Monica Worsley, founder of local cookery school Cooking It, shares her top tips for getting kids involved in the kitchen along with a recipe for meatballs (and vegan ‘meatballs’) this #FoodFriday.  

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Monica Worsley teaching kids to cook at cookery school Cooking It

During this time that many kids are at home, why not cook together? Time spent together in the kitchen is a great bonding time, as well as teaching your child one of life’s most important life skills – how to feed themselves! Share your knowledge, teach them about nutrition and watch them develop their fine motor skills. 

Through cooking they can learn maths by weighing and measuring, geography through where recipes originate from, history by researching when recipes were first made, plus reading, science and problem solving. 

Take the time, relax (mess can easily be cleared up from kitchen surfaces) and enjoy creating with your children. Here’s how to get your little sous chefs started:

  1. Don’t hover. Fight the urge to follow your kids around with a cloth and try not to take over when the quinoa spills. Freedom will make them feel competent and confident. (Remember: to make an omelette, you’ve got to break some eggs. Things will get messy.)
  2. Give them power. How should we top the pizza? What should we fill the burrito with? Is there a pasta shape that works best with this kind of sauce? Let kids call the shots. And enjoy the occasional “avant-garde” creation.
  3. Play with dough. Put their mad Play-Doh skills to good use. Bake bread, twist up pretzels or try something new to you, like naan or English muffins.
  4. Engage their senses. Handing them a wooden spoon isn’t the only way to get their cooking. Explore food together: listen to the sound of bacon frying, feel the softness of fresh sage versus spiny rosemary, or have them identify spices by smell. 
  5. Keep it active. There are so many tasks to keep little hands busy and give kids a sense of accomplishment: shaking and sprinkling on spices and toppings; crushing bread crumbs or cereal for coating; cracking eggs; tearing up lettuce; “painting” oil on a pan with a pastry brush; smashing ingredients with a mortar and pestle, or whisking a salad dressing.
  6. Any way you slice it. When it comes to knife skills, safety is key. Start small. Getting your kids to cut mushrooms with a butter knife is a good way to start building their skills. (The fancy carrot sculptures can wait until they’re older.)

Monica from Cooking It teaching a kids cooking class

Recipes

My meatball recipes below are great for kids to help out with, or you can email me on monica@cookingit.co.uk with the ages of your children, whether you have any special diet and what have you got in your pantry/fridge and I will send you recipes, which I think are appropriate. 

These meatballs are heavenly. Kids can help to roll the meatballs and get their hands dirty mixing the meat with the other ingredients. It is really important to make them cherry size, otherwise they won’t cook on the inside and will burn on the outside. They take quite a bit of time but they are well worth it. You can serve with pasta, mash, roast potatoes or simply with toasted bread.

Catalan meatballs with chorizo 

Makes enough for 4 people as a tapa or you can always double the recipe.

  • 150g minced beef
  • 150g minced pork
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Small handful of Parsley or coriander, chopped
  • Handful of thyme, leaves stripped
  • 50g white bread torn quite small almost like breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Plain flour for dusting
  • 150g chorizo, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 450g chopped tomatoes
  • 350ml chicken stock (stock cube with 350 ml water)
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Splash of cooking white wine (optional)

Mix together the beef and pork with the crushed garlic, bread, parsley, thyme and egg. Season well, then shape into cherry-sized meatballs. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Heat a little oil in a pan, roll the meatballs with flour and dust, fry until golden brown on a low heat and nearly cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Chop the chorizo into small pieces and add to the same pan where you have cooked the meatballs. Cook the chorizo for a few minutes so that the fat renders into the pan.

Add the finely diced onion to the pan and fry for 10 minutes on a really low heat, before adding the garlic, tomatoes, paprika, oregano and wine on a low heat. Cook for 10 minutes then add the stock. Season well and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.

Add the meatballs and chorizo and cook for further 10 minutes until they are nice and hot. Serve straight away with crusty bread.

Meatballs recipe by Monica Worsley, Cooking It

Vegan “Meatballs”

This is a vegan option (I make them often for my vegetarian daughter).

  • 340g cooked and cooled quinoa (ensure it's cooked and completely cooled before using)
  • 425g black beans* (rinsed, drained, dried)
  • 2 tbsp water (or sub olive or avocado oil)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 227g red onion diced
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 2 1/2 tsp fresh oregano (or sub half the amount in dried)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (reduce for less heat)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 170g vegan parmesan
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil or parsley or a mix of both, plus more for serving
  • 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional - adds depth of flavour)

For the tomato sauce

  • 700g tinned tomatoes, in addition to their juices
  • 75g butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Add chilli flakes for heat to taste and salt to taste

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

Preheat oven to 175C. Add rinsed, dried black beans to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until beans appear cracked and feel dry to the touch. Remove beans from the oven and then increase oven heat to 190C.

Heat a large (oven-safe) pan over medium heat. Once hot, add water (or oil), garlic, and shallot. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly softened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and reserve the pan for later use.

Add black beans to a food processor along with garlic, shallot, sea salt, oregano, red pepper flake, and fennel (optional) and pulse into a loose meal (don’t overmix). Then add cooked/cooled quinoa, vegan parmesan cheese, tomato paste, fresh basil or parsley, and Worcestershire (optional). Pulse to combine until a textured dough forms (you're not looking for a purée, but it should be semi-tacky).

Taste and adjust flavour as needed, adding more salt for saltiness/depth of flavour, red pepper flakes for heat, herbs for earthiness, or Worcestershire (optional) for more depth of flavour. If it’s too tacky or wet, add more vegan parmesan cheese and pulse to combine.

Scoop out heaping 1tbsp amounts and gently form into small balls using your hands. Add to a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat an oven-safe metal or cast-iron pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the meatballs and sauté for a few minutes, gently turning the meatballs to get a slight crust on either side. Then transfer to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch. 

These meatballs are delicious as is, however mix with the sauce and heat over medium heat for 5 minutes until bubbling and hot to infuse more flavour.

About the author

Monica Worsley is a mother of four lovely girls, most of the time. She was a child care Social Worker for Bristol City Council for 20 years and started Cooking It three years ago, working from different kitchens until finally finding the premises on Chandos Road. Cooking It is a fun kitchen where adults and children can cook all sorts of delicious things together. Find her as @cookingitnice on Twitter and cookingit3 on Instagram.

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Related

Cooking It!
Cookery School
Cooking It!

Cooking it! is a fun and relaxed cookery school in the heart of Bristol, a stone’s throw from both the Whiteladies road and the Gloucester Road, in the trendy Chandos Road.