Introduction to cooking for kids starting university and for those doing their DofE Skills Award
Cooking course director, Lorna Wing, tells us about preparing kids starting university with cookery courses designed to set them on the right path
A recent article in the Daily Telegraph suggests that, along with the new Ikea duvet cover and the kettle for cup-a-soups, you should be packing your precious progeny off to uni armed with the ability to effortlessly rustle up a minimum of five meals. Yet home economics has been crowded out of the curriculum at most schools. Heston Blumenthal has called for teaching the basics of food and nutrition to be mandatory to GCSE level, pointing out: “You don’t need maths to live, but you do need to eat to live. There’s no logic to it.” Who wouldn’t agree with that?
I certainly do, which is exactly why I devised my 12-week online cookery courses, particularly aimed at DofE and uni students, so they can gain those essential life skills and a love of good food.
Each week, they cook at home, in their own time. And they can start my course on any date of their choosing – helpful when our children have ever-busier lives. Tapping into teens love of tech, I ask them to WhatsApp me a few photos of every dish they cook so I can assess it and offer advice. For Duke of Edinburgh’s Award students, as I’m licensed by the DofE as an Approved Activity Provider, I can then sign them off as having successfully achieved their skills section at the end of the course. All the core culinary techniques are covered via my all-time-favourite contemporary and traditional recipes for Great British staples, comforting Mediterranean food and aromatic Asian dishes. There are videos to watch and interesting articles to read every week, too. At £150 for three months, I hope you’ll agree this represents good value.
Support for my new venture has come from Andrew Halls, Head Master of King’s College School, Wimbledon, the top-rated UK independent school in 2018 & 2019, who commented, “We have no hesitation in recommending Lorna’s courses to any DofE student keen to learn from an expert.”
Having been a food columnist for Delia Smith, a restaurateur for Sir Terence Conran, a chef for Prue Leith and the owner of a highly acclaimed catering company, organising events for everyone from rock stars to royalty, I know a thing or two about cooking. And, as a 19-year old, I cooked my way around the world and sailed the Atlantic, crewing aboard a yacht bound for the Caribbean, so I’m pretty adept and resourceful at teaching the young how to move beyond baked beans and cheese on toast.
Strawberries & Cream Meringue Traybake
Ultra-light, with a lovely marshmallowy middle and a crisp exterior, this meringue pavlova makes an irresistible dessert. It’s perfect paired with clouds of billowing cream and summer berries, but it’s a good-all-year-round-er, too. Try a tropical version topped with thick mango and passionfruit yoghurt and pineapple slices. Don’t waste all those lovely sunny egg yolks from the meringue – use them up in a creamy spaghetti carbonara or make some mayo, hollandaise or an ultra-rich custardy crème brûlée.
Skills you’ll learn: Separating eggs; making meringue; whipping cream; hulling strawberries
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Cooling time: 4-24 hours
For the meringue:
- 5 large egg whites or 160g liquid egg white, at room temperature
- 250g caster sugar
- 1 rounded tsp cornflour
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
For the topping:
- 300ml double cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence)
- 400g strawberries, stalks & centres removed and sliced into 3 or 4
- icing sugar, to dust
- Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C Fan/Gas 1
- Using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer and a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until they’re light and fluffy or are at the soft-peak stage, starting at a slow speed and then increasing to maximum, for about 2 minutes but slightly longer for the hand mixer
- Slowly add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, which will take 8-10 minutes, longer again if using a hand mixer, until the mixture is very thick and glossy, and stands up in firm peaks on the end of the beaters. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula halfway through
- Turn the speed down to low and quickly whisk in the corn flour and the vinegar
- Use a teaspoon of the meringue mixture to stick down the 4 corners of the parchment paper or the silicone baking mat to the baking tray
- Using a tablespoon, pile the meringue mixture into the centre of the baking tray, then, with a palette knife or flat-bladed knife, lightly spread it out to make a rectangle roughly the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Make an attractive ‘swirly’ texture with the knife
- Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake the meringue for 1 hour 20 minutes until the outside is crisp, but the inside is soft and marshmallowy. Turn off the oven and, ideally, leave it in there overnight until completely cold, or, otherwise, leave for at least 4 hours
- When you’re ready to serve, pour the cream and vanilla into a medium-sized bowl. Using a small balloon whisk, lightly whisk the cream until it’s softly whipped and just holds its shape
- Carefully slide a palette knife or flat-bladed knife between the meringue and the parchment paper or silicone mat to loosen the meringue. Then, slide it on to a large serving dish or board
- Lightly spread the cream over the meringue and top with the strawberries. Spoon a little icing sugar into a small sieve and lightly dust with icing sugar. Serve.