The thought of teaching my children to slice an onion fills me with horror. Yes, there’s the obvious “child + sharp knife = medical emergency and unscheduled trip to A & E” scenario playing on a loop in my mind. But there’s also something else I’m slightly embarrassed about. I’m not sure I know the correct way to slice an onion either (if you see my sliced onions you’ll know what I’m talking about). Do I really want to pass my sloppy cooking skills onto my children? No, I don’t.
Luckily for me, this summer holiday there’s been some expert and fun assistance on hand in the shape of the weekly Let’s Cookalong videos from the Tesco Eat Happy Project. We raved about the Eat Happy Project in the Friday Dish a couple of weeks ago – and if you haven’t had time to check them out yet, go do it. We’re really impressed with this site.
I promised my nine year-old daughter Téa that we would try at least one of the videos this summer holiday. Spurred on by how proud she was when she peeled carrots for the first time for the Curried Carrot Fritters, we were quite excited about being given the opportunity to review a recipe that called for some slightly more advanced cooking skills. This week Let’s Cookalong has been focussing on Indian cuisine and our chosen dish was Chicken Rogan Josh.
The Let’s Cookalong concept is simple: you and your child follow Farah, a trained cook and mum of two, as she cooks a dish. With some assistance from her young helpers, she takes you through the equipment and ingredients needed right through to the finished plate. Important reminders to “wash hands” flash up on the screen and there are also handy points where you’re told to pause the video so that you have time to chop the vegetables or allow the chicken to cook for example. All good.
Téa decided she wanted to do all of it by herself so my role was just to hover (anxiously) and help if she needed it. Remember my paranoia about trips to A & E? I needn’t have worried. With the help of the video Téa sliced pepper, onion and garlic, peeled ginger (using a trick I’ve never heard of and will be definitely be using from now on) and grated it without grated knuckles (my heart was in my mouth at this point). She also sliced chicken which she really enjoyed (unlike her mum – hate doing that). All this in the space of 30 minutes. Yes, my daughter, who up till now has only just managed to peel carrots.
The best bit was mum learnt a lot too. My peeling and chopping skills will definitely be better from now on just from watching this one video. And now I know how to make pilau rice (really easy).
This reason alone makes these videos a brilliant idea. Farah is very clear and cheerful and it felt reassuring to have her guiding us through the process. The Chicken Rogan Josh was delicious – mild and aromatic – and the pilau rice tasted exactly like the kind you get in a restaurant. We love curry in our house so this was a big hit at lunch and Téa was very proud of herself and her new-found skills.
How great to be able to teach our kids cooking skills that go beyond making fairy cakes, that will see them through to adult life. I’m pretty sure my daughter will now use the slicing, chopping and peeling skills she’s just learned from the video for the rest of her life.
Honesty time here though. Cooking with children isn’t like the photos in the glossy magazines is it – you know the ones with the smiling glamorous mum and spotlessly clean children? It can be messy, it’s definitely harder than just getting on with it and doing it yourself and it’s sometimes stressful – reasons I probably don’t do enough of it. So, here are some points to make cooking along with Let’s Cookalong a better and stress-free experience for everyone.
- Do print out the recipe card first (you’ll find recipe cards for all the recipes underneath each video). I found we referred to the recipe card quite a bit in addition to watching the video – you really don’t want to be squinting at your mobile phone screen while the chicken is cooking/burning.
- Do watch the video first and have a little play around so you get comfortable pressing pause and play. We tried it on full screen to begin with but had problems pausing it, so then had it on small screen… and had problems pausing it (our clumsy fingers kept rewinding it to the beginning of the video). It’s not ideal to be messing about with the video while you’re trying to cook. Also, it’s probably best if the adult is the one to press pause and play in order to keep the screen clean of messy fingers (cross-contamination anyone?).
- Do what Farah does and have all your ingredients measured out before you start cooking. You don’t want to be measuring out teaspoons of spices while the onions are frying or the rice sizzling.
- Do pause the video as often as you want. There are key places in the video where it suggests you pause but we stopped to catch up quite a bit more than that – and I would suggest it’s perfectly fine to do the same.
- Don’t allow your child to pour the boiling water into the sizzling rice. Téa added the water probably a little too quickly – there was a lot of steam and slight splash back of boiling water which caught her hand. Nothing too serious. To be fair, in the video Farah is the one who adds the water and she does tell the children to “mind out” but I would have liked a stronger warning here, preferably as a written warning on the screen.
- Do check out all the other activities that go along with the recipes. There are some lovely printouts for kids to colour in: placemats and a really nice drinking straw decoration, plus there are other recipes including Naan bread, samosas and a delicious-sounding Mango & Banana Lassi.
- Do have a look at the skills videos – there are some great videos teaching children how to chop veg, roll pastry and sift flour for example. The How to Chop one was especially useful for this recipe.
We loved the Chicken Rogan Josh, we loved Farah and we loved the skills the video taught us, so we’ll definitely be back to check out the other videos soon.