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Cookery Books - Part I

Have you given yourself a challenge to take into 2022? Some call it a New Year’s resolution, others just like to think of it as something they want to give up or take on - or maybe do better. For me it is baking cookies. Cookies are my baking challenge: sometimes they work, other times they are a complete failure… However, I am armed and ready to face 2022, this particular challenge and a few more along the way.

How …? Why …? Here at Armadillo HQ, we have been the very lucky recipients of some fantastic baking and cooking books – both in story form and of the more practical variety. As the chef and baker, it is I who - this week and for the next two - will be telling you a little about each book and sharing the recipes that have inspired me.

For this first week, I am going to focus on the idea of making something. Getting the apron on, the equipment out and being creative in that kitchen… Read on to find out not only how you can do this too, but also how you can go beyond the kitchen with your inspiration - for more fun, for more ideas and to form a circle of creativity.

Firstly, I would like to go back in time to my childhood. To those carefree days of picnics with lashings of ginger beer and of course a copy of the Famous Five or the Secret Seven in hand for my afternoon of adventuring. Those famous and fabulous picnics have found their way into Jolly Good Food, published by Hodder Children’s Books. It would seem I am not the only one who has been inspired! Author Allegra McEvedy has been too, and her collection is one that will make your mouth water and have you longing for picnicking afternoons… My favourite recipe from this collection has not been easy to choose but I have decided on Five Famous Quiches - which is not exactly cheating as they are all under the same heading! They give a variety of fillings and flavours to whet the appetite – from salmon and broccoli to baked bean and bacon, they are both traditional and unique. The excellent layout explains how to make the pastry and then provides the ingredients and method for each bake. There are six sections in the book covering six of Enid Blyton’s most famous characters and their foodie tastes. Stories intersect each section and there is certainly plenty to enjoy with many adventures in baking, cooking and beyond packed into this book.

Of course, you may have got this far and thought to yourself, ‘but I can’t cook!’ Collins publishing and Little Cooks Co will put you right back on track with their You Can Cook Tasty Food, offering an accessible introduction to the kitchen and cooking. An introduction to cooking from scratch is particularly useful, followed by a well-illustrated guide to tools and techniques to get you set up for your first adventures in cooking. None of the recipes are challenging; they can be tackled by more confident children alone or with the help of an adult. There is plenty of advice accompanying each recipe, so there is no excuse! Get chopping and get cooking because you don’t even need to do either for the recipe I have chosen: Popcorn! The recipe advises allergies, servings, prep time, cooking time and tools before telling you the ingredients and method (this layout is followed with every recipe). Not only is this recipe super simple, it’s also healthy and can be used to create bird food – in two different ways! It also comes (as they all do) with a ‘Did You Know’ fact: did you know that the water inside each kernel vibrates so quickly when heated that it ‘pops’?

Making food for yourself and for the birds most certainly counts as being green - being environmentally friendly, that is. If you would like to follow this idea in your cooking adventure, then look no further than Jenny Chandler’s Green Kids Cook, published by Pavilion. Aimed at children aged 7-14, this book hopes to encourage the making and eating of food that is not only good for them but also for the planet. Whilst this is not necessarily a vegetarian or vegan cookbook, virtually none of the recipes contain meat or fish. This is because they are all about getting more plants - more of that green! - onto people’s plates. It is about giving the veg centre stage and getting the children involved in putting it there so that they will be encouraged to eat more of it. As with all these books, there is an introduction, helpful tool lists and kitchen guides. But it will be the Breakfast and Brunch, Snacks, Soups and Salads, Mains and Sweet Things that the children will want to know more about! For me, the recipe that caught my eye – and the one I will most certainly try as we have a great many veg peelings in our house - is veg peel crisps. What a fantastic snack and one that is made as a result of cooking another meal – brilliant! It is only the peel from the potato (if you are using it) that needs to be cooked immediately – all the rest will keep in the fridge so you have a veritable rainbow ready to cook and snack on! Easy and nutritious, this will be a go-to recipe for me!

I am going to leave you here for this first week – there is so much to share that I want to make sure you can take it all in and have time to try it all out so … come back next week to find out about how cooking has found its way into stories. In the meantime if you try any great recipes we would love to know!

Louise Ellis-Barrett


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