Charmian Christie, aka The Messy Baker, met her match this week when she volunteered to come and show the Petits Chefs a recipe from her newly published book of the same name… Until you’ve worked in a science lab with 10+ boys under the age of 12, you can’t possibly imagine the
noise and organised chaos awesomeness that is boys cooking 😉
Once you see it in action, you either run away and don’t look back or you embrace it and go with the flow. Fortunately for me, all my fabulous volunteer guest chefs totally “get it” (as in, how completely wonderful it is to see kids so into cooking) and Charmian was no exception.
I wrote about Charmian’s fabulous new book in September and mentioned how there are so many “must try” recipes including her Sweet Potato Samosas which I was fortunate enough to sample (ahem, a large number of!) at her book launch in the summer. After last week’s success with making dumplings, I thought that making samosas might be a fun activity for the boys, although I know Charmian was a little wary – she wondered whether folding the samosas might be a little challenging for little hands. I say, until you’ve seen the Petits Chefs in action, it’s best not to make any assumptions – each and every week the boys surprise even me with their competence. In fact, folding and forming the samosas was indeed, the easiest part of the whole operation!
The recipe calls for cutting the sweet potato (and cauliflower into small pieces and par boiling it before you cook it up with onions, garlic, herbs and spices. When I saw that step, I knew that even if the boys knife skills are pretty good, that is a LOT of chopping in a short amount of time – and then there’s the cooking of the filling and the baking of the samosas to complete (in an hour, remember?).
I decided that we would blitz all the veggies (onions included much to the boys’ delight – they are not fans of chopping onions!) in the food processor until they were “unrecognizable” in the words of one boy so that they would stand a chance of cooking in the time we had. Although this method worked out beautifully in the end (I will be using it again myself!) I think Charmian was perhaps a little surprised to hear how we pretty much would not be following the recipe at all, except for the quantities of the ingredients and the folding of the samosas 😉 I get it – it must be hard to spend all that time writing a book then hear someone completely disregard your carefully-thought out instructions… But there’s a method to my madness!
Even though I am generally a rule follower (mostly) in the kitchen, when it comes to working with the boys, I do like to try to show shortcuts as much as I can (in terms of technique, not using pre-prepared foods) to prove that real, tasty, healthy food can be made in a short amount of time. Of course we chatted our way through the recipe and realised we were not exactly following those instructions and the boys knew why (“we don’t have time!”) and obviously I encourage their parents to follow the recipe as it’s written – always giving them an option to save time in a few places where possible. Time (or lack of it) is the biggest obstacle for many busy families when it comes to getting kids in the kitchen so if I can show them ways they can make good food fast(er), I’m all for that!
Veggies blitzed, herbs and spices measured out, we got to filling the samosas. I am not the best working with phyllo pastry so I was very happy to have Charmian there to show them the way (I picked up some tips too!). Charmian was a great teacher, calm amongst the organised-chaos and patient. And I have to say the boys did me very proud. They wrapped those samosas like they do this all the time. No fear. That’s what I love about cooking with kids. I went home, my tail between my legs thinking “If the boys can wrap those samosas, I certainly can too!”
When I brought the tray into the kitchen to bake them, our chef was interested to see these being baked not fried. The phyllo is brushed with a little vegetable oil on top to crisp them up and honestly, I don’t think you could tell the difference (although, I never even got to taste these because there were *exactly* 3 per boy. And we’re all about making sure everyone has the same amount of everything!). I have the leftover filling in my freezer so I’ll definitely try these soon. I can’t wait!
A HUGE thanks to Charmian for taking the time to come and work samosa magic with the boys this week. I’m in the middle of a parent-teacher interview marathon right now and I cannot get over how many parents actually want to talk about cooking club (as well as French, of course!). Not sure what other extra curricular club gets so much airtime at PT interviews but I’m so happy to hear it. And the parents are thrilled with what their boys are learning (and what they are getting to taste each week!).
I couldn’t do this without the generosity of Toronto-area chefs and food enthusiasts like Charmian and I am ever so grateful for the support this programme receives from the community. Although I think after seeing our science lab after the whirlwind session this week, Charmian might have to re-think her “Messy Baker” title. Because there’s a group of boys who wouldn’t mind if you called them that 😉 She’s already agreed to come back and show the boys Spanakopita in the Spring – I cannot wait for that session!
Please note: The product links from Amazon, Amazon.ca and The Book Depository are affiliate links meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of The Messy Baker for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for writing this post and all opinions are my own.
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