Can you believe it? We're already at Week 4 of Teenagers Tackle Dinner and this week we all wanted to be able to eat dinner in front of the television to watch the next one of the Harry Potter films. Since our trip to Disneyland in the summer, we've posted a list on the fridge of films to re-visit, and the whole Harry Potter series is up there - along with ET, Twister, The Terminator and (somewhat randomly) Working Girl ... it was the trip on the Staten Island Ferry that got me thinking about that old favourite.
So to help with our TV plans, the teenagers opted to make a handheld dinner - Baharat Chicken Flatbreads, served with a good dose of Harry Potter wizardry on the side.
This is a fairly simple dish, but it's one that requires the need to be organised and speedy if everyone is going to eat warm food - all at the same time.
So what did the teenagers learn?
- 'Boneless' doesn't always mean boneless - A packet labelled as 'boneless chicken thighs' probably means that all of the big bones have been removed, but those pesky little ones and those mini-gristly bits ... BEWARE. Using your fingers to feel for them is always the best bet and opting for a pair of scissors rather than a knife to remove the offending items is easier and neater. AND you will always get the full and undivided attention of Rex, the world's most neurotic dog, when there is meat in the kitchen. Just so you know.
- Raw chicken (and the juice of raw chicken) will make you ill - Be sure to wash everything (that's hands, worktops, chopping boards and utensils) thoroughly and with soap when you're done to avoid this. In particular NEVER use a board that you have used for raw chicken to prepare other uncooked foods, unless you have thoroughly cleaned it first. #2 teenage son was speculating that students who don't know about this must end up getting ill all the time when they leave home for college. Probably not as often as beer induced illness though.
- Sometimes hands are good - Although we've spent the last 15 years teaching our children to use their cutlery (AND to put their feet under the table AND to eat with their mouth closed AND to 'put that blessed book down' ... I'm sure you know where I am on this), sometimes hands are good - particularly when you're mixing spices through a bowl of chicken strips. It's messy but it's the best way.
- Salt is not evil - Too much salt IS evil but often salt is the difference between your dish being sensational and it being exceptionally bland. Don't be scared of it. And the only way to know if you have the level right is to taste it. Having someone put a camera in your face while you taste it is optional though.
- Not all rings on the hob are equal - It sounds simple, but knowing that the bigger ring on the hob is hotter than the smaller one is useful - particularly for stir frying when big heat is needed.
- How do you test if chicken is done? - In week 2 the teenagers learned that the only way to truly test if pasta is ready is to taste it. This could be a risk strategy when cooking chicken (see above). Instead #2 teenage son took a piece from the pan and cut it in half to check if it looked cooked in the middle. It would be rude not to then eat the tester piece though - once you're sure it's fully cooked of course!
- Sometimes a production line is good - The last stage of creating these Baharat Chicken Flatbreads is a construction job - cut the bread, mix the salad and stuff the bread with chicken + salad. Having everything laid out in a production line makes it much easier to get this done quickly so that the food is still warm and everyone can eat together.
And what did I learn?
- Tunes help - Tunes definitely help and in this case our teenagers selected Spotify Top Tracks. Shan't say what I thought about their choice in music. That would make me sound like I'm 150 years old. And it is widely acknowledged that my taste in music is tragic anyway. Really.
- Some tools are better than other tools - A mezzaluna (literally a 'half moon'), is a knife with a handle on each end. It's a great tool for finely chopped herbs while avoiding the inclusion of finely chopped finger. An essential part in a teenager's kitchen tool kit, I'd say - and also for anyone else on the clumsy spectrum.
- Boys just wanna have fun - Of course this whole Teenagers Tackle Dinner thing has to be fun, and setting yourself goals like getting into every photo on the post certainly helps. He didn't manage it but I liked this one.
And did our TV dinner taste great?
Yes it absolutely did. The arabic breads were a bit crumbly when they were defrosted - not sure why - so they didn't behave too well in the toaster, but that aside everything was delicious and there were clean plates all round and no hope of leftovers. The definition of success for sure. Looking forward to another delight next week.
And if you (and your teenagers) fancy joining us on this culinary journey do let us know by commenting and of course be sure to snap a photo of your dinner and hashtag it #marmaladeandme. I'd love to see how it goes for you.