Junior Masterchef

junior masterchef prawns chicken tikka

Holidays. That’s a word children love the most. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a break in an otherwise tedious week or a lazy few days clubbed together with weekends or are the famed month-long vacations, holidays are always welcome. And children (and adults) really look forward to these “Ah-I-can-sleep-in-today-and-do-what-I-want” days. Not all holidays mean exciting trips to exotic places or long stays with grandparents or relatives. Endless hours of television and play, some strained hours of project work and homework sums it up for most children. Between watching television and causing chaos, some children might show an interest in helping around the kitchen — some wanting to chop a few onions and shed a few tears, some wanting to stir something, or some wanting to cook. With cookery shows galore, interest in this area may have grown enough to produce a Junior Masterchef or at home too. The experience can leave a messier kitchen (despite the children cleaning it up), but it’s worth it. At the end of the culinary tunnel is a beaming child and a tasty dish (or two).

Sometime during this festive vacation, I let my two kids try their hand at cooking. The result: tasty dishes and happy children.

There is no step-by-step process really to go about this. If the child is old enough to check the Net and find some recipe that he or she feels confident enough to cook with the ingredients around, then just let them start right away. It’s always better to let them do everything start to finish, including the washing, chopping and cleaning up. For a younger child, you could write out a simpler version of any recipe that you have and let them have a go. Mine made butter chicken and stir-fried prawns (recipes follow).

My son’s 12, so he chose his own dish (butter chicken). I needed to give one to my 8-year old daughter (stir-fry prawns). What I got was absolute concentration in the kitchen. And now I’m left wondering if more such kitchen sessions are the trick to balancing out a bit of the explosive energy that is behind many a moment of mischief.

What you need:

An apron, chopping board, a knife they can hold (avoid sharp-tip ones), kitchen scissors (these come in handy when chopping coriander or spring onions), a small towel they can use to wipe their hands off and on, and a wipe they can use to clean up.

What you need to do:

Stand around so that you can be there at hand if they need you (and so you can watch that they do not burn themselves or get nicked). Be nothing but the assistant. Do not interfere. It kills the pleasure and robs them of a sense of accomplishment. “Now see what you’ve done! You did all the cooking, I didn’t!”

BUTTER CHICKEN

Ingredients:

300 gm Chicken, cleaned and cut into small pieces or one large chicken breast cut into small pieces
2″ pcs Cinnamon
Cashew nuts – a handful, ground to smooth paste
2 tsp Ginger & garlic paste
1 large Onion, chopped
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
2 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Coriander powder
3 tsp Butter
2 tsp Oil
2 Tomatos, blended into a smooth puree (you get packets these days)
Salt – to taste

Directions

Fry onions in oil till brown. Add cinnamon and fry it. Then add ginger and garlic paste along with a little water. Stir continuously. Add turmeric, chili, coriander powder with salt and mix well. Pour in tomato puree, cashew paste – mix well with water. When it starts to boil add the chicken. Add sufficient water for the chicken to boil. The gravy should get thick. Before switching off add butter and serve hot after chopping some coriander and sprinkle. Serve hot.

PRAWNS WITH STIR-FRY SAUCE

Ingredients

250 gms Prawns, medium-sized prawns, keep tails
2 tbs Cooking oil
1 large Onion, sliced
1 tsp crushed Garlic
1 Tomato, deseeded and sliced thinly (to deseed, cut tomato in half and scoop out seeds with a spoon)
1 Spring onion, chopped
1 tsp Chili flakes
2 tbs Stir Fry Sauce
Salt to taste (remember the stir-fry sauce is likely to be salty enough)
1/2 cup warm water

Directions

Heat oil and fry prawns till pink and set aside. Remove from heat and drain on paper napkins. Stir-fry garlic, onions, tomatoes, chilly flakes, spring onions one after the other quickly. Add stir-fry sauce and warm water. Cook for another 2 minutes. Toss in the prawns. Simmer over medium heat for 2 more minutes. Serve hot.

About the contributor:

Marshmallow is a fussy-eater-turned-food enthusiast and sometime writer. Mother to two Bean-loving (British not French) kids and wife to a travelling spouse, M has been cooking since age 10.

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