Confidence in cooking with Annabel Karmel

Annabel Karmel has had a remarkable career in cookery. As an author of over 47 cookbooks, Annabel also has a range of food products for toddlers and babies and a popular baby and toddler recipe app. Her commitment to children’s health and nutrition is well recognised as she was awarded an MBE in 2006 and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mother and Baby Awards. Her newest children’s cookbook ‘Fun, Fast & Easy’ is out on the 2nd September.

What inspired you to write Fun, Fast & Easy?

I believe that cooking is such an important skill to learn. My children all learnt to cook while at home from four years old and they loved it! They really enjoyed doing grown up stuff and they were very proud when they made something that we all ate together. I really want to show that children are perfectly capable of cooking even when they are very young. Most of my recipes are perfectly capable for a five year old to make. There are lots of things they can do like stirring or mashing and they’ll usually love being a part of the process. When children are cooking they are also learning about time and measurements at the same time so it’s also really educational.

Is the visual aspect of food important to children at all?

It’s very important! Children make up their minds about if they want to eat something or not very quickly. You won’t get any food into their mouths unless they like the look of the food so it definitely has to be visual. But visually appealing doesn’t have to be complicated. My Owl Porridge for example isn’t difficult to make but it looks so fun for children to eat.

I think some children’s cookbooks can comprise of very bland foods. You make them and think “was that worth making?. I wanted to make sure my recipes are both really fun and interesting to make so when someone makes it they’ll love it.

Why is it so important to teach children to cook?

It’s quite funny that these days’ children can’t make a piece of toast or an omelette or a scrambled egg. I think we all need to be aware that if we as parents don’t teach our children to cook then they won’t really learn anywhere. They may do a little cooking at school but not a lot, it’s really more up to the parents.

Children are also curious. They could use a sharp knife or turn the kettle off and touch it because they think it’s cooled down already. We need to teach them the dangers of the kitchen. It’s much better you teach them through cooking than one day they experiment for themselves.

How can busy parents enjoy cooking with their children?

I think some parents feel like they don’t have the time to cook with their children and don’t want them to make a big mess but cookery is such an important skill to learn. It’s also such a fun activity to do together as a family, so I would encourage parents to make the time for it. Children are learning from it, it’s a lot of fun and you’re all getting something yummy to eat at the end of it!

A lot of parents these days make meals from the microwave so nobody is cooking. I believe that ready meals do have their place in the kitchen but there are such lovely recipes in my children’s cookbook that are very simple to make and could become family favourites. It doesn’t have to be an everyday effort, parents could do what I did with my children which was one day a week allow them to cook with you as you make dinner or supervise them as they make supper.

What are your top tips for getting children in the kitchen?

Try finding a recipe that doesn’t take too long from start to finish, and that is well within their skill range so that they can fully be involved. You don’t want to be taking over and doing it for them if the recipe becomes complex. Things that include rolling, cutting out or mashing can be really fun. From setting the timer to weighing out the ingredients, they can be involved from the very beginning.

Remember to let them get on with it however they please. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it doesn’t have to look as pretty as the picture. Just keep it fun and let them experiment with the foods. Show them the dangers and then let them go for it. After a few weeks of experimenting with foods, they’ll really enjoy it and will become quite good cooks.

What would you say is your favourite recipe in the book?

There’s a recipe in there that myself and my family make literally every week and we eat them all the time are the Oat and Raisin Power Cookies. They are amazing, they are the best cookies you’ll ever make!

For mealtime the Vroom Vroom Veggie-Packed Bolognese is really popular.

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