Thursday, 27 March 2014

What we teach children when we teach them how to cook

This week I have been super busy getting the wheels moving on something that has been spinning in my head for a long time.

For years I have watched little Veggie patches at our kids school that are currently the domain of the 5yo Prep students.

Every time I pass them a little cog in my brain spins.

What if we expanded these patches and began using the produce to cook with? What if........

You see for me this little spot in our school is the basis for something that, to me, is key to a much larger thing.

For children to see where food comes from and the importance of it in our day to day life is an understated yet necessary skill in life.
It helps piece together so many things.

Food is what sustains us all - on a very basic level it is the fundamental key to life.

Yet involved in that are so many other things.

The understanding of how food comes to be on our plates is an understanding of much broader and bigger themes. Ones that I believe give children a better understanding & appreciation of what is important in our greater world.

Themes that naturally occur when we discuss food and growing produce with children are: the environment and it's health, a basic understanding of where food comes from, Maths via measurement & quantity, English via reading and writing, Science via the actual cooking processes, the economy and how this affects food production, the different flavours of different cultures, how food choices are different via differing beliefs, they will learn about the many different factors that affect whether something is available or not, the arguments for ethical choices in our food consumption, we teach them about our greater responsibility to our world and the people in it, we teach about community, we teach about nurturing & love.

I for one feel strongly about the health of our planet.  I also feel very strongly about the health of our children via the foods they eat.

Starting a Kitchen Garden programme at my children's Primary school is my way of gifting these kids the knowledge to make sound choices when they eat and will hopefully encourage them to try foods they may not otherwise.

If just one of these kids goes home with a new skill - either in the garden, or in the kitchen, or in the choices they make about food I will feel happy.

Today I am off to meet with the Student Representative Council to talk about our first food event to be held on World Food Revolution day.
On this day the kids will be cooking soup to be sold to the school community to fundraise to get this programme up and running.

Once we get our patches going I will be cooking with groups and they will sell the food they cook at the canteen.  All funds made will roll back into the scheme.

The motto for the programme:

BY the kids... FOR the kids.

Ham, Cheese and Basil Quiches.
Today I baked these super easy quiches to take along with me to the meeting to use as an example of the kind of foods we will be cooking.
Simple, quick, nutritious food using ingredients that we can grow in the school Veggie patch.

Basil is coming to an end as we hit Autumn and so I am using it as much as I can while it is still in the garden.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED (makes about 20 mini quiches or 6 large muffin size ones)

  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml cream
  • 10 leaves basil, chopped
  • 3 slices ham, chopped into small squares
  • 100g grated cheese
  • 1-2 sheets puff pastry.
  • aleppo pepper for sprinkling on top (a mild chilli that gives a lovely sweet bite- not necessary but YUM!) 
Preheat oven to 200C.

In a large bowl mix eggs with all other ingredients (except the Aleppo pepper) and whisk till combined.

Cut the puff pastry into 4 large squares and then cute each square again into four.

Spray a mini muffin tin with oil and place the puff squares into them.

Spoon carefully about a tablespoon of mix into each one.

Sprinkle with aleppo pepper and pop into oven for about 25 mins or until brown.

Preferably get your kids to cook these!  They really really CAN if you let them.



  1. GourmetGirlfriend27 March 2014 at 13:34

    Hi Katt,
    I am a HUGE Stephanie fan and know her programme well. SHe is the bees knees & such a huge inspiration.
    ours will be different as our situation doesn't quite lend itself to hers but I am hoping will be great!
    I am getting the kids to cook things that we will sell at canteen with the produce they grow.

  2. Alli @ ducks on the dam27 March 2014 at 13:51

    We had a fabulous food garden at our school - no brand in particular - but a gardener 3 times a week who would do the planting / prep stuff with the kids. Produce was sold at the farmers market to fund part of the costs. Some produce was used along the way. Grade 6 kids ran the canteen on a Friday using as much garden produce as they could - salad rolls, corn on the cob, soup etc. Raised heaps of dollars for the garden side of things. Didnt ever transform into anything more and sadly the funding pot for the gardener dried up and so too did the enthusiasm for the "program". Good luck!

  3. GourmetGirlfriend27 March 2014 at 14:22

    What a shame :(

  4. Love, small one and I cook everyday. I swear it's why she likes to eat everything. We are slowly getting our school school going but my home one keeps our family in fresh veg all summer.

  5. I honestly don't know how you fit in everything you do, Ruth. Everything you do is wonderful and there you are, doing it! So impressive. The Stephanie Alexander program was too 'big' for our small school (not enough resources to participate), but I have often dreamt of starting something up on a smaller scale. I keep pulling back because I worry that I don't have the resources myself to make it work!!! I will watch your program with great anticipation. x

  6. I think you will do a great job and are worthy of Stephanie's crown

  7. I think every single school should have a veggie garden,some kids do NOT know where real food comes from,I've always wondered why they plant natives in schools and have garden clubs when they could be growing veggies and herbs to cook with,wonderful idea for your school Ruth!!

  8. After spending 18 months volunteering in a local School with their Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program (cooking classes with grade 4-7 kids), I 100% feel that all schools would benefit from this or something similar. So often we would hear comments back from parents saying "my son/daughter would not eat or try a particular vegetable/ingredient until they had planted, nurtured and then cooked with it at School". Other parents would comment that their children wanted to be involved with their home cooking, asking to start their own vegie gardens at home and generally became more aware of the importance of good food. What a beautiful thing for all involved! I have already started talking to my 8 month old son about what ingredients I am using and we do a daily "sniffing" tour of our herb garden. He loves it.

  9. At our children's school in South East Melbourne they have a program called the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen program where they grow vegetable, collect eggs from chicken and then cook and learn about the produce they are growing, it is an excellent program and as you said it helps kids try food they really wouldn't have tried.

    Here's the link


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