Thursday was my cooking lesson day and I decided we would do tray bakes. Easy - delicious and a chance to experiment. Above are the results - looking good. It was full of drama and fun and little surprises along the way, so I just wanted to share a few things.
My grandchildren are now middle-aged children if you like - maybe even tweens - they range in age from 9 to 13 - well there is one more aged 5 but he does not partake in this exercise - he's helping dad with his building. There are two families - two boys and two girls. Thursday's lesson was the first time the boys have participated. The two girls have a mother (and father too) who are very interested in cooking, and I think the girls have been involved in meal preparation for some time - even to the point where they make the dinner all on their own every now and then. Which proves to my mind that anyone can cook if they can read. The boys have parents who are also interested, but less confident I think - though they shouldn't be. And being boys they are also less interested I think.
In this they are like many middle-sized boys. Much harder to get them involved. Somehow they think it's a 'girl' thing, which is interesting because, as I said in my post on chef's hats the other day, even now, most of the famous chefs of the world are men. I wonder what the ratio of men to women is in cooking schools? I bet there are at least as many women as men and I bet that even so the top jobs go to men. I should say that little boys are a different proposition. They like to get into it too, but I think the parents wanted this to be a thing for the older two.
But back to the grandchildren. The older of my grandsons was late getting to the 'class' because he had been in the park kicking a soccer ball with a friend, and then he only said hi before his scheduled hook-up with friends. So he did not participate at all. The younger one did though - assisted by mum, who, alas, had to take over when he cut himself on a vegetable peeler. Easily done - I have done it myself even as an adult. But just too much for him. I think there was blood and a fairly bad cut. So mum had to finish it all off, but hopefully she enjoyed it all as much as I did.
My original idea had been that they would each think of a kind of meat and have a vague idea of what kind of cuisine they would go for and then we would talk it through together and they would each make up their own tray bake. As it turned out we all decided on chicken - well it's the easiest kind of meat for this kind of thing isn't it? But then came the surprises.
The two girls, efficient and keen young things that they are, had been scouring recipes I think, and the younger one in particular rang me around lunchtime to help her choose between two, and should she marinade the chicken now? So I was sort of hijacked, but really this is all part of the fun. I told her to go ahead and marinate her Greek chicken. In a way she didn't really do a tray bake in the sense that I had intended, but that's not the point with children is it really? And boy did she throw herself into the Greek salad. I was so impressed. After a quick discussion about what goes into a Greek salad she chopped away at all her ingredients. She had no feta so what did she do? She chopped up some pieces of bread instead - because she knew about panzanella - the Italian bread and tomato salad. Wow!
The rest of us meanwhile soldiered on producing a kind of Mediterranean French chicken tray bake. And before my poor grandson cut himself he also had a lot of fun (I think) cutting up tomatoes and potatoes and onions to go in the mix. My older granddaughter soldiered on almost completely on her own in a very self-assured and determined manner and I have to say the finished results from all of us, look pretty Ok if not quite as aesthetically beautiful as Donna Hay's version of the same thing - Tray baked chicken with tomato and olives. I'm willing to bet that ours tasted better though. I mean she hasn't got any yummy potatoes or onions or capsicum, or zucchini in it has she? And not a lot of juice either. It's actually little more than baked chicken breasts with decorative cherry tomatoes and olives and shredded lemon rind. In this case looks aren't everything.
She also hasn't got the surprise goodie which I discovered. Prior to the lesson I had scoured the net for ideas, and found that Jamie Oliver, in one of his dishes, had torn up some ciabatta and added it to the mix. I wasn't sure about this but thought that I would give it a go by using up some of that damper bread we bought the other day - it's getting stale. Well I have to tell you that my husband thought that the finished, crunchy on top, and creamy on the bottom pieces of bread were his favourite thing. "What's that?" he said as he bit into the first piece, 'it's absolutely delicious." The bread had soaked up the juices and browned on top - perfect. I was sorry that I had been so unsure I had only put in a few pieces. So next time you do a tray bake I do suggest that you try it.
I've promised that next time we will make a cake from an actual recipe - no knives involved, but that we'll try kebabs the week after that. The grandsons had wanted to do kebabs. My Greek cooking granddaughter also wants me to do 'mochi' after that. I'm ashamed to say I didn't know what 'mochi' was - it's a Japanese dessert. I've just done a quick search and this seems to be what it is. I think I might get her to teach me!
But for all you grandparents out there give it a go. It is so much fun. Via Zoom of course.