Learning from the grandchildren


I'm not sure that I can call my older grandchildren children anymore. The two oldest are technically teenagers anyway and the next two are not that far off. So they are probably past those pearls of wisdom that very young children often surprise us with. However, after last week's lesson I learnt a thing or two. Not very huge things, but still.


Above are the main two. My oldest grandson hates cutting up onions because of the tears, and so there he is with his swimming goggles on, happily cutting away. No tears. He was very keen to pass this on and so his oldest cousin also tried it when she came to her task of cutting up onions. It's not much of a tip for me but very useful if you are cooking with children and they adored the fun of it. It's not much of a tip for me because (a) I don't generally suffer too much - maybe one builds up immunity over the years? and (b) these days I'm always wearing glasses anyway so doing the same as the goggles thing - but less fun.


Second lesson - how to make naan. That naan at the top of the page was made by my second granddaughter - she's 11 years old, and it looks as good as anything you will get in Indian restaurants. Possibly a little thin - that's a stack of them in the top photo. Of course they are not cooked in a tandoor oven - in a hot pan on the stove instead I believe, but still. Actually when I came to check out Felicity Cloake's Perfect naan I noticed that she also cooked them in a pan because:


"I find the best way to replicate the high heat and charred flavours is with a very, very hot dry pan – Singh and Solomon’s hot oven leaves them too stiff, more like a pizza crust."


My granddaughter used a recipe from her favourite Recipe Tin Eats which I just checked out. I have to say it's very clear with lots of explanations of why you do this and that, and there is a video too. So I might try it one day. I checked it out with a couple of others and Felicity Cloake's Perfect naan which covers most of the variations. She doesn't use eggs in her final version, though Madhur Jaffrey does, and she uses yoghurt which Nagi of Recipe Tin Eats doesn't. Instant yeast seems to be the thing though. Below are the two 'professional' versions - Recipe Tin Eats on the left and Felicity Cloake on the right, and actually they don't look that much better than Zoe's. Just a bit thicker perhaps, but it's hard to see how thick Zoe's were.

Why was Zoe making naan and why was Baden chopping onions? Well I had set out to teach them how to design and cook a stew. I knew that when I mentioned that we were going to cook a stew there would not be much enthusiasm, so I pointed out that curries were a stew too. So, of course the girls went for a curry. I had given them some ideas to think about - what meat, what veg, what liquid, what flavours and touched on the two basic different methods - throw it all in a pot and cook, and fry the onions, and meat with the flavourings first. No recipes were allowed. I guess the naan were an extra, so that was allowed. The girls went for the second method - well they were doing curry - and the boys and I went for the throw it all in the pot approach.


I have to say that it was a very amicable cooking lesson. The siblings in each family are prone to mini arguments normally of course. But not on Sunday. All was harmony. Well the girls were each cooking their own dish and the boys had lots of different things to chop up so it could all be shared - with a little help from mum every now and then. I think it was our most peaceful lesson yet. And the results speak for themselves. Obviously not as photogenic as the professionals - not much styling here - but not bad.


So below are the results - a sort of butter chicken from Zoe - her words - made with her own mix of spices, not a curry paste; a potato and pea curry from Abby, who is increasingly vegetarian; the boys tomatoey beef stew, and my pretty old-fashioned beef and beer stew with dumplings. Styling prize goes to the boys I think, and I believe it tasted good too. It certainly looks as if it would. Apparently the meat and the veggies were cooking perfectly and the meat just fell apart. I think the vegetables were onions, leeks, carrots and potatoes and flavoured with rosemary and garlic. They didn't fancy olives.

I had too much liquid. I should have boiled it down, like I told the children to do. I think I'm not needed any more. Besides it's my older son's birthday next weekend so we are going out for a meal, now that we are allowed to. Time to think of something more challenging for the following week.

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