced finely
150g snow peas sliced finely, lengthways
Red Wine vinegar
EVOO
Some orange juice
S&P

Preheat the oven to 180.

Place your potatoes in a roasting pan, drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and fennel seeds and put into the oven.  They’ll need to roast for about 30 or so minutes. Turn them once during roasting. 

Get 4 square pieces of tin foil and place a piece of trout on each one. Drizzle with EVOO and turn to coat well. Splash each with some lemon and orange juice and sprinkle the herbs on top. Give them a generous crack of salt and pepper. Now wrap the foil around the fish to create a little airtight parcel.  Put into a roasting pan and place into the oven.  The fish will need 10-15 minutes (tops) to cook, depending on how pink you like it.

If using the wintergreens, take a large heavy-based fry pan, add a knob of butter and melt. Add the beans and turn regularly until only just starting to cook. Add the asparagus and do the same.  At the last minute add the spinach and cook until just wilted. The whole process should only take 5-8 minutes. Remove from pan and put into a large serving bowl. Top with a knob of butter and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

If making the salad: combine the rocket, fennel, orange, snow peas in a salad bowl. Make a very simple dressing using EVOO, red wine vinegar, some orange juice and S&P ~ you might need to add a small tsp of sugar. Shake all in a jar, adjust to taste, then pour over salad and mix gently with your hands to combine.

Remove your fish and potatoes from oven. Take fish out of foil.  Arrange both across four plates (that you’ve warmed either in the oven or microwave). 

Serve immediately. So simple and bloody yummy.

7.) What music would be playing? (youtube link if possible)

Hmm, that’s hard because we all have such diverse musical tastes.  I’m a bit of a head banger from way back but also adore jazz.  My children love anything in the top 10 and my husband would always select something classical.  However, given I’m the only one who actually knows how to work our music system, I’d choose Blossom Dearie.  Blossom was a NY jazz singer and pianist of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. She has the most beautiful youthful, lilting voice.  Listening to this particular song makes me want to curl up in front of a fire with my family, our two pups, a book and a fine glass of red.

It might as well be spring ~ Blossom Dearie

Monday, 19 January 2015

Baked Middle Eastern Meatballs


When I made this dish last week my husband & I laughed at how I was actually trying to re-write the 80's mini classic cook book '100 ways with mince'.
I may have been using a lot of mince in the days previous to this......

Do you know this book?

It was the hardback that helped many a kid graduate to life away from the family kitchen to learning how to cook in their first 'living away from home' situation- including my husband.

Now it mostly graces the bookcases of the local op-shops.

There is a lot to be said for cooking with mince though.  It often gets relegated to the more dreary of recipes- but I think it deserves more of a look in.

It is a great way to slap up some quick and delicious meals & it really is an affordable meat.
So......the other night when the day had got the better of me and I was panicked by the time on the clock and the fact that I had not even thought about dinner - well I had pulled out some lovely Warialda Beef mince from the freezer first thing in the morning to defrost- but apart from that......

So I looked in the fridge & pantry for inspiration and this was what I came up with.
A lovely rich aromatic all in one dish with lots of textures. It was a big success and I am sure it will be cooked again.

I really felt like Middle eastern flavours & I also LOVE being able to serve the pot that the meal was cooked in straight to the table.
I love the communal digging in that it allows.  All arms across the table serving themselves. A kind of happy chaos of activity before we all sit down together to eat.

BAKED MIDDLE EASTERN MEATBALLS:
Whilst this dish is ultimately served at the table in one dish, it actually needs a couple of pots to start off.
I think you could get away with doing it all in one dish but that some of the flavours that help it's richness would be missing. 

It uses a couple of spice mixes that are commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine that may be new to you- Za'atar & Baharat.
Za'atar is a mix of herbs, sesame seeds & salt.
Baharat is a mix of spices.
Both can be found in good Delicatessens.

I made it so that we each had one meatball each as it combines rice and sauce. The meatballs are rolled to be a large size. We have seven in our family so we had seven meatballs in the finished dish.
The preserved lemon & the fetta add a lovely acidity and zing to the rich aromatics.


WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 500g beef mince
  • 3 cans tomatoes
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1  1/2 litres Chicken stock
  • 1 large onion,  finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon Baharat
  • 1 teaspoon Za'atar
  • 1 quarter preserved lemon, flesh removed & discarded and peel diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 cup fetta, crumbled
  • olive oil
  • lots of fresh chopped coriander & mint to serve
Method:

Preheat the oven to 160C.

In a large bowl mix half of the chopped onion, 1 teaspoon za'atar, the preserved lemon, one teaspoon cumin, 1/2 cup of the pine nuts and the mince.

Mix through your hands well until amalgamated well.

Now make large meatballs- as large as your palm. 

Fry the meatballs (3 at a time) in olive oil on a medium high heat in a non stick pan to brown the outside- it is not necessary for the inside to cook.  We are browning them to achieve a lovely caramel flavour for the final dish.  The remaining cooking will take place in the oven.
Set the browned meatballs aside while you start the sauce.

In a non stick pan, fry the remaining half of onion in a good glug of olive oil until translucent.
Add garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, baharat and bay leaves.
Now add the basmati rice and stir through.
Add the canned tomatoes and the chicken stock.
Bring to a simmer & then turn off the heat.

Find an ovenproof dish large enough to hold the meat balls and the sauce.  I like my meatballs to pop out the top- it helps them stay brown and crispy and looks great when served at the table.

In your dish pour the sauce evenly across the dish.  Now place the meatballs into the sauce & place carefully into the oven for 20 minutes.

10 minutes before serving, remove dish form oven and scatter the fetta across the dish and place back into the oven  for final 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining Pine nuts and herbs.
Serve with lemon wedges  & Parsley salad.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Teaching 5 boys about housework


My children are individuals.
My children are messy.
My children are loud.
My children are none of those things because they are boys but because they are children.
And there should be no amazement attached to the fact that mine do housework because they are boys.
Every child should be doing these jobs.
Boys AND girls.

Because despite what mainstream media would have you believe.....
Boys CAN cook.
Boys CAN wash.
Boys CAN sweep.
Boys CAN vacuum.
Boys CAN do all these things just as well as girls.
If we let them.

There have been a few articles lately about preparing boys before they leave home with skills that they need for life away from the familial home.
At first I thought-  Yeah, awesome!
Then I gave it a bit more thought and felt uneasy.
As uneasy as I do when I hear the "Boys will be boys" statement trotted out when young children of the male gender misbehave.
This isn't and shouldn't be about gender.
This is about doing the right thing.
About behaving well regardless of being female or male.
This should be about providing ALL of our children with the skills it takes to be independent.
It should also be about pitching in around the home that they live in and are cared for in.
It is certainly NOT about 'Making his wife happy'- this one I hear time & time again.
Actually I am not so presumptuous that my children will either a) marry or b) choose a girl as their partner.
And I am NOT teaching my children to do this to make someone else happy but because these are things they should JUST DO.
Some of the stuff in life that we do is not nice, it is not rewarding but I reckon we have a responsibility to do it.

My motivation is not entirely because I need help (although I am the first to admit I do!) but because I think it is important to raise our children with skills that allow them to be functioning independent individuals who are aware of their environment & their responsibilities.

If nothing else these holidays by working really hard on these things day to day I have realised JUST how much I do.
It's a crazy workload to keep on top of, which is why I don't.
I don't keep on top of it. At all.

This holidays have really also emphasised to my children how much I do and it has made it very clear to them as they fumble to try & find a clean pair of underpants, just why they CAN'T find any. There are NONE- because I simply can not keep up with the laundry.

We have implemented a new laundry system & we shall see how that works.
Each child has their own basket in their bathroom and the big three (16, 14 & 12) are now entirely in charge of their own laundry- of washing it, hanging it out & folding it and putting it away. No more blaming me when they can't find those underpants. It feels big for me. A load (literally) off of my shoulders. We'll see if it works in the long term.

And so as I nag day upon day to get them to do a little more, to be a little more aware, to pick up that cup they left with the assumption that 'someone else' was going to put it in the dishwasher,  my hope is that by the end of the holidays and as we head into our busy school year, that they will take on a little more of being a community minded house-sharing type of person.

I already bring my children up with a very strong focus on being a responsible community minded person- that we have responsibilities beyond our home to be a thoughtful, kind member of society and that being kind is good in itself, not as a means to anything more. That we have a responsibility to others.
I like to think this starts in the home.
One who appreciates that all the things that happen in this house they share with 6 others don't just happen by magic. And that their behaviour within this environment affects every other person in it.

Although I have always so wished that I could just wiggle my nose à la Samantha from Bewitched and just have all that pesky housework done.........

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Giving


This week my big two finished school for the year.

It's been a big one. Both of them achieving great successes in different ways. Sometimes through hardship and wonky pathways.
I am talking not necessarily about awarded successes but rather intangible success.
Success in becoming who they are.

Sometimes the measure of success is a bit of a blurry thing I reckon.
Blurry in the sense that awards sometimes don't recognise really huge achievements that really count.

As is customary at most schools there is a Speech night & awards are handed out.  The principal and other senior teachers and children say a few words.

At this speech night, our big kids school Principal said something that really stuck with me.
It was this:

Don't think of your education as the things you learn here but as something that you can go away and give to others.

Powerful words.

I love that idea.  That what we learn throughout our life only become worthwhile if we give it away.
Our knowledge is only useful if we share it.

The act of giving.  A wonderful thing to focus on at this time of year.

Not giving things and stuff but giving ourselves.

Giving love.


SPICED SALTED CARAMEL CITRUS UPSIDE DOWN CAKE:
I made this cake last week and LOVED it.
My mate Stacey is coming over tomorrow and so I have baked another one to share with her.
This is a great Christmas time cake as it's spice makes it festive.
I used this recipe for inspiration but made a few changes.
Upside down cakes are so great & really quite easy.  Just be sure to line your cake tin with baking paper. I find using a springform tin helps too, although I used a well greased silicon tin for the one pictured here and it worked really well (the trick to using silicon cake tins is to lie them on a baking tray to pop in and out of the oven as they are floppy and the cake will break as you move it).


WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

for the spiced salted caramel:

  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 5 oranges, skin on, sliced into 1/2 cm slices
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 4 whole cloves
for the cake:
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon bi-carb
  • 250g salted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 6-7 slices cooked orange slices from spiced salted caramel 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Preheat the oven to 175C.

First we make the Spiced salted Caramel.
Place sugar, water, spices, salt and sliced oranges into a non stick fry pan.
Spread the orange slices evenly around the pan.
Turn on the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
Once the sugar has dissolved, turn down the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes or so until the pith of the orange becomes transparent.
Remove from heat and stir in butter.
Remove 6-7 slices from this mix to be added to the cake batter and set aside the rest to cool.
In a mixer add butter & sugar and mix till fluffy & light.
Add the eggs.

Chop the cooked orange slices coarsely and add these.
Now add the almond meal & sour cream & mix.

Slowly add the flour, baking powder & bi-carb.

Grease and line a 23cm springform tin.

Arrange the whole orange slices around the tin and pour some of the caramel over the top (I save some of mine to serve with the cake later).

Now carefully add the cake batter on top and smooth over so it is fairly uniformly spread across the tin.

Place into the oven and cook for at least an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

Remove from oven and use a knife to separate the caramel from the edge.
Let cool and invert onto a serving plate.

Serve with some of the reserved caramel sauce.