Kids in the kitchen: waste not, want not

Categories: Expert guidance

Borough Market demonstration chef and author of Cool Kids Cook Jenny Chandler shares her tips on getting kids involved in the kitchen: this week, the importance of minimising waste and making the most of leftovers

Children usually enjoy a fanfare moment, a bit of theatre, so cooking up a show-stopper recipe worthy of a Masterchef applause is pretty appealing to most. There’s no doubt that kids are often motivated by recipe books, blogs, vlogs and TV cooking shows, with their predominately fancy food or quirky ideas, but it’s down to you at home to introduce them to the reality of everyday cooking and the increasingly pressing topic of waste.

In Britain, we waste around a third of all food produced. Admittedly some of this figure relates to produce that hasn’t even made it into our kitchens, but much of it is thrown out in the home after a couple of weeks festering in the fridge or fruit bowl. It’s an absurd situation: we also have food banks on our doorsteps and millions suffering from hunger around the world.

Armed with information
Children, once armed with the right information, can become fabulous at policing your family waste in a similar way to checking that lights are switched off or that you’re up to scratch with the recycling.

The first vital lesson for kids to learn before they have to fend for themselves is how to become discerning shoppers, avoiding those bargain basement deals that often deliver double the quantity of rather depressingly tasteless junk that you never set out to buy in any case and inevitably ends up in the bin. If you seek out and appreciate your food, buying it in smaller quantities, you’re more likely to savour every last crumb.

Inevitably when dealing with recipes, there will be leftover ingredients. At certain times of year there may be a seasonal glut of produce or you may just have got over excited with the quantities preparing last night’s supper. The reality is that there’s sure to be a lone courgette or black banana from time to time and a good cook will see those as a boon rather than throwing them out.

Here are a few ideas:
—The weekly fridge forage challenge: set kids a target of finding all the unfinished bits and bobs and finding them a home.

—Fruit can be frozen in small pieces, ready to be whizzed into chilled smoothies.

—Roast random veg in a hot oven with some herbs or spices. Scatter on salads, on a pile of couscous or quinoa, blend with pulses and make a hummus of sorts.

—Children (and the rest of us!) need a repertoire of simple recipes that can be tailored to the bits and pieces lurking in the fridge or vegetable basket. Most kids love a stir-fry—a perfect moment to up their knife skills and a great way to use up random veg. You’ll need fresh ginger (I always have an extra nub in the freezer in case we run out) garlic and a splash of soy sauce to give the Asian flavour and the rest is up to you.

—Frittatas are another favourite in our house. A thick Italian-style omelette, it really is child’s play when it comes to using up leftover cheese, charcuterie and cooked vegetables. To avoid the tricky flipping over, just finish the top under the grill.

—Soups and smoothies are obvious ways to use up random bits and bobs. Staling bread can make great croutons too. Minestrone is a good template for soups throughout the year—a perfect one pot supper if you throw in some odd bits of pasta or rice to bulk it out. In summer, I love a cold soup or smoothie, and if we happen to be basking in a heat wave gazpacho has to be king of the summer soups. It’s easy to throw together and a perfect way to use up slightly over ripe tomatoes and any other suitable veg.

Read Jenny’s recipe for gazpacho