Cooking with kids – Fish in a parcel (15 mins prep/18 mins cooking)

fish in a parcel

This is a nice activity to do with kids.  You lay out some fish, veg (I chose mini corn, green beans and pepper), couscous (optional) and sauce on the table and they can load a sheet of tin foil with what they like.

fish in a parcel

Then they wrap everything up in the foil and pop it in the oven to steam for about 18 minutes.

fish in a parcel

fish in a parcel

When their parcel is done they can unseal it and eat their ‘dinner delivery’!  Feel free to vary what fish and veg you use (broccoli, carrots and asparagus would also work well and cheaper fish would bring the cost down).  The sauce here consists of soy sauce and honey to keep it simple but for an adult version or for adventurous kids you could add chilli, garlic and/or ginger.  My boys are really in to chopsticks at the moment (you can get cheap kid friendly ones off Amazon) so eating with these added to the novelty of the dish.  Allow about 15 mins to prepare the food before cooking.

fish in a parcel

fish in a parcel

I am going to put my thinking cap on for other dinner in a parcel ideas!

Fish in a parcel (serves 4)

Optional – 1/2 cup couscous, cooked as per the pack instructions (usually involves pouring with hot water, adding butter and leaving for 5 mins)

1/2 stock cube (I like OXO vegetable as it crumbles easily)

Oil, for brushing

2 handfuls mini corns, chopped in half lengthways

1/2 pepper, chopped lengthways

2 handfuls green beans, trimmed

5 spring onions, finely chopped

2 skinned fillets fish, cut in to chunks (e.g. salmon, trout, haddock, coley)

1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 1/2 tbsp honey

4 sheets tin foil

Lay the tin foil out on the table.  Mix the cooked couscous with 1/2 crumbled stock cube and put that, plus all the other ingredients, in separate bowls on the table.  Brush/spoon oil on to the middle of the foil.  Put the couscous on first (if using) followed by the chunks of fish then the veg.  Spoon over the sauce.  Seal the foil tightly but ensuring there is some free space inside so it steams properly.  Pop in the oven for about 18 mins until the fish is flaky and everything is cooked.  Remove the foil parcels and let them cool for a few minutes (for young kids open them up to get rid of the steam and cool the food inside down before resealing)  Let the kids open up their parcels and eat!

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Fuss-free olive (or grape) focaccia – great to cook with or for kids

easy focaccia

Focaccia is an Italian oven-baked bread that is traditionally topped with ingredients such as olives, herbs and olive oil.  Italian grandmothers would have plenty to say about my simplified, no-knead version, and it certainly looks a little uneven and chunky, but that is all part of it’s charm in my opinion!

easy focaccia

easy focaccia

You can use olives or grapes for this recipe, and there are plenty of ways kids can get involved with the preparation – helping to mix, watching the dough prove (rise), spreading it out on to the baking tray and, most fun of all, pushing the olives (or grapes) in to it with their chubby little fingers!  Other toppings you could experiment with are rock salt, herbs (thyme or rosemary work well), dried fruit or chilli.   Allow 15 mins for preparation, at least one hour for the dough to rest and rise, plus 30 minutes cooking time.

easy focaccia

easy focaccia

Eat the focaccia on it’s own as a snack or with pesto, humous or chorizo slices.  The whole loaf costs about £1.30 to make and will keep for two days wrapped in clingfilm.

Olive (or grape) focaccia

300g strong white bread flour

200g strong wholemeal flour

tsp salt (around 4g)

tsp dried yeast (around 4g)

375g cold water

4 tbsp olive oil

30 pitted green olives or seedless grapes

Pour the flour, salt and yeast in to a large bowl and mix.  Add the water and mix then use your hands to mix more and shape in to a ball.  Return to the bowl, cover with a damp, clean towel and rest for at least an hour so the dough can prove (increase in size).

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees/gas mark 7.  Grease a baking tray with one tablespoon of olive oil then gently lower in the dough.  Use your hands to stretch it to the edges of the tray and make sure it is roughly even all over.  Use your fingers to push the olives in to the dough.  Rub 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil all over the top and pop in the oven, first for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190 degrees/gas mark 5 for a further approx 20 minutes.  It is ready when it is crusted and golden brown.  As soon as you take it out of the oven pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on and spread evenly all over, so the hot focaccia can soak it up.  Tear or cut in to wedges and serve!

Cooking with kids – sweetcorn soup with garlic bread!

Here is a simple, budget cooking activity that has a good chance of success with kids! I find they tend to enjoy the sweetness of sweetcorn and the tastiness of garlic bread.  And by the way, when I say ‘cooking’ with kids what I actually mean is ‘maybe getting your kids to join in for 2 minutes before running off’!  I never get long out of mine, but I believe every minute counts…

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

This cooking activity is a good way to introduce kids to both soup and garlic/parsley, and all ages can contribute – young children can spread the bread with the garlic butter and tip in the soup ingredients and older kids can help with the chopping and (supervised!) stirring.

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

If you want to tart the soup up a little for your adult portion top it with some chopped fresh parsley and chilli flakes.  Allow at least 30 minutes to prepare and cook this meal!

sweetcorn soup garlic bread

Sweetcorn soup and garlic bread (serves 4 as a light meal)

For the soup

2 tbsp butter

2 small tins sweetcorn (I used value sweetcorn)

1 onion, chopped

280ml milk

2 veg stock cubes, crumbled (I like OXO as it crumbles easily)

Salt and pepper

For the garlic bread

tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

50g butter, slightly softened for about 10 seconds in the microwave (you only want it soft – it still has to be solid and spreadable!)

Small baguette, chopped in to rings

For the soup, fry the onion in the butter for about 5 mins, until soft.  Add the sweetcorn (putting aside a tbsp of sweetcorn if you want the soup to have texture) and then the milk and simmer for 5 mins.  Crumble in the stock cubes.  Use a hand blender for a good while to make it smooth.  If you want, add the remaining sweetcorn afterwards so there are a few bits visible in the soup.  Otherwise blend all the sweetcorn.  Add a little hot water if you think it is too thick.  Season the soup if you like but remember there is salt in the stock cubes so you may wish to leave salt out of your kids’ portions.

For the garlic bread, mix the softened butter with the parsley and garlic and spread it on to the rounds of baguette (you may have some garlic butter leftover).  Bake in the oven on gas mark 6/200 degrees for approx 7 minutes (maybe longer), until the bread is lightly browned and the garlic butter has melted in to the bread.

Serve the soup, topping the adults’ (or adventurous kids’) portions with fresh parsley and chilli flakes  for extra flavour and effect!  Eat along with the garlic bread, dunking it in to the soup if you fancy!