Eight fun and easy recipes to keep the kids entertained while you're stuck at home

I am a chef and the kitchen is the axis of our home. I am happiest in an apron, with the radio on, something to cook and people to feed. Bring my children into the mix and this is where the fun really starts. Grace, Ivy and Dorothy all have their own aprons, slung on the kitchen door next to an assortment of mine.

Each has very different capabilities in the kitchen. Grace, the eldest, likes to be left to her own devices. We have a thin, narrow, terrace house: from two floors up I can hear her industrious clatter as she busies herself with pots and pans downstairs in the kitchen. There is always mess, but what she makes, and the way she will call us into the kitchen when she has finished, makes my heart swell.

Ivy is keen on any kitchen tasks ­involving gadgets. The pasta machine is her favourite bit of kit. We have a ­tradition that if it's your birthday you get to choose what you get to eat on the day. Ravioli made (with a little help) by an eight-year-old is impressive. And she knew it.

Dot is the youngest and is predictably fond of using cutters to punch out biscuits shaped like pigs, stars, bells, or the alphabet.

I want my three girls to grow up with a fearless appreciation of food. When they leave home, I want them all to be able to cook with flair, creativity – and with an eye for budget. Food and cooking are powerful tools for learning, encouraging a sense of "where in the world would we like to eat today". I want the contents of our kitchen to spark this worldly curiosity. For me, it's up there with learning your times tables and tying your own shoelaces.

With schools closed for the foreseeable future, and at least a few more weekends to be spent largely indoors thanks to the ongoing spread of coronavirus, I have written these recipes for children to cook, with the help of a grown-up if needs be. Some are easy, while others are perfect for letting any more capable children loose in the kitchen with a bit of culinary autonomy.

Lahmacun (aka Turkish pizza)

Not only do they bring welcome respite from the insatiable demand for pizza, these punchy lamb flatbreads are a cinch to make. Cook as many as will fit in your oven at one time; they will be popular.

MAKES

Eight

INGREDIENTS

For the dough

  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 300ml water
  • Olive oil for oiling your hands and surface for initial knead
  • For the topping

  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 small fresh tomato, diced
  • ½ red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½-1 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 200g lamb mince
  • To serve

  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • METHOD
  • To make the dough, put the flour, salt and yeast in a big mixing bowl and mix in the water with a spoon.
  • Mix well to form a cohesive dough, place a damp cloth over the bowl and leave for an hour or so somewhere warm until almost doubled in size.
  • In a blender, pulse all the topping ingredients (apart from the mince) together to form a coarse paste. Put in a bowl, add the mince and mix well.
  • When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to maximum. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead it gently with lightly oiled hands for a minute. Cut the dough into eight pieces.
  • Put a pizza stone or baking tray into the oven to get hot.
  • On a well-floured surface roll each dough ball into a long, thin oval shape, getting the dough as thin as possible without tearing.
  • Carefully remove the pizza stone or baking tray from the oven and place on a heatproof surface.
  • Lay the dough on the tray and spread an eighth of the topping all over it, leaving a 2cm border.
  • Bake in the hot oven for six to eight minutes, until the dough is crisp and the topping is cooked, repeat with any remaining dough.
  • Serve immediately, adding some sliced tomatoes, plenty of parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice to each lahmacun.
  • Baked rice with chickpeas, chorizo, rosemary and orange

    This thrifty supper will have everyone digging in. It's an easy one-pot recipe that older children might like to tackle on their own. If you want to make this vegetarian, swap chorizo for some mushrooms fried with the peppers.

    SERVES

    Four

    INGREDIENTS
  • 250g soft cooking chorizo, diced (use diced bacon if you prefer; leftover roast chicken or pork, shredded, would also work)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 pepper (any colour), finely diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, skin on and left whole
  • 3 x 400g tins whole plum tomatoes, drained of juice – or use fresh, roughly chopped
  • ½-1 tsp smoked paprika (to taste, hot or sweet variety)
  • 300g Spanish short paella grain (alternatively, risotto rice will do)
  • 600ml boiling water or hot chicken stock
  • 1 small bunch rosemary (about 4 small sprigs), leaves removed and finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small orange, thinly sliced
  • Chilli flakes, to serve (optional)
  • METHOD
  • Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4.
  • Fry the chorizo pieces in the olive oil for about three to five minutes in a large casserole pan until crisp and beginning to exude fat.
  • Add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until soft.
  • Add the tomato, paprika and rice. Mix together until everything is well-coated and the rice is warmed through. This takes about two minutes.
  • Add the hot stock or boiling water, bay leaves and rosemary and give the rice a good stir, checking the seasoning. Add a bit more salt or paprika if necessary.
  • Add the drained chickpeas and the orange slices to the surface of the rice and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid.
  • Bake in the hot oven for about 20 minutes until the rice has taken on all the liquid and the grains are cooked through.
  • Rest for five minutes off the heat and with the lid on before serving, encouraging people to add chilli flakes if they like.
  • Granola

    My eldest daughter, Grace, is chief granola maker in our house. She will often switch around spices, fruit and nuts to get different combinations. We've had Christmas granola (mixed peel and stem ginger), and granola studded with chopped up chocolate buttons (though this is an occasional treat). Cooking the granola very slowly at a low temperature makes the mix crisp up and turn golden without requiring too much oil or processed sugar. Leave the cooked granola to cool completely on the tray before packaging it; this will also help to form the fabled clusters. We like to eat ours with plain yogurt and fresh fruit.

    MAKES

    About 500g

    INGREDIENTS
  • 4 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
  • 250g rolled oats
  • 50g whole nuts, roughly chopped
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 30g sesame seeds, poppy seeds or desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 50ml runny honey
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 100g dried fruit; raisins, sultanas, cherries, or larger dried fruit such as peach, apricot, apple, mango or dates, chopped (use one or a combination, as you like)
  • METHOD
  • Preheat the oven to 140C/120C fan/Gas 1 and grease a large baking sheet with a tablespoon of oil. 
  • Put the oats, nuts, seeds, spices and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and stir to combine.
  •  Put the honey, sugar and the rest of the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat and cook, stirring, for two minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Pour the hot syrup over the oat mixture and mix well until all the ingredients are evenly coated. Use your hands to do this if you like.
  • Transfer the mix to the baking sheet and spread it out evenly.
  • Bake the granola in the oven without stirring for about 25-30 minutes or until the mix is an even golden brown and crisp throughout.
  •  Remove the granola from the oven and top with the dried fruit.
  • Set aside to cool completely. Store in an airtight jar or container.
  • Pretzel sticks

    Baking bread is a great activity for children and these pretzels are especially fun to make. You'll need to help children with the boiling bit, as the hefty measure of bicarbonate in the water tends to make the water bubble up quite a bit. Boiling the dough before baking it makes these pretzels wonderfully chewy to eat. Soft, long pretzels; a good thing.

    MAKES

    12

    INGREDIENTS
  • 350g strong white bread flour, plus a little extra for kneading
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 240g water (measuring water is more accurate)
  • 1 x 7g sachet active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 30g baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Poppy seeds, to top
  • METHOD
  • Mix the flour, sugar, oil and water with the yeast to make a cohesive dough. It should be slightly sticky; if it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
  •  Add the salt and fold the dough a couple more times to combine, cover and let the dough prove for about 45 minutes to an hour.
  •  Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface, fold it over a few times to gently deflate it and divide it into 12 pieces. Use a bit of flour to roll each piece of dough into a 12-15cm thick rope, place on an oiled tray and leave for 30 minutes to prove covered in a clean, dry tea towel.
  • Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to a boil. Carefully add the baking soda to the boiling water, it will bubble up.
  • Gently remove pretzels from the baking tray and drop into the boiling water, three or four at a time. Simmer about 30 seconds, turn and simmer an additional 30 seconds.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean tea towel-lined tray to dry, before returning each back to the oiled baking tray. Repeat with remaining pretzels until they have all been boiled.
  • Brush the pretzels with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake in the hot oven until browned, about 12-15 minutes. Best served warm.
  • Churros with melted chocolate sauce

    Doughnuts, Spanish style. My three are over the moon when we make these together. Lemon curd also proved popular here.

    MAKES

    About 16 churros

    INGREDIENTS
  • 250ml water
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50ml double cream
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 100g dark or milk chocolate, broken into pieces (use any surplus Easter eggs)
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • To serve

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • METHOD
  •  In a large pan over a high heat, bring the water to the boil, add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the butter, and stir until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, and stir in the flour until the mixture forms a sticky dough.
  • In a small pan over a moderate heat, heat the cream and milk, then add the chocolate and stir to a smooth chocolate sauce. Remove from the heat and keep somewhere warm.
  •  Get a grown-up to help from here: heat 5cm of oil in a deep, high-sided frying pan to 190C (test with a teaspoonful of the batter; when hot enough it should bubble up and float immediately).
  • Pipe or use wet hands to roll and shape the dough into tubes and drop into the hot oil in batches and fry until crisp and golden (wet your hands more if the dough sticks).
  • Use a slotted spoon to turn the churros over in the oil and fry on the other side for about four minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  • Combine the 50g sugar with the cinnamon, and toss over the churros.
  • Serve warm, dipped in the chocolate sauce.
  • Lemon curd

    This is the perfect stirring job for a child who wants to learn to use the hob – it's low and slow cooking. You can use oranges, clementines or tangerines here, if you'd rather.

    MAKES

    One to two jars

    INGREDIENTS
  • 200ml juice from large unwaxed lemons (about 4), plus the zest, finely grated
  • 250g sugar
  • 100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • METHOD
  • Put the lemon juice and zest, the sugar and the butter into a wide pan over the lowest heat. Stir from time to time until the butter has melted.
  • Mix the eggs and egg yolks lightly with a whisk in a separate bowl.
  • Add the eggs to the pan, continually whisking the curd over a gentle heat for about 12-15 minutes, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Make sure you scrape the sides of the pan and never stop stirring. Do not allow it to boil.
  • Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools a bit. Pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal. It will keep for about three weeks in the refrigerator. Once opened use within one week.
  • You can pass the curd through a sieve if you find that it's not perfectly smooth, but if you've stirred it well enough, you shouldn't need to.
  • Leftover porridge bread

    This loaf bakes with a terrific crust and a chewy, almost crumpet-like texture to the crumb. I don't knead this bread; a vigorous mixing is all it needs. The children can easily make this. My bet is that you'll find yourself making extra porridge for breakfast to make this bread.

    MAKES

    One large loaf

    INGREDIENTS
  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 200g leftover cooked porridge (at room temperature)
  • 300ml warm water
  • 5g salt
  • 1 x 7g sachet active dry yeast
  • Handful of oats
  • METHOD
  • Put the flour, porridge and salt in a large bowl.
  • In a jug, mix the water and yeast together, then combine this with the flour and porridge mix, mixing well with a spoon until combined. The dough will be wet.
  •  Cover the bowl with cling film or a damp cloth and put aside somewhere warm until doubled in size, about one-and-a-half to two hours.
  • Lightly flour your work surface and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
  •  Remove the dough from the bowl, and scrape it on to the floured surface. Gather the dough and fold it approximately four times in on itself.
  • Turn the dough over seam side down and, using your hands, gently cup the sides of the dough until you have a loaf shape that fits a 900g tin.
  • Carefully lift into the lined tin and cover with a cloth and allow to double in size. The dough will still be fairly wet, but manageable, to work with.
  • Preheat your oven to 230C/210C fan/Gas 8, or as hot as possible.
  • Use a serrated knife, sharp knife or a pair of scissors to slash the loaf with one, 1cm-deep stripe along the loaf. The slash allows the steam to escape and for the dough to expand. Scatter the top of the loaf with the oats.
  • Place in the oven, and reduce the temperature to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
  • Bake for 35-40 until the loaf is a golden brown with a firm crust. It will sound hollow when tapped underneath if it's ready.
  • Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
  • Spiced date butter

    My daughter Ivy is especially fond of butter. Sweetened with dried fruit and given a hefty dose of mixed spice, this is her favourite toast topping. As well as eating it, she also quite likes making this. I tend to chop the dates and Ivy chops the butter and combines (hands squelching gleefully) the rest of the ingredients before shaping and chilling it in the fridge.

    MAKES

    About 450g

    INGREDIENTS
  • 250g salted butter, at room temperature (use unsalted if you prefer)
  • 200g pitted soft dates, chopped very finely (use figs if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice or cinnamon
  • METHOD
  • In a mixing bowl mash the butter, dates and spice together. Form into a oblong butter pack shape, wrap in parchment and chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving.
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