My mini 12 year old chef; I’m so proud of her

My daughter, Freya, is 12 and is developing a love of spending time in the kitchen creating food.  She’s taken to searching recipes on the Internet and in my (many) recipe books and asks if she can bake/cook them.  It’s something that I want to actively encourage as I feel it’s very important that every child learns to cook good food, from scratch. To learn how to eat wholesome, healthy food and to know where that food comes from. This transpires to when we shop together; she knows to compare prices per 100g etc. to find the best deals and not just the supermarket ‘headline’ offers that ‘appear’ to be a bargain.  She even tells her dad off if he picks up the wrong item now!

She’s become a dab hand at making pasta, from weighing the flour out on her own, to adding and mixing the egg, to kneading, rolling and shaping it for dinner.  She will happily and confidently spend time in the kitchen absorbing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and I’ve seen her confidence grow so much; not to mention the increase in her culinary appetite to explore new flavours.
On Saturday, I’d decided to make a salmon & smoked cod flan for dinner with a white chocolate ganache tart.  One quick call to her to say I was ready to make it and on went her apron to learn how to make pastry. She made the savoury, Parmesan pastry and I made the vanilla, sweetened pastry for dessert beside her.  I have to say that her pastry was sublime! Crisp, light and short as well as being full of flavour.  She has a lovely, gentle touch when rubbing in the butter to her flour and confidently kneaded it before putting it to rest in the fridge.

I demonstrated lining a pastry case to her with my pastry, and without hesitation she followed suit and lined her own, before they were set to chill again.

The term ‘blind baking’ was obviously understood as she went straight to get the baking beans to line her pastry case.  Her only difficulty was that she didn’t scrunch up & smooth out her parchment before lining the case.  Quick explanation to her why it would be better that way, and the beans were out, the parchment scrunched up in a ball and they were back in the pastry case and in the oven to bake.  Paul Hollywood would have been pleased as there certainly wasn’t a soggy bottom on that pastry!
Next came the salmon steaks.  She was watching me skin one when she asked if she could do the next.  At this point I was a little worried as my fish knife is incredibly sharp, but she followed my advice and laid her hand & fingers flat on top as she ran her knife close to the board and skin.  The result? A fish skin that was almost perfectly clean. I’ve seen worse and more wastage from my fishmonger!

Freya made sure to cut all her fish into even sized pieces so that they’d cook at the same time.  She then confidently separated an egg to get the yolk, before mixing that with another whole egg, creme fraiche, double cream, horseradish sauce and grated gruyere cheese, which she then seasoned (& even tasted to check if it were correct).  To this she added her fish and filled her blind baked pastry before putting it back into the oven to cook.

Not a single piece of this was left after dinner which we served it up with fresh salad leaves & peppers with mildly spiced Cajun roast potatoes.  It will be made again, especially now I know how good my daughter is at making pastry too!