Last week, I had the pleasure of teaching a group of 6-9 year old children how to make my Tofu Bolognese and Spaghetti. We had the entire group involved, with each child doing different tasks as the lesson progressed. We covered tasting, knife skills, flavor building, and proper seasoning. The children were a delight and I really can’t thank the parents enough for allowing me this opportunity to work with their children.
Here’s what I found: Dahling, children will almost always eat what they help prepare. All the children loved the Tofu Bolognese and Spaghetti (many asked for seconds) but most importantly they were developing an important life skill that will serve them for a very long time. Here I am teaching my young friend the importance of tucking little fingers (and big fingers too) when cutting to avoid accidents.
We talked about the importance of properly salting the pasta water before adding the spaghetti. Did you know the water should taste like the ocean before adding the pasta? No?! Now, you do. No matter how flavorful the sauce, if the pasta itself isn’t properly seasoned, the dish will fall flat. You really only have that one opportunity to infuse the pasta with flavor when boiling it. The children had a grand time tasting the water, and were not afraid to let me know, “It doesn’t taste like the ocean yet, Miss Jenn!”
My young friend helped mix the spices and seasonings into the tofu before adding to the pan. He was determined to see the task through and did not consider his task complete until every little crumb of tofu was properly coated.
Next we covered flavor building. We talked about how mirepoix forms the base of many French dishes for good reason. The mix of onion, carrots and celery creates a lovely flavor base for almost any dish across many different cuisines. Of course, one child then decided to speak French, expecting me to speak back. Ha! My French is limited to a few cooking terms and perhaps “Ciao!” Whoops, Wikipedia informed me Ciao was Italian so I’ll stick to French cooking terms, thank you. I can’t engage you like that, boy genius. Sorry!
This young chef learned the importance of adding a bit of salt and pepper each time something new is added to the pot. Doing so ensures the dish is properly seasoned throughout. If we wait until the dish is finished to taste, and try to add salt at that point, we run the risk of over-salting, as tasting a lot of salt in rapid succession can quickly dull our taste buds and we overcompensate by adding too much salt.
We finished off the dish with fresh herbs snipped right off the plant and garnished with vegan parmesan cheese I made on the spot from raw cashew, nutritional yeast and salt. To find out more about what tofu is and some of the ways to maximize its flavor, check out my Jamaican Jerk Tofu Steak.
For 5 steps to successfully work with children in the kitchen, listen to my podcast, Cooking with Kids.
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