So, I cook from time to time. And since I’m bored with the following recipes, I don’t: I prepare things depending on what’s available in the kitchen and inside the fridge. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s not great. But after 30 years of trying, most of it is edible.
More than taste, cooking is great fun for kids – they love to talk about food, wash vegetables, stir, and cook in general…and they are a game for anything. Of course, we have a good stock of our recipes now, but this approach is very useful in a household of children.
Here’s a recipe that’s easy to make, doesn’t require much, and came out of a conversation with my youngest, T-Rex (he’s the dinosaur expert in a family of dinosaur experts, nickname ergo). It was the way it happened.
“Why do we always have to have chicken in curry?” T-Rex asked, preparing for the argument.
“Who said this? We don’t.” I answered him by surprise.
“Can we make chicken with tomatoes?”
“Yes, is that what you want today?”
“Yes. Only chicken and tomatoes. Nothing else.”
“We can do that.”
I had a boneless chicken with me, so he helped me wash it. Then I put it on the cutting board and took the knife.
“I want small pieces. Small, round pieces. And not too fat,” T-Rex instructed.
I nodded and cut out the first part.
“I changed my mind. Can you make it oval? I don’t want round pieces.”
“Yes we can.” And with just a bit of a slant, we had bite-sized oval pieces. He’s been learning about oceans and areas of different shapes and I’m glad he didn’t say star-shaped pieces, or what he currently prefers: the octagon.
“How do you like tomatoes?”
“Okay, cut it like you did in a triangle shape today.”
“Okay. These are called quadrants, but they look like a triangle.”
So, a quadrant is a triangle with a curve?
“Um, it is the fourth part of the circle. So, if you take a circle and cut it into four equal parts, then each part is called a quarter.”
He thought about it and then said, “So, every 15 minutes on the clock is a quarter of an hour. Well, cut the tomatoes into quarters after that.”
There were three tomatoes, I was about to start the second when he spoke again.
“Let me chop one tomato. I know how to cut.”
“Here you can cut two.”
Meanwhile, I took some ghee in a shallow pan, inserted the chicken and then the tomatoes when it finished chopping. The smell was wonderful.
“Love this smell! And it looks so red!” exclaimed the T-Rex.
“How about some salt?”
“Yes, put some salt. And we put haldi. I love haldi.”
So, I put salt and haldi.
“Ginger. And black olives. Can we have black olives, please? I love black olives.”
So, I lowered the flame, quickly washed, peeled it, cut the ginger into thick slices and planted them in the pan and fried over high heat.
What about olives?
“They don’t need to be cooked, so we can add those at the end.”
And that’s what we did. Olive slices dipped at the end, then two minutes of stirring and stirring.
If you have 400-500 grams of boneless chicken on hand, then this dish takes 15 minutes to prepare. The small, thin oval pieces make cooking faster. Tomatoes (2), ginger (large piece about 20 grams), haldi (teaspoon) and salt (teaspoon) give the base and it is a moist dish that goes well with buttered rice or noodle soup. How many olives? depends on you. If you don’t have olives, dispense with them or use some black grapes if you have few.
The dish turned out to be a T-Rex liking. especially.
“So, the tomatoes make the dish refreshing,” he remarked as we ate. The rest of the family liked the dish, too. “I think we need some seasoning. Next time we should add the green chill. And I love potatoes. They will go well with this dish. Too much tang is boring after a few bites!” T-Rex finished.
Everyone contributed their suggestions as we ate it. T-Rex considered all the suggestions and objected to all of them. “No, this dish will be in addition to the potatoes and cold. You can make your own recipe with vegetables and anything you want. This is how I like it.”
Cooking – like life – is so much fun when you make a recipe from the ingredients your kids suggest. It is also a great learning ground for honing skills related to social collaboration, design, and communication. And while I stand by the adage that too many cooks can end up spoiling broths, I also believe that building a recipe and cooking with kids is a much better way to instill a love of gastronomy and make them independent.
Sometimes you need to spoil the broth a few times on your way to learning what makes a good broth and how to make it.
Sanjay Mukherjee, an author, learning technology designer and management consultant, is the founder of Mountain Walker and chief strategic advisor, Peak Pacific. He can be reached at [email protected]