When does one learn to cook? Just before getting married with a crash course of mum’s cooking? Or after married when pressured to fulfil a dutiful wife’s role to cook for your other half?
For me, I started frying an egg at age 11 and after that, a few impromptu spaghetti and instant noodles here and there. It was really only after my 3rd newborn when I had a short SAHM period of 5 mths maternity leave was I able to proclaim myself as “able to cook”. For those months, I DID cook 3 dishes plus a soup every single day! Yes, it’s late I know. Better late than never. Hence, I decided that my kids shall start early. I feel that age 7 is an ideal age to start cooking a dish from start of preparation, using knife to chop garlic, etc, to cooking over a stove fire.
To let my kids handle the chef’s knife and open fire, I had my fears too. What if their small fingers got cut? Can they really handle the hot stove and hot pan? What if they scald their small hands? Or worse still, throw the hot pan away and scald their feet or other body parts?
Why 7 years old? I hear you ask. A 7 year old kid is tall enough to hold a knife and see what he is chopping or cutting. He is able to listen and follow instructions. He finds real cooking interesting enough to treat it seriously. He is eager to learn and that makes it easy to teach and a joy to learn. At the end of it all, he is proud to be able to cook up a dish all by himself!
During the March holidays (yes again!), I decided I shall let the kids cook up a dinner for all of us. I thought of some simple and easy Chinese dishes for XX and YH. They did fight over who to cook the most difficult dishes. (Sibling rivalry is still at play, I wonder will it ever stop?! *eyes roll*) But I had in mind age appropriate cooking with consideration of the steps involved. So I gave XX 3 dishes to handle:
1) steam cod fish, 2) Fried long beans 3) White rice.
YH was taught to cook just 1 dish:
1) Fried egg roll stuffed with fish meat
which requires a 2 step cooking. As for the soup, I cook lotus root with peanut soup with the kids help in preparation.
I started by giving them some safety instructions. I demonstrated how to chop garlic and cut ginger slices. As I went through the steps, I explained the nutritional value of the food we handled. I showed them some culinary tips in preparation of ingredients. There is much to teach when the kids cook alongside with you. I never knew that till I guided them and answer the questions that came to their little minds.
XX was good at chopping the garlic and ginger. She could cut to really fine pieces and thin strips. When it came to heating up the pan and adding garlic to heated oil, the wet garlic caused the heated oil to pop and she screamed. I anticipated this and held on to the pan firmly. But she was brave enough not to throw the pan away and continued frying the beans.
The cod fish was easy to prepare and is the kids’ favourite.
Recipe – steam cod fish with salted veg
– wash the cod fillet and marinate with little salt
– put cut salted veg on base of bowl
– put marinated cod fish on top of salted veg
– put thin ginger slices on top of marinated cod fish
– add 2 tablespoonfuls of water and one tablespoonful of fried onion oil (alternative will be just cooking oil)
– bring water to boil in rice cooker or wok (we use rice cooker)
– once the water boils, put in bowl of cod fish to steam for 7-10min depending on how thick the fillet is (take care not to overcook, you can use a chopstick to pierce into the fish meat to check if it goes through, which shows it is cooked)
– Ready to serve!
YH’s dish was a simple and yet a winner with kids. This is a recipe taught by Kelly, my dear friend who cooks time-saving and healthy dishes for her kids.
Recipe – Fried egg roll stuffed with fish meat
– beat 2 eggs mixed with some light soy sauce and pepper (2 is enough as we want a thin egg roll)
– pour in a ladle of the egg mixture in a heated oil pan over low fire (pan has to be flat)
– once the egg is cooked like a pan cake shape, take out and serve on a flat plate
– spread some fish meat (those used to make fish balls) thinly on the fried egg
– roll the egg with fish meat from the edge
– steam for 12 minutes
YH could handle most part of this dish except that he needed help on spreading the fish meat. It was quite sticky as opposed to spreading peanut butter. So, if you are not careful, you will tear the fried egg.
The kids were so eager to serve their dishes, they even prepared the dining table with cutlery, scooped up rice into each bowl and took their portion of food without me doing anything! You can bet that they finished each grain of rice in their bowl!
At what age, will you allow your kids to cook over a hot stove? And at what age did YOU do it? Love to hear your stories!!