Thursday, 13 September 2012

For My Younger Readers..

I had dinner a few weeks ago with a lovely French family from Bordeaux. The mum and dad ran a charcuterie-traiteur (delicatessen and ready-meals) business. Dad also specialised in magnificent centrepieces - sculptures from pate, or intricate tableaux from cooked meats! The two little girls had been brought up in a food environment- their holidays spent helping in the shop or kitchens.

The girls were hugely enthusiastic about this blog-they liked nothing better than making things out of 'les restes'- especially their own tableaux and centrepieces, just like their dad -some of them a little wacky I admit, like the idea of making dresses for their Barbies out of Parma ham and saucisson- very Lady Gaga!

Suitably inspired, I found this photo of the USS Entreprise made from charcuterie ! Somebody in the pork world has a good sense of humour!

Soon we were swapping recipes for party ideas- and the girls were truly inspirational. They also reminded me of all the fun children's party dishes and family meals that I made with my children long ago.

Now there are those who turn their noses up at children's cookery- children should not be presented with silly smiley face pizzas or dressed up dishes just to get them to eat, they say. If you ask children however, you would get a different response. They love making and eating that sort of thing! And anything that gets children in the kitchen, cooking, involved in entertaining and of course, using up leftovers, has to be a good thing for their future. My children have grown up to be excellent cooks - and this is where it starts.

Yes- with a cheese and pineapple hedgehog! (Coincidentally, a favourite with my little French friends too.)

Children love being involved in preparing for entertaining friends- whether it's making cheese or Marmite straws from leftover scraps of pastry, or carving tomato water lilies for salad or cocktail nibbles like the above.

And the humble hedgehog makes a splendid sausage and mash dish too- Desperate Dan style:

Hedgehog popularity is only surpassed by dinosaurs- here the mighty T Rex surveys his carnivorous kingdom:

(I admit I was influenced by my little charcutieres here!)

If you prefer a more benign veggie dinosaur, here's one made from a baked potato:

Bake a King Edward or other floury potato. Slice the bottom off to make it sit nicely on a plate and use the bottom slice, cut into wedges, to make the neck, tail and head.
Scoop out a tablespoon of potato and mix it with your filling- cheese, corned beef, tuna, cauliflower cheese - or whatever your children like in a baked potato. Add the head, neck and tail (you can secure it in place with a cocktail stick) and maybe some scales made from peppers. Voila!

And whilst we are on the primeval theme- 'The Lost World' was a perennial favourite in our house- both the book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and this dish: corned beef hash with a broccoli forest and 'erupting' cheese and ketchup topping. Can you spot the mammoth? 

Arguably my greatest party triumph however- and one that is often mentioned particularly after a few sherries- was shark infested jelly.
I got the idea from a TV programme (Richard Cawley, I think) but the concept grew from there and there was no going back. Firstly, I made the eponymous Shark Infested Jelly by making up a green jelly (lime) according to the instructions (or you could make it with fresh fruit juice and 4 leaves of gelatine per 500ml). Once cool and beginning to set, drop the jelly sweets (shark shaped) into the bowl and leave to set completely.

Here's a picture I found on the web, my supply of jelly sharks having dwindled over the years:

 Next I made a Swamp Snake jelly - with jelly snakes half in/half out of the mix as if crawling out! Just be inspired by whatever is in the sweet shop- I saw jelly bones this week and thought they would make a good 'Time Team' jelly - with an archaeological dig unearthing the finds!
To illustrate the concept, here I've made a Jelly Baby Jacuzzi, with the little sweets enjoying a dip in the tub. (I also made a milk jelly -which we used to call Fluffy Ruffle as children- by whisking in a small tin of evaporated milk into the jelly before it sets, thereby giving it a foamy surface.) This gave the babies a bit of foam fun too!
You could make a Haribo Hot Tub or a Gummi Bear Glacier (although that needs extra ice cream), depending on the jelly sweets on sale near you.
You must have memories of childhood foods to share- or perhaps your children make entertaining dishes for their friends. I'd love to see some pix.

Or perhaps you can make a good Smiley Face Pizza? 

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