Encouraging your little ones to cook and try new foods

From a very early age I have cooked and baked with Tilly and Florence.  This stems from my experiences as a youngster.

Florence and Tilly making dough

One of my earliest memories as a child was making jam tarts with my mum.  We have some photos of me, nearly 3 sat making pastry and my brother who wasn't even one sat with a spoonful of jam.  Where that jam ended up is anyone's guess, more than likely in his mouth or on the floor but when I see those photos it makes me feel happy and evokes lovely warm memories.

My mum is an excellent cook and my father was a baker.  In fact my grandpa and my father were exceptionally good and made one of the cakes for Princess Margaret's wedding and also for Princess Anne amongst others.  Unsurprisingly my father is a perfectionist when it comes to baking and cakes.  As a little girl I would often bake on my own (probably from the age of about 7) and would always try to impress my dad with my bread.  Plaits, twists, cheesy twists, anything that would look impressive. More often than not they would turn out looking like bricks and would have been better of propping the door open but both of my parents encouraged me.  Dad would always provide helpful hints on which flour was best or which raising agents to use etc.

So now I have a 5 and a 2 year old I am trying to encourage them to bake and cook.  Not only is it a lovely thing to do together it is a really good way of introducing new flavours and making mealtimes exciting.  Most kids relish eating something they have cooked.  This week we made cheesy, garlicky, sausagey rolls and I served them with some homemade tomato soup which all my children and our nanny share children loved aged 13 months to 5 years old:

Cheesy Sausage Buns

The children loved eating these and had a suppertime snack straight from the oven.  Tilly asked that we use ham next time instead of sausages. Without her realising it, Tilly is already putting flavours together and working out which foods complement each other.  These rolls were certainly worth the effort, the accompanying soup was very healthy and contained tomatoes, celery, herbs, potatoes, carrots and was just what everyone fancied on a cold wintery day.

Soups are such a great way of getting vegetables into children.  When Florence was being weaned I used to base her purees upon what we were having.  One of my favourites was a warm beetroot soup.  At 3 Tilly thought this was great and I used red peppers, red onions and mixed some soft cheese in for tilly to give it a creamy taste. Florence had a derivative of the soup and she always ate it all.  I have to confess it led to some interesting nappies though! Tilly still loves this soup and now we play a little game whereby she decides which veggies will go into the soup.  I find the more I involve them in the making of meals the more likely they are to eat them.

Tillys most common request and now Florences is for fish goujons (or in florence speak 'googongs')!  I slice up the fish (usually salmon or haddock), Tilly cracks and beats the egg then we put plates of breadcrumbs and flour out and they love dipping the fish in the various plates.  Of course it's messy but it's lots of fun and means they eat every last morsel.  We then make homemade chips or potato wedges and peas to go with them.

I believe that by getting them involved in the cooking process, they are acquiring some essential skills in cooking and they are more likely to be adventurous with food and will now try pretty much anything.  They don't always like what they taste but I'm always proud of them for giving it a go!