It's Week and 5 and although it's not even the holidays, our teenagers decided to throw caution to the wind and tackle Holiday Hotpot, regardless of the calendar mismatch. Positively reckless, I'd say.
So what did the teenagers learn?
- Read the recipe - All the way through. From beginning to end. Every bit of detail. No skimming. Otherwise you'll get surprises further down the line and those sorts of surprises aren't always the good kind.
- How to use the scales - It's not hard but it has to be done. There's also a lesson around knowing when it's important to weigh precisely (ie to the nearest couple of grammes) and when it isn't. My general rule of thumb is this - for baking be as precise as you can, for everything else you can chill a bit.
- Don't lose count - Especially if you're spooning into the pan. This time it was stock powder, so no drama. But it could be more catastrophic if it was, say, chilli powder.
- Keep it current - While #1 teenage son cut up the potatoes, he shared with us that he'd been learning about the Potato Famine in History that same day. Topical. Did you also know that by 2020, it's estimated that 20% of the world's population will suffer from some degree of depression? That was another little gem that he shared over the chopping board. Oh and that hippo milk is pink. All good stuff.
- Waste not, want not - In a recent swim competition, #1 teenage son was on the losing team and won a wooden spoon as the booby prize. But it's turned out to be his new favourite piece of kitchen kit, so I guess even through loss there's joy. But what's with the hole?
- Clear up as you go along - I think I'd be lying if I claimed that our teenagers were fully on board with this one. I could be flogging a dead horse.
- The fuller the pan, the gentler you stir - Or it slops everywhere and makes a flippin awful mess. It's a simple one, but saves on elbow grease afterwards.
- Always check for seasoning - Always, always, always taste and adjust accordingly. Drinking your taste test out of a cup is optional but does ensure you get a proper man sized mouthful.
- How to avoid ending up with a bowl of gravy - When you're serving something with lots of liquid, use a slotted spoon first to serve the 'solids' and then a ladle for the liquid. That way you avoid getting a bowl full of gravy and missing out on all the good bits. This is a great tip for other dishes like Thai Green Chicken Curry and Big, Hearty Pasta Soup too.
- Knowing the best dish for serving really is a thing - If you were to serve Holiday Hotpot on a flat dinner plate, there'd be gravy everywhere. Think about the characteristics of your dinner before serving up.
And what did I learn?
- Let's not overlook the basics - There is a significant education piece around 'how to chop' and 'how to cut' and 'how to slice', but we mustn't overlook the most basic of the basic skills. Today #1 teenage son learned that using the blade of the knife rather than the other side results in an easier job. And all your digits in one piece as a bonus.
- Know your way around the kitchen - I hadn't realised how little our teenagers knew about where to find stuff (and put away stuff) in the kitchen. They were clear on cereal, peanut butter, Marmite, crunchy bars, rice cakes, milk, bread (those life essentials) but set them off looking for a tub of baking powder ... now that could take some time. And the only answer to that, is more time in the kitchen.
- A great dinner doesn't always have to be complicated - This Holiday Hotpot is a simple, some may say 'rustic' dinner. There's nothing fancy here. It's a great one for our teenagers to have in their repertoire and it's also perfect for building cooking confidence. Having said that ... "I'm SO good at this", is what #1 teenage son announced as he tackled dinner this evening. I'm thinking that maybe confidence isn't a problem here.
And how did the Holiday Hotpot turn out?
Well this is exactly what happened (but don't be alarmed - our house isn't really sinking) -
And then, after 25 minutes of gentle simmering, we had this -
Very, very lovely. Especially with a loaf of Wurzel bread (don't ask) for dunking. #1 teenage son was keen to point out that he found a carrot 'end' and a parsley stalk in his portion, but I'd call that pedantic myself. And rather over zealous with the brotherly feedback. The teenagers had made a double portion so there was plenty to fill a couple of containers for the freezer too. Great job all round. But what will be next? ...
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.