I think I’ve written thousands of words about Midi Minx and her love of cooking and baking (and my love of troughing her creations). Ha, my Instagram page features more of her baking than my own! Recently, she’d been grizzling about Maxi’s speedier accumulation of Cub Scout badges than her own. I can see why: when she’s in Cubs uniform, Maxi looks like she fell out of a cornflakes packet… I explained to Midi that she’d need to be patient and earn her badges slowly, as she learned new knowledge and skills. No, she wants more badges NOW. She asked whether she could get any badges for existing skills. For instance, was there perhaps a baking badge..? Crafty minx! I explained that she wouldn’t get badges just for turning up and that all work for badges has to be equally taxing for everyone. I had a chat with her Akela, who was game for her to work on the badge at home. After a quick check that Midi planned to make something that would be appropriately difficult for her current skillset, she was off!
We checked the requirements of the Cubs Chef Activity badge and any available resources – no point reinventing the wheel, eh? The online pack certainly contains lots of activities (pretty handy, as it appears I’ve now merrily volunteered myself to help other Cubs get their Chefs badge!). Like her sisters, Midi’s been drilled in food hygiene and safety since she was tiny, so we just quickly looked at the relevant exercises in the activity pack and discussed them so that I was certain she’d sufficient knowledge of the areas covered. We didn’t do the food techniques game, as I felt that was a bit too easy for her. Instead I grilled her (badoom-tish!!) on which cooking techniques she’d choose to best cook different foods that I listed.
When it came to planning the menu, I know that the Eatwell Plate listed in the pack was updated and replaced in March 2016 by the Eatwell Guide, so I used that instead as a basis of discussing the food choices with Midi. We talked about food groups and proportions, and because this was already old hat to her, I added the challenge of also varying the flavours, textures and colours of the food. She’s only 8, so I didn’t enforce The Boss’s suggestion of also only choosing seasonal or local produce (!) Maybe next time…
I ended up cutting her a fair bit of slack when it came to actually cooking things up and changing the menu: the preparation took far, far longer than expected, and she desperately squeezed in a quick bike ride with her Dad in the middle of the cooking before it got dark. As a result, there were fewer fruits and 1 less vegetable than she’d originally planned. I helped her change her plan for a seasonal fruit salad into a quick yogurt, honey and nut side-dish with just the one fruit to go with the biscotti. And the swede mash didn’t happen at all because her chopping skills aren’t yet safe enough to slice the thick skin off the swede (and not her hand) competently. Maybe if we’d had (much, much) more time
So what was her Showstopper Menu for 5, then? Midi chose to make a vegetable and lentil soup for a first course to show that she can prepare vegetables, follow a recipe and safely use a liquidiser; she decided on cottage pie and mixed greens for main as they’re quite easy to cook, used different cooking techniques, and are a standard winter dinner in our household; for dessert she made some super-crunchy hazelnut, chocolate and lemon biscotti, with Greek yogurt, honey, nuts and pomelo segments alongside, just because they’re her favourites. They all tasted fantastic, but the best bit for me? She had to serve, clear up and wash everything up afterwards. What a treat for the rest of us!
I’ve written this post partly because I’m desperately proud of her emerging cooking skills and am constantly encouraging her independence, and also so I can send a link to her Akela as proof of what she produced. The photos got fewer as she needed closer supervision / time was running out! I’ve added 2 of the recipes she used (weeeeell, one recipe and one set of directions), so I hope you give them a try, too.
Vegetable and Lentil Soup For 10
tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 small / 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- crushed clove or 2 of garlic
- teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
- 175g lentils (we used a mix of red and white because it was all we had)
- 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
- scant tablespoon of tomato puree
- tin of chopped tomatoes
- bay leaf
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion over a medium heat for about 10 mins till it’s soft and transparent.
- Add the carrots and celery, and sweat for a few more minutes.
- Add the garlic and ground spices. Stir for a minute.
- Add the lentils, stock, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, a bit of seasoning, bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 mins till the veg is soft.
- Cool slightly, then liquidise. Check for seasoning. Serve. We stored half in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch!
Cottage Pie and Mixed Greens
- tablespoon of oil
- 1 large / 2 small onions, chopped
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 750g beef mince
- pint of beef stock
- dash of Worcestershire sauce
- about 500g potatoes
- large knob of butter
- about 500g brussels sprouts
- about 300g frozen peas
- Peel the potatoes, chop into even chunks. Place in cold, salted water, bring to the boil, simmer for 20 mins or until soft enough to mash.
- While the tatties are coming to the boil, put the oven on to heat to 210degC / gas 7.
- While the tatties are simmering, heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion till soft, then sweat the carrots. Tip onto a bowl.
Turn the saucepan heat to high. Fry the beef mince till browned. Add the vegetables, stock, Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer gently while you’re getting on with the tatties.
- Drain the potatoes when they’re ready. Mash roughly with a large knob of butter and a little pepper.
- Put the mince in a deep ovenproof dish. Put the mashed potato through a potato ricer and squeeze it in noodles over the mince. Place in the hot oven for 15 – 20 mins until the potato has browned and gone crunchy.
- While the cottage pie is in the oven, cook your brussels sprouts (trim the tails, cut in half, pop in a little saucepan. Cover with boiling water, bring back to boil and simmer for 5 mins. Drain, serve with a small knob of butter swirled over them.
- While you’re serving the cottage pie and brussels sprouts onto plates, cook the frozen peas in the microwave according to the package instructions.
Hazelnut, Chocolate and Lemon Biscotti
I promise to add more details for this when I check what amendments Midi and The Boss made to the original Paul Hollywood recipe. I can’t reproduce his recipe because it’ll be copyrighted, but I’ll at least link to it.
The Finale… tidying up!
And she’s still smiling. Will she willingly tidy up from now on? (Don’t be silly – you can’t get a badge for that!)