We love food in this house. Cooking is something that I enjoy more and more each time, despite only really learning to cook properly during my university days (which were not that long ago, honest). The only programmes that D and I really watch on television these days are foodie ones; not particularly the ones where the chef stands and shows you how to make something, but more the competitive ones – you know the ones where people sweat away for hours to be told their food is actually not that good. Seriously though, we love watching them make nice things, and we’ve really come to appreciate food more because of them all.
Our love of food seems to be rubbing off on A and E. They eat very well for their ages most of the time and are, in general, not afraid to try new things (especially when bribed with ice cream). And they both love cooking too; we cook and/or bake together at least once a week. As we do it so often I do try to make sure that we follow different recipes each time so that they don’t get bored. We must own every cookbook under the sun, but I still struggle to find appropriate recipes for them. I find many aimed at children to be very basic, with little cooking actually involved, and obviously many aimed at adults are far too complicated with few steps that children can help with. This does get incredibly tricky with such small children who are so keen to attempt the entire recipe for themselves!
Cooking provides such a valuable learning experience for children; they learn about where food comes from and what the raw ingredients look like, they observe the transformation to the finished product, and learning to cook meals from scratch from an early age can help foster healthy eating habits for life. Cooking also provides many opportunities for numeracy – counting, weighing, measuring, fractions etc. And I also find that the more my children are involved in the cooking process, the more likely they are to try the end results!
So when I heard about a team of lovely ladies trying to really get kids involved in the whole of the cooking process, and promote cooking as a fun activity to be enjoyed by the whole family, I knew that I needed to know more! Caterina, Francesca and Laura are the founders of My Little Sous-Chef and I was overjoyed to be allowed a sneak-peak at their brand new cookbook (or should I say two cookbooks).
My Little Sous-Chef is a twin-set of cookbooks: one for you, the grown-up, to follow, and one for the little chef helping you, with the aim of “introducing the little ones to the magic that happens in the kitchen with the help of the grownups”.* The grownups’ version is elegantly and neatly laid out, with a comprehensive overview of the recipe (including all of the steps involved) and a beautiful picture of the final product, whereas the kids’ version provides basic instructions, along with fun hand-drawn pictures, of those steps that are safe enough for them to get involved in; this really gives ownership of the cooking to the child involved, as they have their own book with their own instructions, and are not just following instructions from you. The adults’ version also includes a brief overview of the children’s steps in each recipe so that you do not have to constantly be switching between books! The authors have taken great care to ensure that the steps for the children are different in each recipe, helping them to learn different skills and, more importantly, maintain their interest on each occasion.
The books are laid out in three sections: Have a bite, Enjoy your meal, and Yay, dessert! (effectively starters/snacks, mains and desserts), which makes them easy to navigate. Each book contains an overall introduction, and for the children this includes some important kitchen hygiene and safety, as well as an explanation of how much fun cooking is and why! All of the recipes in the adult version are written in easy English and include a full list of ingredients and a detailed method, preparation and cooking timings, as well as approximate servings (as I would expect from any cookbook); however, they are also accompanied by very useful tips, as well as a difficulty rating for each, and I found these little extras to be really helpful! I found that my children enjoyed the recipes with the higher difficulty ratings most; probably because they are more involved in terms of child participation.
We have been testing these books for a few weeks now and have found them to contain a wonderful variety of recipes, of varying difficulties and tastes. We also found that most of the recipes are made from easy to source ingredients, or those which you would already have in the cupboard, which is always a bonus for me!
Overall I think my favourite recipe was the gnocchi. D has made gnocchi before, and so from the outset we kind of knew what we were expecting along the way; there was plenty for the children to do in this one! The recipe was straightforward, and A and E loved getting to mash and mix, squish, tear, roll, cut, and shape. The end result was a wonderful array of fluffy red, white and green gnocchi (that obviously did not look quite as good as the photograph provided in the book), which were enjoyed with the butter sauce from the recipe and some salad.
Overall we loved the books, and would thoroughly recommend them to anyone with children of any age. They are certainly books that will grow with our children as they learn to read and become more independent, and one day (hopefully not for many years though), they will be able switch to the adult version!
*My Little Sous-Chef, published by G. Caterina Falqui and Ink Inch Design, 2017.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a pdf version of both books for the purposes of this review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.