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Diwali – through the eyes of a child!

Last week was the celebration of Diwali and we like a good excuse to try something new here at Crafty Cooks and so all the little cooks set about making some delicious samosa’s – though not quite authentic, as made with pastry they went down a storm. I’m always slightly concerned when I do anything different, it only takes one or two overly dubious children to put the entire class off of their farings, but each class ate them up with great gusto, just the same as last years chefs. The recipe is very simple, cold mashed potato, peas and a bit of tumeric and garam masala and the result is a beautifully yellow pasty. Many of the kids had eaten curry before, but for some this was a whole new experience with tastes and smells they had never experienced before. The kids did fantastically, the first class not aided in any way by diabolical traffic meaning they arrived late and had to hurry through,speedily chopping their butter, rubbing it in to their flour and making a beautiful pastry!

 

We learnt a bit about the story of Diwali whilst the samosas cooked, of  Rama and Sita, the warrior prince and his beautiful wife, the evil king with ten heads and twenty arms who stole this beautiful wife, and the hero monkey king who helped to find her. I asked the kids what Daddy would do if Mummy got stolen – expecting them to say go and find her, most did but one little, rather astute chap said he doubted his Daddy would go looking, Mummy nagged far too much! Another one, the sweetest child you could meet, replied ‘I’d punch him in the face’, his Mother looked slightly shocked and tried to explain that you should ask very nicely if he could please hand her back and there was no need for violence, but he wasn’t having any of it, there is, it would seem, a time and a place for manners and this would not be one of them!  It seemed a foolproof plan to win back your princess until one of the Mums threw a bit of a conundrum into the equation with two little words… which face?

They also decided that the evil king was probably evil on account of having ten heads, twenty arms and most likely suffering an intolerable level of bullying as a boy, some even felt a bit sorry for the king and thought maybe he could keep her as he’s probably very nice once you get to know him and the prince was wealthy and handsome and would find a new princess in no time! Anyway, having won them round to the fact the king being killed by a poisonous arrow and the prince and princess being reunited was a good thing, we talked about the lights to guide them home and how it is known as the festival of lights and in a final flurry of Diwali fun we made some fab little chocolate sparklers. These are dead simple. Take one chocolate finger, dip the end into hot water, and then into a cup of sprinkles and hey presto!

Why do I love my job??

Whilst herding my boys around a very cold and blustery park this morning we bumped into a lady who had come to a workshop some time ago. Her boy and my boy are now at school together and headed off to the skatepark to compare scooter skills and we dutifully trudged behind them making idle, sleepy morning chit cat through chattering teeth. ‘Still cooking?’ she asked.  I told her yes, more than ever now both kids were at school and I had less of a childcare shuffle to contend with. ‘Do you enjoy it?’ was the next question. I found it slightly odd that someone would even contemplate I didn’t and then realised just how lucky I am. My hellish commute means wandering down the stairs or a small trip to a local hall and my colleagues well….

Need I say more? You can be in the foulest of moods when the doorbell rings and then lots of excited little feet tipper tapper in, asking what we’re cooking, and their enthusiasm is contagious. ‘But don’t you fancy a change? Aren’t you bored?’ True, sometimes I need a new challenge but there are plenty of those to create to build the business, and as for bored…nope! Though every class in a given week makes the same recipe, each class is so very different and to me what we’re making is an aside to the little personalities I’m getting to know and chat to and the friendly chatter of the parents, who, over the course of a term, invariably become friends, it’s a little like hosting lots of big play dates really, just without the stress that mine will show themselves up by doing something naughty! Aside from all of this there is also the complete ease in which it fits around my own family. I have two young boys who I want to be a full time mum to, to be there with them in the holidays and this way I can. I’m very lucky!

This was the reason why I took the rather scary and expensive step to first license and then franchise the business. I had a very wonderful friend who was desperate to get back a work life balance and she loved to bake and loved kids so it seemed an ideal step. We did the planning together to get what we both wanted but in the last stage she had a change of heart, however someone she had spoken to along the way contacted and asked if she could do it instead and so there I was with my first licensee. After a few years and a few new people we restructured it to a franchise and at the moment we now have ten lovely lades and myself, running classes, with the hope that more will join us soon. Starting a business is never easy, whether alone or as a franchise but as a franchise you do have everything in place, lots of support and some ready made advertising. My aim is for everyone to know about Crafty Cooks, for every child to be able to go to a class, for every parent to learn how to get their kids cooking and eating and well… world domination! If you or someone you know may just be thinking of starting up something like this and would like to know more, do get in touch! Anna@craftycooks.co.uk

It’s raining potatoes

This week we are making delicious Pumpkin scones. A recipe greeted with mild trepidation by adult and child alike, but, as always they left carrying far fewer than they had made. Most children know about the funny or scary faced pumpkins we carve out and light up, but most children also think they are simply a novelty torch for halloween and so it comes as a bit of a shock that we can actually eat them!

Whilst they cooked we had a try of some pumpkin and some seeds, initially a lot of the kids weren’t all that sold on the idea of having a taste – and then they were offered points. One point if you lick it, two points if you nibble it and a once in a lifetime two hundred points if you ate it all and quick as a flash the pumpkin was gone. I was telling my husband this evening. ‘what do the points mean?’ he asked. The answer, absolutely nothing, just the thrill of having achieved something really good. He felt this rather fraudulent until I pointed out that they now know they like pumpkin and that discovery alone made them happy! (He still thought this was a bit of a cop out!)

After we’d had a little tasting session we set about looking where foods come from, underground, over ground or on a tree. We discussed just how a big the tree would have to be to grow pumpkins and decided  that would just be silly! But how about carrots, onions, pears and plums? They got them mostly right, with the exception of the flying potatoes… lets hope it doesn’t start raining!

               

Corn dogs

This week saw my class making lovely little savoury muffins. These little cakes are slightly heavier and more ‘bready’ in consistency to your normal cakes, contain no sugar, and can be packed with anything you like, cold cooked meats, veggies, leftovers from last nights dinner… we used peppers, tomoatoes, sweetcorn and cheese. Kids love a good cake, be it sweet or savoury, if it looks like a cake it must be a friendly food and for those less keen on anything of a veggie origin you can often convince them the extra bits are there just to make them look pretty!

To coincide with the sweetcorn in the muffins we had some fun looking at and tasting sweetcorn, most were bamboozled by the leafed corn, good guesses all round of cabbage and lettuce and even better excited faces when we peeled back the leaves to show the corn. So we had the corn but how does it turn from a cob, to a whole load of little niblets? Again most excellent suggestions were put forward from knife wielding ninjas, to my personal favourite, a dog in a machine. We think the premise of this ingenious idea was that the dog sat in the machine and nibbled off the niblets – we discussed the merits of the idea but the ultimate conclusion was that it may not pass the stringent health and safety regulations we must adhere too, shame. To prove that the corn can indeed come off of the cob we had a go at munching it off pre-cooked, cold cobs, the kids loved it and it struck me what a great packed lunch filler this would eb. Kids love the taste and they always love somethinga  little quirky. Next was the turn of raw baby corn, another dieal lunch box food, the jury was split. I’d warned them that it crunched into hundreds of little bits which felt a bit odd on teh tongue the first time it tasted them but then, once your tongue was used to the bobbles it was lovely . Some of the kids munched with dubious face waiting for their tongue to become accustomed to the rather alien texture, some gulped it down as fast as they could and others. well, they spat it straight out looking rather disgusted!

 

Photo: Yum!

 

For those of you that didn’t join us, here’s the recipe

2oz Butter – melted

6oz Self Raising Flour

1 Egg

60ml Milk

Fillings

 

* Sift the flour into your bowl and take some small handfuls of your favourite fillings and mix in to the flour.

* Stir in the melted butter

* Stir in the egg (having scooped it from your mat where it escaped to during cracking)

* Stir in the milk

* Give it all a huge mix and split between 6-8 cakes cases.

* Cook for 12-15mins at 220 oC

*

Dancing teeth and tickled tongues!

This week we’re making lemon biscuits in class, and whilst they cook the kids in my groups have been tasted various citrus fruits, oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits. Our activity time is all about exploring the foods around us that quite often we, as parents, just assume our kids know about, but a few were stumped on these, we don’t see them so maybe they grow underground? Maybe they fall from the sky? Great rationalising but sadly not! The answers we get when we probe the kids about the foods and how they grow are fabulous. Once talking about carrots I explained that they grow underground and the soil acts as a big duvet to keep them warm, the leaves grow out so they can gobble up the sunshine and feed the carrots and the roots are like teeny straws sucking up the water from the soil to give the carrots a drink and help them grow. Where does the water come from if they’re in a big field though? Thumbs twiddled and lips were chewed until a very quiet little voice whispered ‘ bunny tears? Definately up there in the top five cute moments!’

I’ve spoken before about a little girl who’d been with me for a while with various disabilities, but also this term I have a very special little girl named Libby. Libby is 4 1/2 and has Downs Syndrome. I was going to write ‘sadly has Down’s syndrome’ but since knowing her that’s not the case, there is nothing sad about Libby. There are some kids that you just want to cuddle and she is one of them. I’ll hold my hands up and openly admit that I’ve always been a little nervous around kids with disabilities but these two little girls have taught me so much, people are people of all shapes and sizes, all strengths and weaknesses, it’s that simple! She is the smiliest most joyful child I know and a true pleasure to have in my class. When we got to tasting this week her Mum looked at me and mouthed that she doesn’t like oranges, in true determined Libby fashion she watched the other kids trying their orange, took a look at hers, looked at the kids, and had a little nibble, then suddenly the whole thing was gone and the smile was very big indeed – on both her and her Mummy!

Libby and her biscuits!

I love citrus week, the faces the kids pull are always entertaining, and more often than not they’ll go back for another curious lick. One little lady couldn’t stop giggling as the lime tickled her tongue, one other described it as making their teeth dance, but nearly all tasted and I now suspect the shop keepers in the area are wondering why their grapefruit and lime sales have spiked this week! As adults we decide what flavours we think are palatable, we have so many preconceptions on good and bad flavours, at the weekend we went to a carvery and my 7 year old was decidely excited that they had both sprouts and red cabbage – it was apparently ‘epic and awesome’ The guy serving thought he was being sarcastic til he started piling them on to his plate! Unfortuantely when asked at school what his favourite foods were he forgot his love of veg and drew a huge battered sausage, ho hum.

If you fancied making some lemon biscuits yourself, here’s the recipe

2.5oz butter

1.5oz Icing sugar

4oz Plain Flour

1/2 lemon juice

Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy, stir in the flour, add the juice and knead into a ball and there you have it! Roll to biscuit thickness and cook for 10 mins at 180oC – though do keep checking as they suddenly cook!

 

What makes a cheese shape cheesy?

So, what does make a cheese shape taste cheesy? Simple enough question you’d think, but no, it had 99% of my little cooks completely stumped this week, raisins? Chocolate? Tomatoes? Even with a bit of phonetic help, starts with ‘ch’….. ends with ‘eese’ they looked well and truly bamboozled! It just goes to show how the seemingly simplest things don’t always appear so, it really is only easy if you know the answer! Having made a lovely cheddery dough, cut out lots of fabulous shapes and sent them over to the oven we set about tasting some cheeses – chedder, always popular, leerdammer with holes, one little boys mirth over these holes was particulalry sweet, Gouda and Port Salut – Gouda being 2nd in the popularity stakes. We chatted about where the cheese comes from … and then where it came from before it was lovingly put on the shelf at various well known supermarkets, and they got it in one, we make cheese with milk. We get milk from cows, and sheep, and goats… and apparently camels. We get eggs from ducks, chickens and dinosaurs though we all agreed you’d need a mighty big pan if using a dino egg, so maybe best just to stick to the chickens. As for the camel milk, well, you learn something every day! Some of the best answers are the completely innocent and often totally correct ones, where do we get milk from…. mummy. What food do we get from a chicken…. spicy wings. I don’t always get the answer I was hoping for. If I did I’m sure my job wouldn’t be nearly so entertaining!