Ginger Shortbread

Ginger Shortbread

Half term is a perfect time to get children into the kitchen and these biscuits are a great place to start.  Delicious, crisp, gingery shortbread which are simple to make and employ a useful 3:2:1 ratio in the recipe which is easy to remember and keeps maths in mind even away from school (is that mean of me?).  More importantly cooking something from scratch gives children a huge sense of achievement and their pride in themselves as they offer the biscuits to family and friends is worth any mess in the kitchen.

I must confess to having a bee in my bonnet about children and cooking.  I worry that cooking skills are not being passed on and their importance overlooked.  Nutritionally, emotionally and practically, learning to feed yourself well and to cook is essential and yet it doesn’t seem to get the focus I think it deserves.  If we don’t teach children how to cook for themselves from raw ingredients then we will raise a generation of microwave cookers.

The raw ingredients bit is key here.  Anyone can bung a ready made lasagne in the microwave and cook it.  All you will end up with though, is, well a lasagne.  However, if you take a potato, how many ways are there to cook that?   Twenty or thirty possibilities for your dinner present themselves, but, to be fair, you have to learn how to make them, rather than just read timing instructions on a box.  There lies your conundrum – potatoes, cheap and accessible but requiring a little attention and knowledge;  or a packaged lasagne probably containing preservatives and perhaps more salt and sugar than is advisable, certainly more expensive but easy to heat.

So whilst I am not expecting every 10 year old to be able to rustle up a Coq au Vin or a souffle, learning to cook is a life skill and these biscuits are a good place to start.  You can leave the ginger out if that is not your thing or alternatively, make the buttermilk scones I wrote about last month.   These shortbread are meltingly delicious so make some for those times when you need to sit down with a cup of tea and something sweet to settle your nerves and it is too early for gin – after all it is half term.

Ginger Shortbread 2

Ginger Shortbread

This is a pretty straightforward recipe using 150g flour, 100g butter and 50g sugar but I like to use 100g plain flour and 50g of cornflour to ensure that crispness.  If you don’t have any cornflour they will still work well with 150g plain flour.

100g very soft butter

50g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra

Pinch of salt

100g plain flour

50g cornflour

1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 170.  Cream the butter, sugar and salt together.  You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer.  Then add the flours and ginger and mix until it forms a ball of dough.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  Sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and then bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on them.  Makes about 20 depending on the size of your biscuits.




Roast Cauliflower and other vegetables

Roast Cauliflower 2

I heard something absolutely extraordinary last week.  Whilst tucking into tea, my daughter stated the previously unimaginable “I love kale”.  I stopped talking and sat slack jawed in amazement.  This is the child that will shy away from vegetables apart from a grudging tolerance for peas and cooked carrots.  This the child who would normally show wide eyed panic in the face of anything cabbagy and try distracting tactics when I am dishing out.  Yet here she was and here it was – kale.   Now kale is one of the tougher and if we are honest more bitter winter leaves and so this particular entente was all the more surprising.  What was the magic, what was the secret alchemy you ask.  One of the oldest tricks in the book, a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a brief sojourn in a hot oven.  That is all it takes to transform these frilly green leaves into a salty, savoury snack comparable (if not better) to the finest potato crisps.

The thing is I really want my children to like vegetables, I don’t want those stand off scenarios where I insist that vegetables are good for them while they will sit, mulish and resistant, eyeing me as one who wishes to enforce horror.  So I make it my goal to make their veggies more palatable, whatever it takes, I will keep trying different sauces, salsas and cooking methods until I have cracked it.

Roast Cauliflower

Cauliflower along with cous cous were two things my son had asked me, in all honesty, why God had invented.  He couldn’t bear either of them, couldn’t see their point and so some time ago having tried all other routes I thought to roast cauliflower.  What do you know they will now clamour over the last little floret and I can’t blame them, the oil, salt and hot oven trick turns these innocent little white sprigs into gold singed, roasty delicious mouthfuls.

These are not just something I serve to children and in fact the cauliflower in this form with the dipping sauce is a great choice to put on the table at the beginning of supper or to add to a tapas style spread.  The green sauce is my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013).

Roast Cauliflower

The addition of some chilli flakes to the cauliflower before roasting gives a lovely pop of heat but I generally don’t add them when doing this for children.  I have previously given the recipe for kale crisps, essentially just tear the leaves into mouthful size, turn in a little olive oil, spread out onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and cook at 200 for about 7-10 minutes, turning once or twice and eyeing them like a hawk so they don’t burn.

1 medium size cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the cauliflower , break into small florets and spread onto a baking sheet.  Pour over the oil and turn the cauliflower really well making sure every bit is coated in oil.  Sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-25 minutes until it is just turning golden brown and catching slightly at the edges.  Cool for a minute or two and taste, you might want a tiny bit more salt then serve with the green herby sauce.

Roast Cauliflower 3