The Irish Nigella-in-waiting: the 10-year-old cooking up a storm
Online cooking classes for children are zooming in popularity. A junior MasterChef explains what she likes about them and recommends a few favourites
Eve Cullen during an online cooking class.
I love cooking. I love it because it’s very relaxing. I love it because it makes me happy. I love it because you can do what you like without other people annoying you. And I love it because when you do a good job you get to eat the prize at the end – and you get praised.
I’ve only been cooking for a few years, because I’m 10 years of age, but I’m getting better all the time. There are lots of ways to learn how to cook – family can teach you (but they can be bossy), there are camps when there’s no school, and there are lots of cookbooks for children and beginners.
But my favourite is live online classes. Before this year, I had never done a cooking class online, but I’ve now done a good few because of lockdown.
Before 2020, every summer I’ve done cooking camps that you go to and attend in person. They are great fun because you learn new things and you don’t need to pack a lunch because you can eat what you make! And you don’t even need to buy the ingredients because the teacher does that for you (but you still usually have to do the washing-up).
But that wasn’t possible this year, so I did some online cooking camps. I like them because you have a really good chef in the kitchen with you. But you’re still the boss – they can’t do it for you. So it’s not like they’re asking, ‘Oh do you need me to do this, or do that’. You have to do it, they can only help. So you’re learning all the time. And, if you make a mistake, they don’t know. You can hide it from the camera.
One of my favourite live Zoom classes is Healthy Ever After, which chef Fiona McEnroy does twice a week. You get the recipes a week in advance so your mum or dad has time to bring you to the shop, because there’s always ingredients you won’t already have. And some camps also do special occasions, like I did a Halloween camp at the Cool Food School. And then, if you just want to do something in your own time, there are tons of videos on YouTube.
Cooking is like learning to ride a bike. It is scary at the start, and you don’t know how everyone else seems to be able to do it so easily. But anyone can cook, because everyone had to learn how to do it. No one just woke up able to do it. And it’s good to learn young, because children are way better at learning new things than old people (adults).
Start with something really, really simple, such as scrambled eggs. You get to break eggs, which is one of the best things about cooking. And then, when you’ve practised a few times, move on to something a little harder. If you start with something difficult, all you’ll make is a mess.
Eve's Cloud Eggs
If you want to bake, it helps a lot if you have a good imagination. Cupcakes are a great place to start, because they are just muffins with imagination. And if your mum or dad is annoyed that you made a big mess in the kitchen, it is really hard for them to give out if they are holding a cupcake!
I’m getting better at cooking – and I like how, once you do the same thing a few times, you can do it without thinking too hard. You’re not like, ‘Oh, I need to measure 150 grams’ – you can eyeball it and trust yourself.
I’ve made lots of mistakes – I’ve put the wrong ingredients in the bowl, mixed up measurements such as ounces and grams, and burnt things more than once. But it’s okay if you make a mistake, it only means you’ll probably get it right next time. And, anyway, dad will eat it either way.
I love everything about eggs – soft or hard boiled, scrambled, poached or fried, in omelettes and frittatas, and, of course, French toast and pancakes.
But my favourite is a Cloud Egg. It’s not because it’s the tastiest – I love it because it looks really great and it’s fun to make. And it’s easy to make, so it’s a good one to start with. Here’s how to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan).
2. Break as many eggs as you want. Do each one separately - break them into a bowl and then fish out each yolk into a glass of their own.
3. When you are happy there are no little bits of egg yolk left with the whites, beat the eggs. Use a hand mixer or electric whisk because you want it really stiff.
4. Make mounds on a baking sheet with the egg white (the same number as you used eggs). Make them look like bird’s nests.
5. Put in the oven for 5 minutes.
6. Carefully add the egg yolk to the centre of each nest and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
7. Add a pinch of salt or pepper, or fresh chopped herbs.
8. Serve with hot toast and enjoy (unless you’ve only made one, then eat quickly before your sisters or brothers realise what you’ve made).
In Saturday's Irish Times Magazine Ali Dunworth writes about online cooking classes for both adults and children.