Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Actual cooking by real children

We're supposed to interest our children in food by allowing them to get involved with the selection and preparation of food and I'm all for it. Perhaps today after the children have cheerfully completed all their homework we'll slip into our matching Cath Kidston aprons, and work together carefully and co-operatively (perhaps while doing some close-harmony singing) to produce a healthy, satisfying meal that we will all enthusiastically yet tidily consume, while conversing politely about the day's events. After we've shared in the washing and cleaning up perhaps we'll probably retreat, laughing, to the sofa where we'll enjoy some improving literature before bed. Yes, yes I'm sure that's how it will go.

In reality my children's interest in cooking waxes and wanes, as does my tolerance for the squalor and squabbling that inevitably ensues in my actual life. This DK book, simply called the Children's Cookbook by Nicola Graimes, which I've mentioned before -  has helped a bit:

It has nice, clear, step-by-step pictures and generally inviting photography, and Beautiful Girl has in particular picked a few things out of here. The salmon parcels we tried were fairly successful. If nothing else, what came out of the experiment was an apparently deep and abiding love for Chinese-style noodles which both children actually appear to share (I may not have mentioned the portioning-out-of-acceptable-foods which seemed to occur somewhere out of sight just as Gorgeous Boy was starting solid foods... you know, you only like rice, I'll only like mashed potatoes. That kind of thing.)

One note I would like to add is that it would be a bold parent indeed that entrusted knives sharp enough to get properly julienned vegetables (which is what you need if they're to cook in the same time as the salmon) to a five and a seven year old. I know, I know, a sharp knife is a safe knife (you don't want to have to saw away with a blunt object because this is when gets dangerous) but I think I'll wait for a while until I set them loose on the Sabatiers.

So, here's Salmon Parcels, adapted slightly from The Children's Cookbook by Nicola Graimes
For four people you will need:

4 salmon fillets
a medium carrot, peeled finely julienned
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
half a red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
a knob of ginger, peeled and finely julienned
4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons orange juice (from a carton is fine)

a tablespoon of sesame seeds

4 sheets of medium-thickness dried Chinese-style noodles
1 tablespoon (or a dash) sesame oil

Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Put each salmon fillet in the centre of a generous square of greaseproof paper/baking parchment and place a quarter of the vegetables and ginger on top of each one. Then sprinkle a teaspoon each of soy sauce and orange juice over each fillet and carefully fold up each sheet so you have a sealed parcel (I often use a stapler). Put the parcels on a baking tray and put them in the oven for 18-20 minutes, depending on how 'done' you like your salmon. Because I'm not very sophisticated I really like mine to be done all the way through, not pink and wobbly like you often get it in posh restaurants, so I sometimes leave it a bit longer.

Meanwhile, carefully toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until they're light brown and fragrant, and cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. When they're done I like to drain them and toss them with some sesame oil.

To serve, place a pile of noodles on each plate, and top with a carefully unwrapped fillet of salmon, juices spooned over and sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Family friendliness rating: Not bad. It's probably as close as I'm going to get to a stir-fry - it's a stir-fry for food separatists, if you will. None of that crazy mixted-up-ness (the salmon is easily separated from its bed of noodles) but lots of the flavours.

Cleanup rating: Not bad, since you just chuck away the baking parchment.

Can I freeze it? No, but packs of frozen salmon fillets (sustainable, of course!) are a good freezer stand-by.

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