The joys of cooking with kids
PUBLISHED: 11:51 21 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:31 20 February 2013
Self-confessed "terrible cook" Jane Haynes embarked on a day's cookery challenge with her young son. It was an eye-opening experience
My Son let out a satisfied sigh, sat back in his chair and tossed his napkin onto his scraped-clean plate. Now that, he declared, was delicious.
I reached over and gave him a little pinch in the arm. Ow, what was that for? he intoned plaintively. I grinned. Just checking you were real and not a figment of my imagination.
Aged 11, Felix is an avowed despiser of green things and only prepared to countenance eating fish if its coated in something, yet had just wolfed down a beautiful lightly pan-fried fillet of salmon, served up with a liberal helping of green peas cooked with lettuce, spring onion and herbs, home-made pesto and delicately boiled wild rice.
Even better, he had cooked the lot himself. As he set about his passion fruit brulee tart, also created by his own fair hands, I swear I saw him visibly grow an inch taller.
We were in the dining room at Brompton Cookery School, a stunning National Trust property in the heart of the county, half way through a magical day learning and sharing the art of cooking.
Now, I love eating food and have a girth to prove it, but get little pleasure out of cooking; amid the hustle and bustle of a demanding job and hectic family life, I find it a chore and tend to get easily flustered amid the pots and pans. My son, meanwhile, is one of those children that seems to get by on not a lot, turning up his nose at anything vaguely healthy, while managing to stay fit and bursting with energy.
It was to try to address these shortcomings that I decided we were perfect candidates for the schools family cookery masterclass.
What also privately motivated me was the desire to share an experience with my nearly-teen. While my son is delightful company and still seems to cherish family time, Im beginning to get a glimpse of the teenage years ahead; the sullen silences, the closed bedroom door, the head in a laptop and the protestations that I just dont understand. Here was an opportunity to create more common ground for the years ahead.
Joining us for the day at Brompton were three combinations of father-and-son and two couples, all equally on a quest for an experience to remember. Most had come from farther afield - Ann and John Dale had come from Coventry, district nurse Gabrielle Daymond and BT worker husband Paul were from Birmingham, Will Ingles and son Joseph had travelled up from Worcester.
Our mentor and teacher for the day was the wonderfully patient, calm and collected Cathy Thomason, who led us step by step through recipes before letting us loose to give each one a try.
Assisting her and us throughout the day was Cris Georgesco, a delightful man who measured and weighed all our ingredients and even helped with the washing up.
During the morning I quickly realised how remiss I had been in failing to teach my son some basic cooking techniques.
He was unsure how to cream sugar and butter together; struggled to break eggs without getting shell into the mix; and was generally a bit nervous about what to do when. In truth, I wasnt faring much better.
At the counter behind us 11 year old Jacob Dennis was proving a dabhand, whizzing through the workload ahead of his dad Andrew, while wannabe chef Michael Kinsey, 14, was managing to complete the cooking and do his own washing up while we struggled to keep up.
Slowly and surely, though, we began to find our way.
The first dish we created, after a false start, was hot cross buns. They were not perfectly shaped, but they tasted delicious. We had no time to bask in our glory - we were soon back at the front counter, watching as Cathy took us step by gentle step through the myriad processes involved in creating passion fruit brulee and a pastry case to pour it into.
Soon we were back again watching and learning before heading back to our stations to prepare our own lunch - the aforementioned salmon and greens, followed by our own passion fruit tarts.
It was truly delicious, especially with a glass of local wine and followed by fresh coffee and tiny lavender biscuits.
After lunch it all began to get a bit Masterchef as we all vied to produce the most stunning dish.
Cheese and onion soda bread and everyones favourite, a gooey chocolate cake, rounded off a brilliant day.
By the end we were all, frankly, pretty exhausted, but in a good way; and were laden down with bags and boxes of goodies to share with our families.
The joy of creating such tasty food was a pleasure in itself; but what really filled me with a warm glow on the drive home was hearing my son chatter excitedly about what he was going to conjure up next.
As he so succinctly put it: I thought it was going to be really boring but it wasnt - it was great!
Forthcoming courses booking now include:
7 Simply Impressive Suppers 135
14 Demo & Dine eveningfrom 6.30pm 75
21 Traditional Breadmaking part 1110
26 Divine Desserts125
4 Family Fun 180 for two
8 Cupcake Crazy half day (9.45am 2pm) 70
11 Meat Glorious Meat 145
15 Family Fun half day (9.45am 2pm) 125 for two
16 Taste of France145
18 Traditional Breadmaking part 2 110
23 Better Baking 110
29 Taste of Italy 145
The courses are for full days 9.45am 4pm, unless otherwise marked. More details on the courses and further dates are available at www.bromptoncookeryschool.co.uk