Friday, July 4th, was American Independence Day and here at CPS we have been having our own celebration focussing on the newest state in the US – Hawaii. We have been dusting down our grass skirts and trying traditional Hawaiian cuisine. Amazingly Spam is a popular meat there, dating back to the posting of a sizable number of US troops to the islands during World War Two. With the troops came their rations which is where the tins of Spam came in. Having discovered the delights of this tinned meat the Hawaiians incorporated it into their traditional dishes, for example Spam Mushi (a Hawaiian version of Sushi). However, it has not all been Spam, there has been coconut, chilli and pineapple galore. Particular favourites have been coconut and lime chilli salmon with pineapple rice followed with coconut cake. We spent all afternoon dreaming about lying on the beach and riding the surf!
The children also got to try lots of enjoy exotic fruit:
Recently I visited Old Macdonald’s latest addition to their children’s nurseries at Latimer. I was so impressed with the nursery and the team working there that it has inspired me to post this. It’s a bright and colourful room, spacious and with a very high ratio of fully qualified nursery staff. It’s fully equipped and especially designed for purpose with what looks like no expense spared. Every effort has been made to ensure the children have an enjoyable and educational experience. If only my children were nursery age- I would have been very happy to send them there. No wonder Ofsted rated all their nurseries as outstanding. Go check it out at www.oldmacdonaldsdaynursery.co.uk
MUSH EM, MASH EM, SQUIDGE EM, SLICE EM, DICE EM!!!
However you like yours they are a very versatile veg and one of our staples. You may think that these critters are rather boring and mundane but oh no we have a huge variety of spuds to choose from. Coming up in April/May will be the new spuds and we are so very neglectful of the many varieties of potatoes available. Have you ever tried a pink Fir Apple? Imported from France in 1850 they are my favourite. They are truly a wonderfully delicious new potato, best cooked whole with skins on – advantage of skins is tons of goodness and fibre. Potatoes are quite easy to grow, available all year round and lend themselves to a variety of flavours that you can add to them including herbs, garlic, cheese and veggie bubbles as in bubble and squawk (as I like to call it). By the way you don’t have to just use cabbage in squawk – there is all sorts you can use, but we will save that for another day. Now is the time to get planting if you like to grow your own, they are easy peasy to grow and you can get the children involved. If you haven’t got a lot of space you can buy special potato pots to grow them in. Home grown are delicious and without the chemicals.
Are your kids like mine? Do they like to make pink mash potato with ketchup? Well how about blue/purple coloured mash, not GM modified and do away with the ketchup bottle. Surprise your kids and watch their faces while you dollop some purple mash on their plates. Keeps them on their toes and gives them a new experience- nature’s magical colours!
Bish Bash Bosh Recipe:
5 fab kids
2 pairs of large funny glasses
Some funny wigs
A blow up guitar
2 x custard pies (face size)
A bit of pasta dough
You have then cooked yourself up some great fun in the kitchen. For extra advice see our video on YouTube.
It is said that pirates captured a ship bringing the first chocolate back from America and threw it overboard saying it was disgusting! In my time, over the past 11 years working with children and as a mother of 22 years, I have only ever met two children that thought chocolate was disgusting and one of those happens to be my eldest son.
Chocolate can be traced back to the Aztecs (and even further!) but that is far enough for my muddled old brain. The Aztecs used cocoa beans to make a spicy, frothy drink called chocolati. It was a right royal affair for the Emperor Montezuma (funny how things come back into fashion isn’t it?) who served this to his Spanish guests in golden goblets. But the Spanish thought it tasted bitter and added insult to injury by stealing all their gold and adding sugar to their Chocolati.
Look what we can do with the stuff these days. From a bog standard bar of brown stuff to elegant chocolatiers who produce amazing masterpieces from it. How do they do it? “Who knows and who cares”, I hear you shout. “Just give me a chunk now to go with my nice cup of tea”. We must start with the word “tempering”, what does this word mean? In layman’s terms it involves heating up the chocolate to a certain temperature then cooling. This process stabilises the cocoa butter crystals so they then link together like best friends arm in arm. This in turn gives chocolate its shine and sharp snap – Beautiful!
Here are a few extra tempering tips for you guys to try at home with your children – only on special occasions mind you, as it is good to remember that chocolate is not a food to be taken lightly or often. I think perhaps it should come with a warning tag, “may cause headaches, sore tummies if consumed in large quantities and never to be used as a substitute for breakfast, lunch or dinner”. Oh and just in case you don’t know it is not considered one of your ‘five a day’.
Making chocolate lollies or using moulds with children can be great fun. There are four main methods of melting chocolate but number 4 is the safest option for children.
- Microwave it (on defrost mode). Problem is it can melt unevenly and burn
- Over a bain-marie. Good method for adults as it melts the chocolate slowly – not so good for children as they could easily get scalded.
- Tempering machine. Excellent, if you can afford one. They can be expensive and unless you have intentions of turning into a professional chocolatier a waste of money.
- Cookies favourite for children is electric melting pots. They are not very expensive and are far more child friendly then any of the above. Look online – dare I say Amazon?
Tips for understanding chocolate:
- Chocolate does not like getting wet (bit like my son who hates washing)
- Always use good quality chocolate. Couverture is easy to buy online or in a supermarket
- Do not over heat chocolate, it burns very quickly
- Do not stir chocolate while tempering
- If you stuff up and get a white bloom on the chocolate it’s ok still to eat or re-temper
- Heat gently until the chocolate, although still keeping its original shape, has melted. This is a big indication that it has reached the correct temp.
- Once ready you will need to work with the chocolate quickly before it sets
- For more information look on www.homechocolatefactory.com
- But most of all have fun, it still tastes the same tempered or not
Aztec Chocolate God Quetzalcoatl (ket sal koh AH tul)
Have you ever examined the ingredients of a shop-bought cake? For starters most of the basic Birthday cakes from well-known stores (which start around £25) contain over fifty different ingredients, mainly for prolonging shelf life. They also contain unnecessary amounts of sugar and are flavourless. These cakes are often unsuitable for nut allergy sufferers and those that are unable to have gluten or have other dietary requirements are not a consideration. I have often witnessed these cakes being uneaten or left at the bottom of a party bag turning into a pile of mush and then being thrown away – what is the point of this exercise? Adding so much sugar numbs our children’s tastebuds so that they cannot taste real food or notice subtle flavours. Their tastebuds have been stunned as with people who have too much salt in their food.
Supermum extraordinaire and amazing cake maker for Cookies Miranda is one of those mums who appear to be able to juggle three children (not literally) of varying ages while producing fresh homemade produce – no processed mumbo jumbo here. Miranda has plenty of hands on experience when it comes to home baking and we welcome her talents to our team. I for one have experienced Miranda’s baking skills on several occasions. In fact I deliberately invite her over as often as possible just so she will bring one of her delicious home baked creations with her. She is always home baking all sorts of goodies and yet still manages to involve her children, teaching them how to bake in the process, which is lovely to see. As a Supermum she always makes her children’s birthday cakes – some of which have been a challenge. However she always comes up with the goods…from a formula one Ferrari to Cinderella carriages and cats, it appears Supermum can put her hand to most things. Not only do these cakes look fantastic they also taste great. Miranda’s cakes start from £20 for a basic girl or boy cake and if you are interested you can order these cakes through Cookies by calling or emailing. Here’s just a couple of examples:
If you love food this is the place to go – Thame Food Festival
An early start – the view from the Town Hall while we were setting up.
A fantastic event that attracted about 25,000 visitors this year, loads of amazing artisan food and drink producers and many celebrity chefs – the star being Raymond Blanc who added comedy to his list of amazing talents and was what you’d call an all round good egg.
There were dozens and dozens of stalls set up by unique artisan food businesses each one brimming with some truly beautiful and delicious produce. I could see what Alison Isherwood, the festival organiser, meant when she told me that they seek out those who combine the highest quality with a real passion for food. It was great to chat to some of the stall-holders and pick up tips and ideas and experience their enthusiasm for their produce.
Getting busy now
I wonder who’s stall this is?
Cookies was in the Town Hall having ‘Party Pasta Fun’ with children of all ages – I believe the youngest was 2 years old – and it was great seeing so many children getting involved. The whole atmosphere was fantastic and certainly kept my energy levels up from dawn to dusk. I love my job.
One of several sessions during the day
Thanks for all your help – Miranda, Emma and my amazing Angel!
If you haven’t ventured to Brest in Brittany I would highly recommend you do. For starters it is a very short plane journey. I stayed with friends and their family in a wonderful maison Villa Ker Izella right on the beach, Plage du Kelenn in a very pretty area of Finistere. We had a truly wonderful time, the weather was superb and all the French people I met there were amazingly welcoming and very friendly. The coastal path from the beach had fantastic views and historic points of interest. The beaches were sandy, full of shells with lots of boats bobbing up and down in the shimmering sea. Beautiful cafés providing the most delicious crepes you could ever wish to eat.
One warm and sunny morning (actually everyday was sunny), as the tide was out my friend and her family took me and my daughter shell fishing. We had to search for keyhole shapes in the wet sand and when one was spotted we then put a pinch of salt in the hole. This, as my friend explained, was to make the shellfish think that the tide was coming in. The clam would then start to push its way to the surface of the sand. You then held the tip of the shell tightly (but not too tightly) and for a while it felt like a game of tug of war with the shellfish trying to suck itself back into the wet sand. After a short while the clam gave in then you were able to gently pull the clam out from the wet sand. Between the children it became a competition to see how many each child could find, it was great fun and I loved every minute of it.
Oh and of course we cooked the clams for tea.
- Villa Ker Izella is available for holiday rentals, contact email@example.com or 07966374355 for details.
Right from early age pasta has always been a firm favourite with my children and, as a busy working mother, very quick and versatile evening supper. We often get into the habit of just grabbing a bag off the shop’s shelf without contemplating that there are over 600 pasta shapes to choose from. So next time you are out shopping pick up something different to try. We have created a recipe in this blog and there are some pasta facts for you to enlighten your children with:
1. The Chinese were tucking into to pasta as early as 5,000 BC; however, according to Larousse Gastronomique (the bible of French cooking) the first reference to pasta can be traced back to Sicily in the Middle Ages.
2. Almost every country has added a particular twist to the pasta family, for the instance it’s noodles in the Far East, in Greece it’s Hilopites, Germany Spaetzle and there are Jewish Kreplach dumplings.
3. There are tons of naturally coloured pastas:
Green pasta = Spinach
Black pasta = Squid ink
Pink pasta = Beetroot
Red pasta = Tomato
Orange pasta = Carrot
4. The best pasta is made from Durum wheat, refined to make semolina – anyone remember semolina pudding at school? Making pasta out of it is a much better idea!
5. Basic white pasta, other than supplying pure energy, is really empty carbs. Whilst the finest (and expensive!) pasta can contain essential minerals and brown whole-wheat pasta is a slow-releasing energy carb with loads more vitamins and minerals, in order to make the bog standard off the shelf white pasta a useful cooking commodity we need to add value by creating a dish containing fibre, minerals, proteins and vitamins. We can do this by jazzing it up with a mixture of rainbow coloured vegetables and protein, then we are able to say we have a Healthy Pasta dish!