Darina Allen: Recipes to help teach you kids how to cook

Darina Allen: Recipes to help teach you kids how to cook

Kids just love to cook and learn about how their food is grown and produced. We co-ordinated a few summer camps and Kids Farm Walks here over the past few weeks — such excitement…

The children got fully immersed in the activities of the organic farm. They ran off to collect the freshly laid eggs from the nests in the hen house, and jostled each other to feed the Jersey calves. 

They loved watching the free range Duroc/Tamworth pigs snuffling in the ground for roots and grubs to keep them healthy — squeals of joy as the pigs ran over the fence. 

They fed them the end of a crop of spinach and some sweetcorn that had bolted in the greenhouses.

They also loved sowing seeds and harvesting the produce. 

In the herb garden, they smelled and tasted fresh herbs, rubbed mint, lemon balm, and lemon verbena between their fingers, tasted them, and guessed what the flavours would be good with.

They giggled and marvelled at the sharp flavour of buckler leaf sorrel and learned how to pick tomatoes with the calyx still on. 

Ate green beans off the plant, picked cobs of sweetcorn and ripe berries from the strawberry patch. 

Each of these activities plus listening to the bird song and watching bees collecting nectar from the flowers are a beautiful educational activity.

One of the highlights was watching Maria, our ‘dairy queen’, milking the cows in our micro dairy. They saw the milk being separated and then each got a jar of cream to make into butter. 

They shook the jam jars as they danced to the sound of disco music and hey presto, butter to spread on the scones they made in the kitchen.

They discovered that many weeds are edible and full of mighty minerals and vitamins and magic trace elements to keep them bouncing with energy. 

They raced into the blueberries cage to pick the juicy fruit to pop into drop scones.

Darina Allen: Recipes to help teach you kids how to cook

They made their pizza dough and tomato sauce and let it rise while they collected fallen timber to light a camp fire.

On the last day they set up a Kids Café in the garden so parents could join them to enjoy the delicious food from their mornings cooking in the kitchen, and how they love cooking! 

It’s astonishing what even quite small children can learn how to do. 

They can make pasta, bake bread, jam, salads, sauces, both sweet and savoury dishes, juice fruit for homemade lemonade, make popsicles, and feed the scraps left over from their cooking to the grateful hens before they headed home with a little goodie bag of their very own homemade food.

Teaching kids how to cook is giving them a gift for life, equipping them with the practical skills to feed themselves healthy, wholesome food — and they love it!

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce is one of our great convertibles, it has a number of uses, we serve it as a vegetable or a sauce for pasta, filling for omelettes, topping for pizza.

Serves 6, approximately

Darina Allen: Recipes to help teach you kids how to cook

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) sliced onions

1 clove of garlic, crushed

900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in summer, or 2 tins (x 400g/14oz) of tomatoes in winter, but peel before using

salt, freshly ground pepper, and sugar to taste

1 tablespoon of any of the following:

freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

Heat the oil in a stainless steel sauté pan or casserole. Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured — about 10 minutes. 

It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. 

Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. 

Season with salt, pepper, and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). 

Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cover and cook for 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens; uncover and reduce a little. 

Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the sauce as a vegetable or filling.

Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Fresh Strawberry Popsicles

Makes (18fl oz/2 1/4 cups) or 6 x 3fl oz (1/2 cup) popsicles

400g (14oz) fresh strawberries

Lemon juice

150ml (5floz) Stock Syrup

Clean and hull the strawberries, put into a liquidiser or food processor and blend. Strain, taste and add lemon juice and stock syrup.

Pour into 75ml (3floz) popsicle moulds and freeze for 3 – 4 hours

Stock Syrup

Makes 28 fl oz (825 ml/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.

Store in the fridge until needed.

Salad of Avocado, Cucumber, Tomato, Blueberries, Walnuts, and Greens

Bursting with goodness and fun to make.

Serves 4

Darina Allen: Recipes to help teach you kids how to cook

110g (4oz) blueberries

1 organic avocado, diced

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

½ cucumber cut into chunky pieces

6 cherry tomatoes halved

2 handfuls of rocket, baby spinach leaves, and baby kale

12 walnuts, halved, toasted, and roughly chopped

For the honey chia dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon chia seeds

good pinch salt

Just before serving whisk the ingredients for the dressing together.

Prepare the ingredients. Put the washed and dried greens into a bowl. Sprinkle with dressing. Add the red onion and blueberries. 

Toss gently to coat. Pile onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, and walnuts on top. Fork up gently.

Garnish with edible flowers, marigold petals, chive, or wild garlic flowers.

Teeny Weenies

The soda bread base only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make. Teeny weenie brown or white scones only take 10 – 15 minutes to bake, depending on size and are irresistible to children and adults alike.

Makes 41

Darina Allen: Recipes to help teach you kids how to cook

1lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix - 12-14fl oz (350-400ml/1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups) approx.

Cutter 1 1/2 inch (4cm) approximately

First fully preheat your oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. 

The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured board. 


Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through.

 If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

Chopped fresh herbs for example; rosemary, thyme or olives may be added to the dry ingredients to make delicious little herb scones.

Brush the tops with egg wash and dip in grated Cheddar cheese for yummy Cheddar teeny weenies.

Pasta with Bacon and Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce

Serves 6-8

1 lb (450g) spaghetti

Dash of oil

1 oz (25g/1/4 stick) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce (see recipe left )

8 ozs (225g) cooked bacon or ham

4 ozs (110g) freshly grated cheese, eg. Cheddar or Parmesan

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) fresh basil or parsley, chopped

Darina Allen: Recipes to help teach you kids how to cook

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add 2 tsp of salt and a dash of oil. Add in spaghetti, stir, boil furiously until almost cooked — al dente — 15 minutes approx.

Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce, add the diced cooked ham or bacon and simmer for three or four minutes.

As soon as the spaghetti is cooked, pour off all the water and drain well, toss in a little butter and season with freshly ground pepper.

Pour into a wide, hot bowl or pasta dish, then pour over tomato sauce. Sprinkle with herbs and grated cheese and serve on very hot plates.

Hot Tips

Bringing vegetables centre stage

Sometimes less is more. We are all being encouraged to eat a little less meat. 

If we are to eat less meat, it follows that we need to eat more greens! 

During this afternoon class we will cover many exciting vegetarian and vegan dishes using beautiful organic produce from the organic gardens at Ballymaloe Cookery School

2pm to 6pm, Monday, August 26, cookingisfun.ie

Slow Food Event

As part of the FEAST Festival in Midleton from September 1-8, Penny Allen and myself will talk about food to nourish your gut.

Recent research has highlighted the importance of a healthy and biodiverse gut micro biome for both our physical and mental well-being.

Booking info: Tuesday, September 3, 7pm-8.45pm. €6 for Slow Food members and €8 for non-members. cookingisfun.ie Proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Education Project

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