Pleasures in the making

COOKING FOR CHILDREN; Children love to eat food they have prepared themselves. Annabel Karmel lets them loose in the kitchen would hate to be etc
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You have to be feeling quite brave to allow your children to "help" you in the kitchen. But it is important that they do. Cooking isn't covered in the National Curriculum, but it's vital for children to learn the basic skills so they can grow up to be self-sufficient.

Now that the winter is here, and we are more housebound, you can spend a wonderful afternoon cooking up some fun recipes. Children love the thrill of serving and eating something they've made and measuring and weighing ingredients and learning how to handle them can be quite educational too. Here are three easy recipes that children will enjoy making.

DARK CHOCOLATE AND APRICOT BARS

These no-bake fruit and biscuit bars are amazingly good and fun to make.

Makes 12 bars

200g/7oz good quality plain chocolate

75g/3oz unsalted butter

1 x 397g/14oz can condensed milk

225g/8oz digestive biscuits, broken into pieces

100g/4oz no-soak dried apricots, roughly chopped

50g/2oz raisins

75g/3oz pecans, roughly chopped

Break the chocolate into squares and put them and the butter in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Stir until melted. Alternatively the chocolate and butter can be melted in a suitable bowl in a microwave on full power for about three minutes, stirring half-way through.

Stir the condensed milk into the chocolate mixture and then add in the broken biscuits, fruit and nuts and stir until well coated. Line a shallow 18cm by 28cm (7in by 11in) cake tin with clingfilm, allowing the clingfilm to overhang the sides. Spoon the mixture into the tin, press down well into the corners but leave the top surface quite rough. Set aside in the fridge to set. Once set, lift the cake out of the tin by the overhanging clingfilm and cut into bars. Keep the bars chilled in the fridge.

BUZZY BEES

These healthy snacks are ideal for children to make for themselves because they are quick and easy to prepare and don't require cooking.

Makes 10 bees

4 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons dried skimmed milk powder

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 Weetabix crushed

To decorate:

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

20 sliced almonds or rice paper cut into wing shapes

10 currants

Mix together the peanut butter and honey then blend in the dried milk powder, sesame seeds and crushed Weetabix. Form heaped teaspoons of the mixture into oval shapes to look like bees. Dip a toothpick into the cocoa powder and press gently on to the bees body to form stripes. Press almond slices or rice paper wings into the sides of the bee. Cut the currants in half, roll between your finger and thumb to form tiny balls and arrange them on the bees to look like eyes. The bees can be stored in the fridge for several days.

TEDDY BEAR BISCUITS

Children enjoy rolling dough and cutting out shapes using cookie cutters. Teddy bears shapes look great if you tie a thin ribbon around their necks and use edible silver balls or currants for eyes. These biscuits can also be coated with melted chocolate.

Makes about 30 teddy bears

100g/4oz unsalted butter, softened

225g/8oz self-raising flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

100g/4oz caster sugar

1/2 egg, beaten (about 3 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon milk

To decorate (optional):

edible silver balls

thin ribbon

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the remaining ingredients to form a ball of fairly stiff dough. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface until quite thin. Cut out shapes using biscuit cutters. Gather up any scraps of dough and roll them out again. If using teddy bear cutters arrange two edible silver balls on the teddy bear's faces to form the eyes.

Place the bears on greased baking trays and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. On 5 October, I wrote about my seven-year-old's cooking party. Readers may like to know that the party was organised by Cookie Crumbles, who run educational, entertaining cooking parties for seven- to 12-year-olds. You can contact them on 0181 675 2705.

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