Michael Gove Gets Us Cooking

A few weeks ago news media reported on Michael Gove’s plan for all children to learn to cook.  This plan features 20 “must learn” recipes.

What’s He Been Smoking?

The recipes, as reported by Telegraph, include French mustard vinaigrette.  Mustard Vinaigrette?

From the comments about each recipe in the Telegraph I can only assume Michael has been passing around whatever he’s been smoking!

Recipe Comment
Cottage pie
uses up leftovers, comforts like lambswool
spiced pulses, incredibly cheap and phenomenally healthy
Tomato sauce
versatile, can be used in at least 10 other dishes
beautiful, energising and aromatic
quite simply essential
Chicken stock
made from roast leftovers; boosts flavour without salt
Pasta and Bean Soup
rib sticking yet oddly elegant
Cornish pasties
easier than you think portable goodness
a novice chef’s first challenge, always delectable
Mussels “marinières”
sustainably farmed seafood, economical and easy
French mustard vinaigrette
eye-watering, transforming
Beef stew
wine-rich and with a strip of orange rind (and dumplings)
Vegtable gratin
heart-warming use of bechamel and melted cheese
Fish pie
rich, popular party food
a life-long lasting lesson in fermentation
Grilled fish with Hollandaise
challenging and ultimately impressive
merits the elbow grease and universally versatile
any one is a masterclass in balancing diverse flavour
Mashed Potato
whipped with butter, velvety smooth
Lancashire hot pot
the easiest stew of all, beloved

What Is The Point?

Well what is the point of forcing all children to learn to cook?

Surely it’s so they can feed themselves without ready meals or a trip to the chippy?

And if feeding yourself is the aim why not focus on enabling people to do that as simply as possible (without resorting to corn flakes – not that there’s anything wrong with cornflakes).

You Have To Have The Ingredients At Home

Surely the simplest is bread and butter – providing you have some bread and butter.

Then you can get more complicated by adding  jam, marmalade,  marmite, pea nut butter or cheese.

Having mastered that how about a sandwich?


Is there anyone who doesn’t love toast? Freshly cooked, hot toast, with butter.

How about cheese on toast or toasted sandwiches.

Bacon And Sausages

My children found bacon and sausages some of the easiest things to start cooking.

Parent’s worry and hot pans and burns – bacon can cook over a medium heat and sausages over a low heat.  Even better there are no heavy pans to lift.

What Have Your Children Achieved If They Can Do This Much?

Independence – they can feed themselves. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get some too. Breakfast in bed?

Hopefully their confidence and pride in their achievements will have  a big boost too.


Fried, scrambled, boiled, omelettes  – eggs are only bit harder than bacon and sausages – at least if you want a fried egg without a broken yolk.

Cake – Or What’s In It For Me

Aren’t cup cakes most children’s introduction to cooking?

My children particularly like chocolate Victoria Sponge which is easy to make.

Do you remember licking the bowl after the cake mixture had been put in the oven?

I always encouraged my children to help even if they were only really watching and getting ingredients out of the cupboard.

Perhaps  because they were familiar with cakes being made they gradually got more involved until they were doing everything (then I was told to go away as I was interfering!).

One of my children has been making cakes by herself since she was 9.

Bread And Pizza

Once you can make a cake bread is only a little bit harder.  I’ve baked my own bread for years. Again, having watched, my children wanted to have a go themselves and soon got to the point they were independent.

As a bonus once you can make dough you can make your own pizza – with the help of the next recipe.

Italian Tomato Sauce

Chop up and fry some garlic and onions in olive oil.  Add some (lots!) of herbs.  Then a tin of chopped tomatoes.  Let it simmer away for a bit, then  blitz with a whizzer.

You can eat as it is with pasta, or return to a low heat and let it simmer away until it becomes thick and put on your pizza.

Chopping onions might seem simple to a grown up – but it takes a while for children to learn.  They’re hands are smaller, they’re not so strong and being smaller their eyes are closer to the onions – which means their eyes are more likely to water.

Pasta And Rice

Pans of boiling water are obviously more dangerous than a frying pan over a low heat.

Also a full pan is almost certainly to heavy for a pre-teenager to lift, so this is best done by you.

But children can still help by measuring out the rice or pasta, and  serving out once cooked.

Chicken Breast  And Steak

If you can cook bacon you can cook steak.  Just put some butter or olive oil in a frying pan and fry for a few minutes on each side, depending on how well done you like your steak.

Chicken breasts can be fried in butter, though these take a bit longer than steak (though you can always cut them into strips so they cook quicker).

Alternatively brown on both sides then add some water (or white wine) and herbs, put a lid on the pan and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.  Turn the breasts over half way through. If the liquid boils away just add some more.


Tomato sauce is a sort of vegetable stew.  A meat stew is similar.  Fry some onions (and may be garlic). Cut the meat into pieces (say 1 inch cubes) fry for a bit then add some liquid (water or stock) + tomaotes if you wish.  Cover and leave to simmer away gently for a few hours (the lower the heat and longer the cooking the tenderer the meat will be).

Pastry Pies Pasties

If you can make a cake or bake bread why not try pastry?

Then, if you have already made a stew, you can make pies and pasties.

What If You’ve Never Cooked?

Pick one thing, maybe the simplest thing but something you think you’d like and give it a go and see what happens

It may not work out perfectly the first time, but if you keep trying it’s bound to improve.

Even if it was brilliant at the first go, still keep at it. Things almost always get even better with practice.

John Torode (the aussie guy on master chef) says he’s constantly amaze that people who would never expect to sit down with an orchestra and give a performance of a piano concerto (without ever having learned to play) beat themselves up when they cook a dish for the first time and it does turn out as stunningly as they hoped!

Delia Doesn’t Agree

Interview on Radio 5 live, Delia wondered how schools will by enough teachers and fund classrooms with kitchens.  Good point – though some schools already teach cooking (although it’s called Food Technology for some reason).

Delia also said young people were “afraid to cook” and that much TV cookery failed to “get down to basics”.  Surely all this means is cooking is something they’re not familiar with. The best cure for that is patience and practice – just have a go.

Isn’t home the best place to cook?

Anyway who is Peppa Pig?


PE Teachers Talk Too Much

Ofsted publised a report last week  “Beyond 2012 – outstanding physical education for all“. Blogs and papers were awash with comments such as

Independent   – Schools taking physical out of PE, warns Ofsted

Telegraph Teachers talk too much in PE

The report is 68 pages long!!!. When I searched I only found “talk” occurred twice (page 6 and 35 if you must know),  both times as “teacher-talk”. So perhaps the newspapers are over-egging the cake (who would have thought it).

On the other had at 68 pages long, and with para 44 as an example.

44. In this school with outstanding PE, excellent improvement planning accompanied
by rigorous monitoring and evaluation ensured that all aspects of PE were

Leadership of PE is inspirational, dedicated and informed by a high level of subject expertise. There is a strong track record in introducing new approaches and ideas. Improvement priorities are clearly set out in an annual plan of action. PE, dance and sport have a very high profile in displays, assemblies and the life of the school. Staff have benefited significantly from targeted professional development and an exceptionally well-organised approach to curriculum planning and resourcing. Subject monitoring and evaluation are rigorous and systematic, and include lesson observations, auditing the views of staff and pupils, and analysing pupils’ participation in extra-curricular activities and competitions. Improvements in provision and pupils’ many achievements are reported regularly to the governing body who take a keen interest in the subject.

I wonder just who is talking too much?

Once again I found myself wondering why so much emphasis is put on schools.  After all pupils only spend about 6 hours a day there, which means 3/4 of day is not spent at school.

Even allowing for sleeping, eating, watching TV and playing computer games there’s surely a bit of time left for a bit of exercise.

As PE teachers are spending so long waffling on even 5 minutes might be an improvement.

Curiously the last time a similar story appeared (last week) I remember seeing some former sports instructor on BBC News explaining if people (that’s grown ups as well as children) spent just 5 minutes a day on some simple stretching and push-ups everyone’s fitness would improve dramatically.  One of the presenters was game enough to have a go (Charlie I think).  From the look of his face afterwards I reckon there was some value in these exercises.

Years ago I remember Kirk Douglas talking about his exercise on a TV interview (Parkinson no doubt).  Kirk said he did 15 minutes of exercise a day (remember his classy chassis?).

The audience burst out laughing.

Kirk was good natured about it, though he pressed home the point

“But I do it every day”.

 If my experience with children is anything to go by, they don’t need any encouragement to go outside and play.  Especially when the snow comes, when they think nothing of spending an hour or so running around outside.

Which leads me to the question – How big is your snowball?




A Simple Tip From Influence And Persuasion Can Help Your Parenting

Influence and persuasion is one of the most studied of all subjects in the world. Parenting involves both influence and persuasion.  Can parents learn from those who study influence and persuasion?

Try thinking of a job which involves either or both of influence and persuasion.

  • Acting
  • Politics
  • Advocacy
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Teaching
  • Managing
  • Healing

The list goes on, it would be easier to think of a job which doesn’t involve influence and persuasion – so far I’ve not thought of one.

As influence and persuasion is so important to sales and marketing, it has been massively studied.  One of the preeminent authors in this field is Robert B Cialdini, his most famous book is

Influence: the science of persuasion


Yes! – 50 scientifically proven ways to be more persuasive

is every bit as much worth a read, especially for parents as it provide 50 helpful tips.

Have you ever had to persuade your children to

  • go to bed
  • do their homework
  • tidy their room

Tip 14 – “How can one small step help your influence take a giant leap” – can help

Research has found when people voluntarily agree to a small request they are much more likely to agree to a larger request later.  The key is the first agreement must be voluntary and not through coercion.

So for example if you want your child to tidy her room you could first ask she puts a pair of shoes away.

If you want you child to do some homework you  could first ask they read you a poem.

Note the initial request need not be related to the second larger request so you could first ask to be read a poem then later ask to tidy their bedroom.




Give it a try, let me know how you get on.