CHENNAI : If you want to eat what you like, you’ve got to make it yourself!” says 10-year-old Shriram Vijaybaskar, as he sips his third glass of chocolate milk for the day. He speaks for over an hour, and is not a bit tired. Neither are other young master chefs in Chennai like Priyanka Vijaybaskar, Shruti Balaji, and Rhea Karthik, all below 14 years, who share a long list of things to make, bake and give mothers a break from the kitchen. The menu is no regular one. It includes honey and chocolate pancakes, stuffed cheese buns, pasta salads, cheesecakes, caramelised apple cakes, and much more. “You need to keep stirring your sauce, always on low heat. And don’t glaze your cake until both the sauce and cake cool down completely,” warns 14-year-old Priyanka, as she explains how to bake a glazed cardamom cake with an caramel-apple filling.
Priyanka and her brother Shriram started cooking when they were four and five. They would make salads and rolls, and sandwiches were Shriram’s specialities. He wouldn’t let anyone into the kitchen, and made things from scratch. “I love putting mayo on both sides of a triple-decker sandwich, and thinly slicing my veggies like cucumber and carrot. And of course, eating it all is the best part,” he says.
For 10-year-old Rhea Karthik, her favourite part is chopping, mixing, and tasting while cooking. “To make potato nuggets, you mash potato, add salt, curd, chilli, lemon juice, cheese and coriander, and roll it all together,” she says. “Make sure your hands are greased properly, roll it in bread crumbs, and deep fry it.” Her mother, Sunitha Karthik, laughs and adds that the kitchen was in a mess, but it was worth it.
For mothers who are tired of messy kitchens, or don’t have the time to supervise to avoid accidents in the kitchen, cooking workshops and DIY kits have been a great option. Children pick up simple skills and tips from these workshops, and experiment with quirky combinations. Madhavi Srinivasamurthy, facilitator of ‘Kids Who Cook’ workshop conducted by The Learning Community at Quest, says that a green salad with musk melon dressing, white choco banana shake are some quirky dishes that fascinate children.
“At first a green salad does not interest any of them, and they don’t add vegetables they don’t like. But if you prod a little, since they’re in a group, they stay motivated. In the end they all ask me if something this healthy can actually be tasty?” she shares. Workshops are mainly for children who are fascinated by flavours, since there’s someone around to encourage them to be wild with combinations. But for children who like to read instructions and get a restaurant-perfect dish, DIY kits are a great way to get them cooking.
Anjali Anand, founder, Awesome Chef, that makes ready-to-cook kits, explains that in most families, it’s the child who decides what should be cooked. “Children over 10-11 years are in an experimental phase, and they sometimes ask for dishes whose ingredients are hard to find, or are difficult to make from scratch.” While Awesome Chef does not make DIY kits for children, Anjali says that most parents say it’s their children who end up cooking what’s in the kit.
For parents with inhibitions about the mess cooking brings along with it, Madhavi suggests asking children to clean up after cooking. Aarthi Balaji, whose 12-year-old daughter Shruti participated in cooking competitions a year ago, also says “It’s as important as giving them the freedom to be creative, as asking them to keep things back in place. It’s been a patient learning process for me as well, but I know she doesn’t have to depend on anyone in the kitchen when she grows up.” ]
Classic honey pancakes by Shriram Vijaybhaskar
● Flour: 1 1/4 cups
● Milk: 1/2 cup
● Eggs: 2
● Honey: 1 tbsp (or more as per interest)
● Salt: a pinch
● Choco chips
● Chopped strawberry
● Chopped banana
Directions: Whip two eggs till you see bubbles. Add milk, flour, honey and a pinch of salt, and keep whipping till it reaches a gooey consistency. Pour the mix in a ketchup container, and heat a pan on medium-low. Once hot, make a dragon ball, deathly hallow, mocking jay, or shape that you like. Cook till brown on both sides. Once off the pan, add a topping of your choice.
Tips for children
● Start by making something you like, even if it is not entirely healthy. Then slowly try making healthy versions of the dish
● You can find alternatives to ladle and vessels — like using an empty ketchup bottle to make quirky pancake designs
● Don’t hesitate to experiment with healthy combinations like fruits in a salad, or leaves in a pasta
● Chopped fruits like strawberry and banana tastes great on pancakes and sandwiches
● Get them into the habit of making food with leftovers
● If your child is below eight years, don’t allow them to use knife and stove without supervision.
● Insist on using gloves while handling an oven
● Ask them to be cautious of hot vessels
about ‘Kids who cook’ workshop, call The Learning Community at Quest at: 7358570749