Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander

In Australia, many of the top culinary icons I met were women, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and the incorrigible, and irrepressible Cherry Ripe.
Stephanie Alexander opened Stephanie’s Restaurant in Melbourne in 1976, a landmark establishment later credited with having revolutionized fine dining in Australia.

From 1997, along with several pals, she set up and ran Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood café renowned particularly for its superb cheese.

Stephanie is one of Australia’s most highly regarded authors. She’s written innumerable cookbooks and her signature publication – The Cook’s Companion has established itself in almost 400,000 homes world wide, including pride of place in the library in the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

I am full of admiration for Stephanie in so many ways, not least for her work in spearheading the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in 2001. 

The programme’s aim was to introduce inner-city kids to the joys of healthy, homemade food. Since then, she and her team have worked with hundreds of primary school children, teaching them to grow edible organic produce in the school grounds, and to turn their harvest into wonderful dishes such as muffins, homemade pastas, vegetable-rich winter soups and decorated tea eggs.

Unlike other cookbooks for kids, Stephanie’s recipes do not assume that a child’s palate is unsophisticated or unable to appreciate complex tastes. Although the recipes are simple, Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids incorporates a wide range of interesting ingredients, with a particular emphasis on those that are healthy and inexpensive. Stephanie also arranges her menus seasonally to encourage an appreciation for fresh (even home-grown!) produce, rather than packaged and pre-prepared convenience foods.

Stephanie’s philosophy is that there is no such thing as special food for children: if food is good, then everyone will enjoy it regardless of age. In Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids, Stephanie gathers together 120 recipes, all specially written for children, with simple instructions, a list of equipment needed for each recipe, a colourful layout and lots of fast, fun facts for curious minds. But while all of these recipes can be negotiated by a couple of eight year olds in aprons with a bit of adult supervision – the dishes are anything but standard kids’ fare: alongside the muffins and slices are homemade pastas, Indian curries, Asian tea eggs and vegetable-rich winter soups.

The book also tells the story behind the recipes – the inspiring tale of the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College. In 2001, Stephanie initiated a garden and cooking programme in a large inner-city Melbourne school. Since then the programme has given hundreds of primary school children the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat the very best kind of food – freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious.

Stephanie’s book will appeal not only to mums and kids but also to the growing number of teachers who are developing kitchen gardens and school food initiatives.

Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander
Published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin Books

Buy this Book from

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

This delicious salad can be made up to an hour before your wish to eat it and kept refrigerated, but if made too far in advance the cabbage and daikon will lose their crunchy texture. On another day you could use prawns or poached fish instead of chicken.
Serves 6 or tasting for 12

Poached chicken fillets
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 x 2cm piece fresh ginger
2 skinless chicken breast fillets

Dressing
3 cloves garlic
1 long red chilli (use disposable gloves if you can)
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
⅓ cup fish sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Cabbage Salad

1 carrot
1 daikon (Chinese radish)
½ cabbage
1 small red onion
20 mint leaves
12 stems coriander 

Trim the outside layer from the spring onions and cut off the tops and ends, then cut the rest into 4 pieces. Peel and slice the ginger. Fill the saucepan with water, add the spring onions and ginger, then bring to a simmering point over a high heat. Carefully slip the chicken breasts into the saucepan and allow the water to return to a simmering point, then use the ladle to skim off and discard any froth that rises to the top. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the liquid for 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time. Use the tongs to transfer the chicken breasts to the plate. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until needed.

Now make the dressing. Peel the garlic. Place the cloves on the chopping board and flatten with the side of a large knife. Finely chop the garlic and place in a large bowl.

Slip on the disposable gloves and slit the chilli in half lengthways. Scrape the seeds into the rubbish bin. Slice the chilli as finely as you can and place in the garlic bowl. Discard the gloves. Wash and dry the chopping board and knife. Juice the lime. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, oil and sugar to the garlic bowl and stir.

Make the cabbage salad. Soak the coriander in a small bowl of water. Peel the carrot and daikon. Using the food processor or a vegetable slicing gadget, shred the carrot and daikon and add to the dressing bowl. Cut away the thick stalk from the cabbage, then cut the cabbage into 2 or 3 pieces. Using the large knife, shred the cabbage and add to the dressing bowl. Peel the red onion and cut it in half lengthways, then place the flat sides on the chopping board and slice each half into fine rings. Add to the dressing bowl. Place all vegetable scraps in the compost bucket.

Using your fingers, shred the cooked chicken breasts.

Add the chicken to the bowl with the dressing and vegetables.

Lift the coriander from its soaking water. Rinse the mint. Dry the herbs by rolling in the tea towel. Set aside 6-12 leaves to use as a garnish, then roughly chop the rest and add to the bowl.

Use a large spoon to mix all the ingredients together, then spoon into serving bowls and top with the reserved coriander or mint.

Chargrilled Middle Eastern Lamb Burgers with Pita Breads

Makes 10 small burgers
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
½ onion
1 lemon
15 stalks parsley
10 sprigs thyme
500g minced lamb
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 small pita pocket breads
½ cup yoghurt

You will need 2 baking trays and a frying pan. Chopping board and knives. Mortar and pestle.
Preheat the oven to 150C and put one of the baking trays in the oven to keep warm.
Heat the frying pan over a medium heat. Tip in the coriander seeds and stir with a wooden spoon until they start to smell fragrant. Tip the seeds into the mortar. Toast the cumin seeds in the same pan until they, too, smell fragrant. Add these seeds to the mortar and wipe out the frying pan with a piece of kitchen paper.

Using the pestle, grind the toasted seeds to a coarse powder. Tip the powder into a large bowl. Set out the chopping board and knives. Peel and chop the onion finely (or grate it) and tip into the bowl. Juice the lemon and grate the zest, adding both to the bowl.

Rinse the parsley and thyme, dry by rolling in the tea towel, then chop. Add the herbs to the bowl. Now add the lamb and salt, along with a good grind of black pepper. Make sure your hands are very clean, then use your hands to mix everything together very well.

Heat the frying pan over a medium heat and add a tiny dash of the oil. Take a walnut-sized piece of the mixture and fry it in the frying pan for a couple of minutes. Using a tongs, lift this sample out of the frying pan. Allow to cool a little, then taste it to decide if the mixture needs more salt or pepper.

Form the mixture into 10 equal balls. Flatten each ball a bit with the back of a fork and place on the cold baking tray. Using the pastry brush, brush the lamb burgers with the oil. Heat the chargrill pan over a medium-to-high heat. Place the burgers carefully on the hot grill – do not try to move them once they have been placed. Turn after 8-10 minutes and cook the other side for about 5 minutes.

As the burgers are cooked, transfer them to the baking tray that has been in the oven.

While the burgers are grilling, brush the pita pocket breads with oil, then place on the oven rack to warm through. This should take 5-8 minutes. Serve the burgers and warm breads at the table, where your guests should open their pita breads, spoon in some tabbouleh and then top with the lamb burger and a dollop of yoghurt.

Tabbouleh

Serves 6
½ cup cracked wheat
3 tomatoes
1 long cucumber
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 clove garlic
10 stalks parsley
15 mint leaves
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the cracked wheat in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 10 minutes, then tip into the strainer. Press out as much liquid as possible with the back of the tablespoon.

Tip the cracked wheat into a thick tea towel and roll it like a sausage. Two people are now needed to each hold one end of the tea-towel sausage, and to twist in opposite directions to squeeze even more liquid from the grains.

Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the cracked wheat, then unwrap the ‘sausage’ and carefully shake the cracked wheat into the bowl.

Set out the chopping board and knives. As you chop the following ingredients, place them in the bowl with the cracked wheat. Cut the tomatoes into small dice using the serrated knife. Peel and dice the cucumber. Trim the outside layer from the spring onions, cut off their tops and ends, then finely slice the rest. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Rinse the parsley and mint and dry by rolling in the second tea towel. Chop the herbs and add to the other ingredients. Juice the lemon. In the small bowl, mix the oil and lemon juice to make a dressing, then add to the medium bowl. Mix everything together and taste for salt and pepper. Spread the parsley evenly throughout. Transfer the tabbouleh to the serving bowl and serve.

Orange and Cardamom Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 10
125g butter
¾ cup castor sugar (170g)
2 large oranges 
2 eggs
125g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Cream Cheese Icing
60g pure icing sugar
60g cream cheese
30g butter

You will need a 12 hold muffin tray and 10 cupcake cases (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C. If using cupcake cases , drop one into each of the holes in the muffin tin. Otherwise, weigh the butter, then melt 1 tablespoon into the small saucepan and use the pastry brush to grease the holes of the muffin tin.

Set out the chopping board and knife. Cut the remainder of the butter into small cubes and place in the bowl of the food processor. Add the sugar and run the motor for 1 minute.

Juice the oranges and place the juice in a medium bowl. Grate the zest from the oranges and add the zest to the bowl. Crack the eggs into the same bowl, then lightly whisk to combine. Sift the flour and ground cardamom into a second medium bowl.

With the food processor running, and working quickly, add about one-third of the egg and juice mixture, then add about one-third of the sifted flour. Immediately add another one-third of the egg mixture and another one-third of the flour, then the remaining egg mixture and flour and process until smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter evenly into 10 holes of the greased muffin tin, filling each hole about two-thirds full. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked. To test the cakes, remove from the oven and insert a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cakes are done.

While the cakes are cooking, make the icing. Wash and dry the bowl of the food processor and place the sieve over the top. Tip the icing sugar into the sieve and use a spoon to push the icing sugar through. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes, then tip into the food processor, along with the butter, and process until smooth and creamy.

Remove the cakes from the oven. Allow them to cool for 1 minute in the tin, then turn the tin upside-down and bang the bottom of the tray to release the cakes. Place right side up on the wire rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cool, use the spatula to spread a little icing on top of each cake and serve.

Hot Tips

Cooking for Kids with Rachel Allen – 
Half day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School - 2pm on Friday 13th April – Tel 021-4646785 to book.

Chinese New Year 2007 is The Year of the Pig – 
To expand your repertoire of Chinese cooking have a look at some Chinese cookbooks recently on the shelves –
Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong – published by Penguin Michael Joseph
Shows how Chinese cooking has never been easier . Using the freshest produce, simplest cooking techniques and step-by-step photographs, the 14 chapters containing over 100 recipes are each devoted to one main ingredient – be it chicken, rice, stocks or seafood.
The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-ta-Hsiung – Originally published in 1999 this classic has recently been reissued by Kyle Cathie – a wonderful overview of Chinese ingredients and useful sources.
China Modern by Ching-He Huang – also by Kyle Cathie
100 cutting-edge, fusion-style recipes for the 21st century. In China Modern, Ching-He Huang explores new influences from the rest of the Far East as well as the West, looking first at familiar recipes and giving them a makeover as well as traditional home cooking from the less well known provinces such as Hunan and Sichuan.

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority
Will be running a series of continuing professional development programmes in all areas of tourism and hospitality in 2007 – courses are run nationwide – for details of courses in each area – Cork 021-4313058 carmel.barry@failteireland.ie  Dublin 01-8847766 ruth.campbell@failteireland.ie  Galway 091-561432 agnes.odonnell@failteireland.ie  Midlands 01-8847766 ruth.campbell@failteireland.ie 

Foolproof Food

Stir-fried Pork Fillets with Honey and Ginger

From Simple Chinese Food by Kylie Kwong
Serve as a meal for 4 with steamed rice or as part of a banquet for 4-6
If possible, marinate the pork overnight for better flavour!

600g (1lb 4oz) pork fillets, cut into 5mm (¼ in) slices
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut into 10cm (4in) lengths
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 limes, halved

Marinade
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons shao hsing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons five spice powder
½ teaspoon sesame oil 

Combine pork with marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add half the marinated pork and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Remove from wok with a slotted spoon and set aside. Heat remaining oil in the wok, add remaining pork and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Return reserved pork to the wok with spring onions, vinegar, soy sauce and water. Stir-fry for a further minute or until pork is just cooked through and lightly browned.

Arrange pork on a platter and serve with lime halves.