I’m not a natural ‘cooking with kids’ kind of mum. I see images around the web of gorgeous mums and their gorgeous children doing lovely, patient things with cupcakes and it makes me sigh a little. There are three main reasons for that sigh.
1. Cooking with kids is hideously messy.
2. Cooking with kids is incredibly frustrating.
3. Cooking with kids creates wonky food.
So when I hear of all those delightful cooking sessions that talented ‘other mothers’ are having with their kids, it makes me feel like a bit of a dud. I endure the cooking with kids thing, I don’t love it.
Yet ‘cooking with mum’ is a much loved ritual for my children. I have been pouring and kneading and pounding and stirring with them since they were barely able to stand. Each week and sometimes twice a week we make something together; we have our favourites, but it’s a rule that we have to try something new at least once a month.
I do it and have done it religiously for years because if you asked my children what cooking together means to them, they would say.
1. Cooking with kids is fantastically messy.
2. Cooking with kids is crazy fun.
3. Cooking with kids creates the yummiest food.
There’s no contest, really. I may endure this weekly ritual, but by god I love it when it’s done. I love the joy on my children’s faces as they watch their creations rise in the oven. I love their delight in sticky hands and their sheer surprise at the mountains of mess. I love biting into a scruffy, lopsided pizza that little hands have carefully made absolutely perfect.
Roll up your sleeves (very, very high), don an apron (very, very long) and get stuck into some recipes with the kids in tow. Take the completely-off-the-charts messy bits outside (playing with a stack of flour in a bowl, that’s definitely an outside activity) and create something utterly wonderful.
Jamie’s pizza dough
We use a modified version of the Jamie Oliver recipe from his beautiful book Jamie at Home. The instructions below are my own, based on Jamie’s and including a bit of ‘kid patter’ to really get them fired up.
Enough dough to make 7 thin pizzas the size seen below
1 kg strong white bread flour or Tipo ’00′ flour (we like the Tipo)
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water
Wash your hands really, really well. Then take an extra big mixing bowl, a sifter and the flour outside. Sift the flour into the bowl and then sink your hands right in there. Feel how gorgeously soft it feels and how lovely it looks drifting around the bowl. Have a good old play around then eventually make a well in the middle.
Back inside, in a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well.
Using your hands, gently bring the flour from the sides into the well and swirl into the liquid.
Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in and when it all starts to come together, get in there with your (clean!) hands and pull it all into a squishy ball.
With the heels of your hands, knead it this way and knead it that way until you have a smooth, springy dough. Then play around with it a little more, just because.
Place the (by now completely exhausted) ball of dough into a large, flour-dusted bowl, sprinkle some flour on the top and cover with a clean, damp tea towel.
Put the covered bowl in a warm room and leave it in peace. No peeking! After an hour, take a look under the cover to see what happened. Oh look, the dough has doubled its size like magic and it looks just like mummy’s tummy.
Now put this big over-sized ball of dough on a clean, flour-dusted surface (straight onto the bench works for us) and ‘knock it back’ to get all the air out. Get in there and really punch it. It’s fun.
You can use the dough immediately, rolling it out as thin as you can for the pizzas. You can also wrap it in clingfilm and keep it in the fridge or even freezer until you need it. If you freeze it, defrost it in the fridge and then take it out to allow it to come to room temperature before using it.
We favour a homemade tomato sauce on our pizzas. We make it with olive oil, garlic and (our secret ingredient) Nonno’s home-made bottled tomatoes. This passata – home-grown, hand-pressed, sprinkled with basil and hand-bottled – is the key ingredient in anything Italian I make and it always tastes the absolute biz.
Since you don’t have access to Nonno’s sauce (and I am truly sorry about that), you can use good-quality tinned tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.
If you really can’t be bothered, just buy your favourite bottled pasta sauce and use that.
Whether homemade or shop bought, pile on the tomatoey goodness; it sinks straight into the crust for extra yumminess.
You can put anything you like on your pizza, but if you crack an egg over the top, it’s called a ‘Pizza alla Bismark’ – how cool is that. There is actually no known recipe for Pizza alla Bismark, you just need to add an egg on top of any pizza to qualify. So, we always top the pizza with whatever we like (Lottie favours mozzarella, ham, pineapple and olives, which doesn’t really bear thinking about!) and then turn it into ‘a Bismark’ with an egg. Professional!
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A version of this post originally appeared on Kidspot.