October 25, 2015
A little newsy post for you today on my after school cook clubs. Since the Spring I’ve been lucky enough to receive Big Lottery funding on behalf of two local Herefordshire schools to run healthy eating cook classes. Eat Your Veg in action and I’m loving every minute, my dream vocation in fact. It’s been truly brilliant, and massively rewarding of course, to inspire interest in our future generation of cooks and watch their skills and confidence grow week on week. It never ceases to delight me how naturally excited and interested kids are to cook, and if I can ignite an everlasting passion in food and healthy eating in just a handful of children over the year then my job is done.
At my Withington ‘Healthy Dinners Club’ we cook an entire meal from scratch every week. In just under an hour and a half, including healthy snack and drink time, we put together such tasty delights as Meatballs in a Hidden Veggie Tommie Sauce, Chicken & Veggie Tikka Masala, Baked Fishcakes & Wedges, Chilli Con Carne, Chicken & Veggie Stir Fry and Summer Veggie & Gnocchi Bake. The kids then get to proudly take their food home for their families to eat that night, along with a recipe card and any re-heating notes. I deliberately aimed high in my choice of dishes, choosing many that kids of primary age would not normally be making so as to demonstrate quite how simple many usual family dinners can be. And in turn to instill confidence and familiarity with common foods and veggies at a young age.
The kids don’t obviously do everything themselves, as myself and an assistant are there at all times to lend a helping hand, but are encouraged to do the lion’s share. Some kids in particular have been feistily independent and refused any help whatsoever, which of course is awesome. Others start off very timid and unconfident with the food and have limited knife skills, but by the end are cracking out meatballs and dicing a courgette without a worry.
It’s also been an excellent exercise in getting children to try different foods and dishes. I’m a firm believer that these little people are far more willing to eat a dinner they’ve helped make (though I have to admit my own daughter firmly contradicts this!). Take my Veggie & Gnocchi Bake, I’ve made the dish with three groups now and can vouch that initially virtually every child has recoiled in horror at the idea of a meatless dinner, and especially one containing so many veggies (namely aubergines, courgettes, red peppers and tomatoes). But once they’ve chopped all the veggies, made their rich and very tasty tommie sauce, cooked the gnocchi and smothered it all in Mozzarella and Parmesan I’ve yet to have a child who hasn’t loved it, and loved trying gnocchi for the first time too. We always try to find the time at the end of the sessions to have a taste test before whisking the dishes home, and they all give it a good go. And usually really like what they’ve made.
Each of the dinners contains at least two veggie portions of their 5-a-day and most contain a good bit more, in true Eat Your Veg style!. A very useful exercise in veggie familiarity too; by the end of the five week course kids can name pretty much all seasonal veggies and know exactly how to chop them. All veggies are supplied by Hereford based Growing Local is Going Local, which is a fantastic community interest company that supply locally grown (mainly organic) fruit and veggies direct to your door every Thursday (or as many Thursdays as you wish). Profits go to fund their excellent veggie growing educational work with local schools.
My other club is at Sutton Primary where I run a ‘Healthy Snacks Club’ making and baking healthier low sugar after school treats. But much more on this club in a separate post soon….
Back soon with more EYV news!