Thursday 27 July 2017

Teaching kids to cook

MBE holder and children's cookbook-writer extraordinaire Annabel Karmel talks to Bernice Mulligan about her latest publication and shares some of her thoughts on how to get children into the kitchen

Bernice Mulligan

PERHAPS it is wrong for a 30-year-old woman to fall in love with a cookbook meant for kids but that is what happened to me upon receiving Annabel Karmel's latest offering, You Can Cook, which aims to arm children with the basic skills of cookery. Never mind the kids, I couldn't help thinking that recipes such as Swedish Meatballs, Lamb Tagine and Chocolate Orange Brownies would be perfect for my own repertoire, given that it currently consists of stir-fry vegetables and porridge!

The woman herself is as colourful and fun as the 60 or so recipes in her book. From her home in London (she was grounded by the volcanic ash), Karmel admits that, yes, those meatballs are really very popular. "I made a batch the other day, left the kitchen for a few minutes and when I came back my kids had swiped them!" One suspects this kind of thing happens in the Karmel household regularly.

Karmel, the author of some 22 books on nutrition and cooking, believes passionately that children should be introduced to cookery at a young age. "One of the things we used to do was get our children to prepare dinner every Friday. They'd make the same dish for a month, and by the fourth Friday they were really very good at it!"

In getting children to eat healthy, she advises little tricks like cutting up fruit and vegetables into bite-sized chunks rather than leaving them whole. "It's about making food more attractive," Karmel says. She also believes a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen. "I'm a messy cook, and children are messy by nature. It's just a part of the cooking process."

But isn't cooking rather dangerous, what with all the sharp knives and boiling pots?

"It's a good point, but the thing is you can't cook without using a knife and chopping things. I think it's much better to teach a child how to use a knife properly – how to hold it and so on. The same goes for the oven. Children need to be taught these things otherwise they really could hurt themselves."

Although she's clearly a healthy-eating proponent, Karmel is refreshingly open to children having a few sweet things too, and her book has a wonderful Sweet Treats section. "It's all about moderation and having a healthy balance of foods. Life is about having the odd treat. If you make it in something forbidden, then children will just seek it out."

Quite so, Annabel. Now, tell me, did someone mention meatballs?

You Can Cook by Annabel Karmel is published by DK and costs 15.99.

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