Getting into the kitchen young not only taught me cooking skills but also kept me entertained at weekends and in the holidays. I progressed from holding the sieve and licking the spoon to working through an entire recipe with minimal supervision. I was no Fanny Cradock, but the sense of joy and fulfilment to be had from cooking made me feel fabulous.
If your children are at a loose end during half term, get them cooking. From baking up a showstopper to preparing lunch, there’ll be something for even the tiniest of hands to help with in the kitchen.
Baking requires a degree of concentration and precision so making these tasty breadsticks should keep even the noisiest child quiet for a bit. Best of all for impatient and hungry young bakers, the dough needs only 10 minutes proving time before going into the oven. Serve with a bowl of soup or pack for a picnic.
Making your own butter takes minutes and will impress adults and children alike. If you don’t have a stand mixer, put little arms to good use by pouring the cream into a jam jar with a tight lid and shaking it non-stop for 15-30 minutes. Pour off the buttermilk (save it for baking or pancakes) to reveal a ball of pure butter. All it needs now is a little salt mixed in, or try adding different combinations of herbs and flavourings (Parmesan and basil is delicious) before spreading on thick slices of toast.
Children of all ages love making cookies. The use of a food processor needs adult supervision with the little ones, but they will have fun rolling out the dough and making the thumb prints to fill with chocolate. Replace chocolate with jam or lemon curd if you like.
This is a project for older children with adult supervision (warning: boiling sugar). Making jam and marmalade is incredibly satisfying. All you need is fruit, sugar and a little care and patience. Blood oranges, in season in February, make excellent marmalade. Later in the year, turn the purple-stained haul from a blackberrying expedition into gleaming jars of jam. Made with pride, neatly labelled and tied with a ribbon, a jar of homemade jam is the perfect gift for grandma.
Everybody falls for pancakes; they invariably lift the spirits.
These pancakes are very simple to make. Depending on how much or little liquid you add, this batter can be used to make a thicker, American-style pancake or thinner crepes. Toss if you insist (you could even have a pancake race), but don't worry there's plenty of batter if the flipping goes awry, and then go to town on your favourite toppings (don't rule out savoury adornments), anything goes.