In Term 3 of the past school year, as well as running Les Petits Chefs cooking club for boys aged 10-13, I ran a cooking club for 10 boys aged 8-10. Once a week after school, we’d gather in our science lab for an hour to cook together, my mission being to show the boys that you can cook REAL (good) FOOD in an hour.

At the end of the term, taking stock of what we had achieved, I realised that not only had we taught the boys the basics – knife skills (they do a pretty mean fine dice!), the importance of a clean workstation with well-organised mise en place, how to clean up after the classes (cleanup is a part of cooking too!) but we’d also taught the boys a few new ingredient names and introduced some new dishes to them. In some cases, we were cooking food that their parents couldn’t believe we’d made in just under an hour (admitting to me that they’d “never attempt” the same thing themselves!).

Ok, so that piece of the puzzle – the “just under an hour” piece… What on earth does one cook in such a short amount of time with fairly basic equipment (mostly cooking dishes on single hotplates, working in a science lab)? In previous iterations of this club, we’ve worked our way through a lot of Jamie Oliver recipes – using the original Food Revolution Cookbook, Meals in Minutes, Save with Jamie, Comfort Food and Everyday Superfood as well as most of the recipes on Jamie’s Home Cooking Skills. I was thrilled to see Jamie’s Food Revolution “Starter Pack” of Food Revolution recipes launched just before term started – as soon as I saw these recipes, I knew I wanted to use them as a sort of “curriculum” for my club.

These are recipes for classic, basic dishes that many people wouldn’t think to make with kids at home, yet they are so easy (and much healthier than store-bought or restaurant versions). My goal for this club was to teach them how to make these easy, tasty dishes from scratch in under an hour dishes that will set them up with a solid repertoire of meals to cook for themselves and their parents.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 17.50.37

The boys practised precise knife skills the week they made Jamie’s veggie noodle stir fry as they chopped and diced their way through carrots, broccoli, garlic, ginger, cilantro, peppers, onions and tofu. Another week, the boys were kept busy making hummus, Jamie’s flatbreads and chopping a lot of fresh vegetables to make a beautiful, tasty and healthy plate of food. The week we made Jamie’s minestrone, I was utterly thrilled with the boys’ beautifully evenly diced veggies and enthusiasm for everything “THIS SMELLS SO GOOD”, “You can give me extra if you like”.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 17.50.46

One week, one of the boys wanted to learn how to make tomato soup so we made Jamie’s tomato soup and enjoyed composing a green salad from various leaves and herbs and made our own salad dressing. Dinner for 12 in under an hour? No problem for these guys! The boys loved making omelettes and prepared lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers, bacon and cheese for their variations including wrap-type omelettes and folded ones.

   Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 17.53.55

When it came to Jamie’s roast chicken and veggies recipe, we got really creative and made roast chicken wings with pan-fried potatoes and beans with pumpkin seed pesto. Think you can’t make dinner in an hour? The Cooking Basics boys proved you can!

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 17.54.06

For Food Revolution week, the boys learned how to make quiche (including pastry from scratch). They had a wonderful time making the pastry and choosing their own fillings. We even got to taste all our combinations before we added them to make sure they would work!A favourite recipe this term (according to both the boys and their mums!) was chicken and vegetable curry. The boys did a wonderful job chopping onions and garlic and two of the boys took on the raw chicken like champions!  The lab smelled SO good with the curry spices!

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 17.54.24

On the day we welcomed next year’s new students into the school, I worked with the incoming Grade 5s to make the DIY oaty cereal. It was a really fun morning as the boys chopped their fruit and chose their combinations, even making up creative names for their blends! In the final week of school, my older students had made homemade tomato sauce and we had lots of leftovers. What to do with leftover tomato sauce? Pizza! What a great way to end the year. Personalised pizzas are always a hit and the boys even made the dough from scratch too.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 17.54.35

I’d say over the course of the ten weeks, we certainly proved one thing: Kids Can Cook!

If you raise the bar high and expect a lot, kids will rise to the challenge, as most of the time, they have no concept of what is supposed to be “difficult”. That’s why Jamie’s recipes are ideal. Real (good) food. Made easy.

Cooking Basics is such a success on so many levels – it allows me to teach some valuable kitchen (and life!) skills, it gives me a chance to get to know my students in a non-academic setting and it helps them get to know me a little better. But more than this, it proves that with a great recipe and a little guidance and encouragement, kids can cook. Kids can cook real food that tastes great.

Vive la (food) revolution!

Get the recipes here and share your creations online with #foodrevolution!

About Mardi Michels

Mardi Michels is a full-time teacher of French at an independent boys’ school in Toronto. She writes about food and travel at eat. live. travel. write. and has been a Food Revolution Ambassador since 2012.