IT'S THE last weekend of the school holidays and the kids are possibly bored by now (although I would never admit it when I was a minor).
I worked with a well-known Melbourne chef and cooking school proprietor a few years ago designing a cookbook.
She chatted endlessly about how her two children under the age of nine made their own pasta from scratch when they arrived home from school and cleaned up the mess afterwards.
It left me feeling like an inadequate parent at the time as my son, a similar age, was hard pressed then to make a sandwich; as for cleaning up the kitchen - umm, no.
But he did develop a great love of cooking - to impress girlfriends to begin with, then to impress himself.
I taught him the basics, then moved on to the recipes he loved to eat.
When a new female was coming for dinner he would write the recipe in point form on Post-it notes and stick them in drawers or behind the pantry door so he could surreptitiously check the progress while gathering necessary items.
It's never too soon to start your offspring in the kitchen.
Obviously the littlies will need help, particularly with heat and sharp implements.
It's up to parents to judge when a child is co-ordinated and careful enough to move on to the stage of unsupervised cooking; it differs with each kid.
Don't be daunted by television shows with pre-teens whipping up restaurant-quality meals; start your family off with something simple and if you make it fun, they will want to learn more.
Today's recipe is a really easy dessert with jelly and frozen berries - easy to make and not terribly unhealthy.
It involves boiling water, which can cause a very nasty burn if not handled with care, so help the smaller kids to pour.
It's a bit like trusting your children to go to the shop or cross the road alone for the first time - terrifying, but with proper initial guidance the benefits are enormous!
Berry jelly delight
200g frozen mixed berries
2 packets port wine flavour jelly crystals
500ml boiling water
200ml cold water
plain yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, to serve
Place berries in a bowl to thaw slightly before making dessert - about 15 minutes is ideal.
Pour jelly crystals into a heatproof jug and add boiling water. Be careful pouring the water in; hot water can cause a nasty scald.
Carefully stir the mixture well with a spoon until the crystals have dissolved.
Add cold water and stir, then carefully add partially thawed berries and any juice that may have collected in the bowl.
Stir to combine then pour mixture evenly into four pretty glass bowls.
Cover the desserts with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Serve berry jelly delights with a big dollop of plain yoghurt - the dessert will be sweet enough to flavour the yoghurt - or a little vanilla ice cream.
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