Sunday, 31 May 2015

Health Warning : Cooking With Children

I (usually) love cooking with my children.  I (usually) love cooking lasagne with my children.  I love the idea that, from a young age, my children understand the basics of cooking.  If I popped my clogs tomorrow, they would have a few useful cookery tips under their belts/elasticised waists, such as adding a teaspoon of sugar per tin of tomatoes to make a decent tomato sauce.

Over the last winter, we got in the lovely habit of cooking together on a Sunday night, as 'The Voice of Ireland' was coming on.  It was the same menu every week. Veggie spinach lasagne and scones for the children's lunch the following day. (This was also a lesson in how to make effective use of my oven - Good to know that I did take something away from my Home Economics classes in school.  Mrs Mc Cabe, I've done you proud).

The fresh scones were so nice that they often got eaten straight away, with melted butter and jam, necessitating that I made a second batch later on.  The children would start out helping me, but gravitate towards the TV as 'The Voice' progressed.  The pair of them would shout regular updates into the kitchen, as I chopped, stirred and sweated in the kitchen.

The children were like divils this morning, in rough form, hurting each other with their wrestling/headlock shenanigans, while I tried in vain to read yesterday's and last weekends newspapers.   I gave up on the newspapers and did a bit of gardening, while they destroyed each other with water balloons.  Harmless fun ... Until you see the mucky wet path from the kitchen sink.  And discarded bits of tiny balloons over the garden.  Oh Holy Harry.

 I suggested that we make a veggie lasagne to calm things down.  'Cool Mam, yeah !', they said.

'We can make a rhubarb tart OR a crumble too ? Which ?', I suggested, recalling the efficient use of the oven that Mrs Mc Cabe would be proud of, and the bag of rhubarb we harvested in their Nana's the day before.  A true Nigella moment.  'Why don't you make an APPLE tart ?' said Leon, with a grumpy head on him.  My patience already tested, I silently gnashed my teeth, thinking 'What part of RHUBARB don't you UNDERSTAND ?', the Lorrie Morgan song ringing in my head.

Troops assembled,  Leon opened the mozzarella, while Mya had the job of chopping down the tins of tomatoes into tiny pieces, with a scissors (another handy tip !).  Meanwhile, I fried off the garlic.  Only then did I notice that Leon had climbed up on a high stool, found a bicycle pump from nowhere and was pumping it into his mouth.  'Darling child, would you kindly refrain from that unhygienic and potentially dangerous act', said I, (or words to that effect).  I burnt the goddamn garlic.  The bitter burnt taste would destroy the lasagne.  Back to the chopping board. 'Darn it anyway', said I, (or words to that effect).

Meanwhile, Mya wanted to open a new tomato purée tube - one of the sealed ones, that you turn the cap around and use the reverse to pierce the seal.  You would think the purée was a new toy.  The children practically wrestled each other to the ground, fighting over who would break the seal.  Leon won this round, as he was a newbie seal-piercer.

Mya gave a good squirt of purée into the chopped tomatoes and proceeded to have a good old lick of the tube, then handed it to her brother.  I cringed, suggesting that wasn't the most hygienic of activities. 'But it's delicious Mam !', with a cheeky, red paste, toothless grin.  'A bit of vitamin C anyway', I relented.

White sauce is always a bit tricky to make, especially on a gas cooker.  I was whisking like goodo, to ensure the sauce was nice and smooth as it thickened.  As I whisked, Leon took a notion to empty the crumb tray from underneath the toaster, leaving a trail of crumbs all over the counter and floor,  'Son, what are you at ? And why NOW ?!', I cried.  'Just getting some crumbs for the hens', he said angelically, 'I thought that they would like a snack'.  Another toothless face grinned at me.  I swept up the crumbs, already soggy from the water-ballooned floor, the dog stuck in the middle of it.  If the HSE called by, I'd be like one of those restaurants that gets their name in newspapers for lack of hygiene.

Meanwhile, my white sauce was a big congealed mess.  'Oh blast', said I (or words to that effect), as I tried to retrieve the mess.

There wasn't much left to do, except assemble the various components of the lasagne.  Thankfully, my children decided to abandon me, to watch videos on their tablets in the bedroom, with the curtains closed.  I usually don't encourage this vampire like activity during the day, but today, I let them off.  I quickly made a rhubarb tart, as quickly as you can make a tart, for fear they they might come back to 'help' me.

Cooking and baking in the oven, I cleaned up the water/flour/tomato bombed kitchen.

Dinner ready, I felt the need to light candles, to create a sense of Bank Holiday occasion.  The bubbly, cheesy lasagne looked damn good.  It was 'mega yum', according to Mya.  I was inclined to agree, especially when accompanied by a large glass of vino, gulped down too quickly, before the lasagne had even cooled.  Leon was less impressed, as he wanted to eat it on his knee in the darkened bedroom, playing with his tablet.  'Over my dead body', said I, 'we are having a quality-time dinner together, whether you like it or not!' 'I just want a biscuit', said sulky boy, 'your lasagne is rubbish'.

Eventually (various threats later), he conceded and ate the lasagne, stabbing it with his fork.  But he couldn't deny it's yumminess, no matter how cranky he was.  Clean  plates all round.  And enough left over for a meal tomorrow.  Result.

'Rhubarb tart anyone ?'

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