Forage for Elderberries to make a syrup

Forage for Elderberries to make a syrup

At this time of year the hedgerows are heaving with elderberries. Make your own Elderberry syrup to help protect you and your family from colds and flu. I like to take it daily by the spoon or I use it as a delicious topping to pancakes and desserts.

Foraging for elderberries

Start by picking as many elderberries as you can find. They often grow in large bushes around the edges of footpaths and fields. If you can, avoid picking them from the edges of busy roads because they pick up pollution from car exhausts. They are easily recognisable due to the fact that they look like little red umbrella shape branches with the berries at the ends.

I usually try to pick elderberries that I can see at or just above eye level. This is because any lower and they could have been peed on by a passing dog, or at traffic exhaust level. Most importantly I leave the highest elderberries for the birds to eat because this is their larder!

For my foraging walks I arm myself with a bag or basket and a small pair of scissors. Sometimes I even bring a small step up stool with me. Snip the sprigs off on the stalk just above the umbrella part of the sprig.

Rinse the elderberries

I like to aim for a decent large basin volume of elderberry sprigs. Next I use a fork to remove all of the berries from the sprigs into a large bowl.

You can do this by sliding the fork along the sprig from the stalk down to the berries, the tines of the fork do an excellent job of removing multiple berries at a time.

I often end up with purple hands at this stage! Consequently you might want to use gloves. Fill the bowl with water and leave the berries to soak.

Making the elderberries syrup


elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

Now drain the elderberries and transfer them to a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover them – only just. At this stage you can add some lovely warm and fragrant spices to add to the flavour of your syrup. I like to add – some grated ginger, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves. Next, bring the elderberries to the boil and then turn down the heat to simmer the elderberries for 15 – 20 minutes.


I use a jay cloth or other clean cloth such as a muslin and line a sieve into a measuring jug. Now squeeze as much liquid through the cloth as possible with gloved hands. Alternatively use the back of a metal spoon to push it through.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe


You will need to add approximately 400g of sugar for every 500ml of liquid that you manage to collect in the measuring jug.

Next, clean the saucepan and then pour the sugar, strained elderberry liquid and lemon juice back in. Bring it up to the boil and gently simmer for about 10 mins until all the sugar has dissolved.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe


Leave the syrup to cool completely before you add it to small bottles or jars.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe

Whilst the liquid is cooling, you could make sure you have some clean sterilised jars or bottles. I leave the jars open end towards the back of a low heat oven (gas mark 1 or lowest electricity setting). Instead you could run it through the dishwasher or use a baby sterilising fluid.

elderberry elderberries syrup forage foraging september virus protection flu jam jars sterilise recipe


I label my bottles with stickers or sharpie marker pens. I like to put the date and ingredients on. You can store the syrup in the fridge or freeze it- perhaps in an ice cube tray for small portion sizes and ease of access.

Ingredients list:

Cinnamon stick, grated ginger, grated nutmeg, cloves ( all optional)
Caster sugar
Lemon juice (of 1/2 – 1 lemon)

Instructions at a glance

I’ve included this very brief instructions list because personally I hate to follow a wordy recipe. The above instructions should be helpful on first reading, but after that the brief instructions below should be all you need.

  1. Forage
  2. Rinse
  3. Boil with spices 15-20mins
  4. Filter
  5. Add sugar and lemon juice
  6. Simmer 10 mins or until sugar has dissolved
  7. Sterilise jars
  8. Cool
  9. Funnel syrup into the jars

Find out more about Elderberries, where to find them and their health benefits here on the Country file website.

For more ideas on recipes written by me. Check out my recipes page here

recipe recipes how to make cook learn to children kids family fussy eaters

Organise your freezer for back to school meals

Organise your freezer for back to school meals

Find out how to organise your freezer to make back to school meals a breeze.

Is your freezer packed full of stuff? Mine was … a lot of it was just frosted up with ice.

Do you even know what is in your freezer? … I didn’t! But I did discover at least 10 meals ready and perfect for school evenings.

Read my account of how I plan to stay on top of organising my freezer from now on. Find out how I’ll be using my freezer to help with a monthly meal planning session.

As a teacher and mum, the build up of first day nerves is doubled. I dread the idea of cooking evening meals when exhausted after a full day at school.

My first idea was to do some batch cooking now whilst I have time and freeze portions for school day evenings.

There was problem with this is though…
I could barely open/ close my freezer drawers because they are so full!

What the heck did I actually have in there?

In my small three drawer freezer I had no less than 10 pre-cooked meals I’d cooked and saved previously. A bonus!

That is at least 10 evenings that I won’t have to cook after a heavy day at work.

I also had numerous packs of frozen fruit that I’ve got out of the habit of using. Oh, and an awful lot of ice clogging everything up.

Are you ready to organise your freezer?

First job: Defrost and clean out!

In the freezer drawers I found the usual frozen peas, sweetcorn and a HUGE amount of ice. I defrosted by turning off my freezer and using a silicone spatula to scrape away excess ice. I have heard of some people using a hairdryer to speed up the defrost.

Second job: Freezer audit

I am a creative problem solver. I ended up designing this freezer audit sheet to pin to the front of my freezer. Now I will know exactly what I have in there.

Third job: Labels

Sharpies are good for writing straight onto the top of each tub. Alternatively I’ve used stickers, or made my own with scraps of paper and sellotape for labelling each tub of pre-cooked meals.
My previous slovenly habit of chucking things into the freezer, meant that I had to guess at what some of my existing meals were! This will not happen in future now that I have a system in place.

Step four: Maintain organised status

I’ve allowed space on the freezer audit for listing the ready meals that I already have. I’ve made notes beside individual ingredients of potential meals that can be easily made using those things already in my freezer – eg- for every quorn and fish item in there I’ve made suggestions of meals to make.
This should take the thinking part out of my cooking – that is the part I find hardest when exhausted at the end of a day at work.

Two suggestions for managing and maintenance of the freezer audit.

1: Laminate the printable sheet and keep it on the front of the freezer.
Use a wipeable marker and cross out or wipe things off as you use them.

2: Commit to a monthly freezer audit and print out a new sheet per month – I kind of like this idea as meal planning could be done a month at a time and the job of auditing / defrosting will become so much quicker and less arduous the more often it is done.

If you’d like to have a go at this, feel free to make use of my Printout which can be downloaded here.

Check out this lovely recipe for Mediterranean baked fish. It’s and excellent one for batch cooking and freezing. Just make up the veg and stock before popping the frozen fish into portioned containers in the freezer.

mediterranean fish baked recipe diabetes cook simple meal plan plan ahead nutritious fish cod haddock fillet olives capers peppers tomatoes

If you like this recipe, check out my recipes pages for loads more.

recipe recipes how to make cook learn to children kids family fussy eaters

Go ahead now, organise your freezer and make family meal prep on long school days a breeze!

Make your rubbish work for you – and help the earth.

Make your rubbish work for you – and help the earth.

Some creative uses for your rubbish

We all know of the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” Here are some creative ideas to help make your rubbish work for you before consigning it to landfill where it will likely remain for hundreds of years.

Before you throw something away … think “what could I use this for in a different way before I consign it to landfill”

Some examples of how I make my rubbish work for me for again and again before I chuck it out.

reuse wellie boots welly boots wellington boots planter plants landfill eco friendly uses refuse
  • Old wellies – plant some pretty flowers or herbs into them. Don’t forget to drill or cut some holes and add some pebbles in the bottom for drainage.
  • Toilet rolls. Can be used for plating seedlings directly in to the ground as they will decompose. They can also be used to help store cables and keep them tidy in a storage box. A bit like a honeycomb design.
  • Yogurt pots – use these for seedlings or as paint holders.
  • Egg shells – wash, and blend – add to compost or sprinkle on top of the soil to nourish your plants and also deter snails.
  • Banana skins – dry them out in the bottom of your oven, blend and add to your plants. A great source of potassium- especially good for tomatoes.
  • Water from fish tank – use to water your garden. A great source of nitrogen.
reuse fabric old clothes scrunchie scrunchy make your own pretty hair accessories homemade  landfill eco friendly uses refuse scraps
  • Old stained clothes – cut them up and use as cleaning cloths
  • Pretty / sentimental clothes. Cut them up and sue as craft projects – turn them into scrunchies, blankets, rugs, cushions – the possibilities are endless.
  • Christmas / birthday cards – cut them up and use as gift tags
  • Ribbons inside new clothes – use these for craft projects or for tying gift tags to presents
baby bottle measures measure salad dressings plastic landfill eco friendly uses refuse
  • Baby feeding bottles – are excellent for making salad dressings or measuring our smaller amounts of liquids for cooking. They have smaller increments marked than a jug. They also benefit from the screw top lid which can be helpful for storing things.
  • Plastic fruit trays are great for planting seedlings in as well as storage dividers in the fridge.
  • Net vegetable / fruit bags. I stuff these inside one another until I have a big firm ball and then tie it at each end and use as a scourer for washing up or cleaning with.
  • Envelopes – old envelopes can be cut into strips and used for shopping lists and to-do lists.
cereal box cat litter tray liner reuse  rubbish landfill eco friendly uses refuse
  • Cereal boxes – can be flat packed and used for many craft projects. I also find they make excellent liners form y cat litter tray. They don’t get too soggy and can be removed from the tray easily. Also, the cats don’t shred card like they do with newspaper.
  • Milk bottles and washing up bottles – rinse and dry out. Use to store your homemade garden fertiliser or cut off the bottoms, and remove the lid, turn upside down and insert the neck of the bottle into the ground near to a plant – add a few pebbles to stop the bottle from getting clogged. Use this as a vessel to drip feed water to your plants – especially helpful if your plants are surrounded by a weed membrane which can make watering difficult.
reuse  rubbish landfill eco friendly uses refuse loo roll toilet rolls cardboard seedlings planters decompose
reuse  rubbish landfill eco friendly uses refuse toothbrush old cleaning tool
  • Lemon skins – add to white vinegar and steep for a few weeks – use as a cleaning product.
  • Bread bags – use these as tiny bin liners for the bathroom pedal bins.
  • Old toothbrushes – an excellent cleaning tool!
reuse  rubbish landfill eco friendly uses refuse jam jar glass
  • Jam jars can be reused for tea light candles indoors or outdoors, they can be used to store herbs and spices, pens, pickles, sugar, beads, buttons, sweets, chocolates, treats, soaps, bath salts, decorated and filled as gifts, water for painting with – the list is endless – I never chuck our jars.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration here, I’d love to hear more ideas on how you make your rubbish work for you. Please share so that I can add to my arsenal !

For more ideas on affordable changes you can make, head over to my new eco-friendly one stop shop to help you make changes that won’t cost the earth.

#artwindows Sea life

#artwindows Sea life
artwindows home school homeschool homeeducation lockdown artathome things for kids to do artwork sea life

Sea life theme

The theme of this week’s ART windows is Sea life. I am going to give you a few tips on how to get started with this theme. Read more about ART windows here

Get ready

First, you’ll need to decide what type of sea life art work you would like to create… 3D, collage, painting, multi-media, modelling.

This week, I had in my head that I would like to do some modelling with some air-dry clay that I’ve had knocking around for some time. If you’d like to do the same, but don’t have any air dry clay, you can create the same type of thing with salt dough – I love to make with salt dough normally, however as flour is precious at the moment, I decided to make sue of the air dry clay instead. Here is a salt dough recipe – it’s so simple to make. Don’t worry about baking the salt dough for three hours as suggested on the recipe … I just leave mine on a sunny windowsill for a day or two before painting.

So I’ve collected lots of tools from around the house to cut, roll, shape and add texture to my sea life dough. Make sure you ask whoever owns the tools if it is OK first. I used quite a few kitchen tools for mine which is not always o.k. with mums! But seeing as I am the mum, and I do most of the cooking, I didn’t need to ask!

Get some sea life inspiration

Make sure you look around for some sea life inspiration before deciding what you want to create. An immediate idea for sea life to spring to mind is a fish, but there is so much more to the sea than fish….

Great places to look are books, magazines, internet, TV wildlife programs, objects around the house, you could even go down to the beach and collect some items for inspiration.

Look carefully

Remember – not all fish look like the cartoon version that we are all familiar with… in fact, very few do! There are thousands of different creatures living in the sea, hundreds of different types of boats, shells and seaweed. When you have decided on what to draw / paint or make, try to look very closely and often at your source of inspiration. Can you see textures, shapes, new colours? You will learn a lot about the object you are drawing whilst working on this if you look really carefully. IT will probably be quite tiring – because your brain will be working very hard. Make sure you have a break now and then and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Add texture

This is where you get to use all the tools you have collected. Add some interesting surface textures, be experimental and add textures on top of textures. Remember – look carefully at your inspiration for this.

Now to add some colour – the colour could be realistic – or you could go wild with colour to make your piece really stand out.

Lastly – hang your art work proudly in your front window. Take a photo and post it on social media with the hashtag #artwindows

Take a walk around your neighbourhood to see what others have stuck in their windows too.

Art windows – patterns

For many of us it is the first week of home school time. During this time of uncertainty and isolation, I’ve set up an activity called art windows. The theme this week is patterns.

Each week I will set a theme and I’d love for children everywhere to put their art work up in the front windows for passers by to see.

If you decide to post photos of your children’s art work on social media- make sure you use the hashtag #artwindows so that we can all see each others. I’m hoping this activity will not only give our children great joy, but bring joy to the people who are out exercising or making their way to the shops.

This week’s theme will be patterns. I can’t wait to see what you manage to come up with for this one! To get you started, I’ve put together some tips to inspire and guide you. Feel free to ignore and just get stuck in though – if you prefer.

Go off the page

Try to make your pattern trail off the page, or do half shapes around the edges. This gives the sense that the pattern could continue over a larger sheet of paper or fabric.

Do more than one

Don’t just do one, do several variations, then come back to the first and add to it. Don’t give up if it doesn’t look great straight away. Come back to it later. You will like the patterns more if you have done a whole collection of them, and it will be easier to come back and add to them later. You will also improve and refine your technique over time, the more you do.

Try variations

Try repeating the same pattern with different colour combinations. Play with colour and don’t be scared. OR repeat use of the same two or three colours, but change the shapes each time.

Print with everyday objects

Try to create patterns by printing things you find around the house and garden. Some obvious ones are potatoes and cotton reels, what about the end of a celery, cut into a beetroot, leaves, fingers, lacy fabrics, or make your own printing block with some cut out foam stuck onto a block.

Experiment with unusual materials

Try playing around with sticking different materials down with glue such as wool or string, paper shapes, bits of rubbish/recycling cut up and stuck down, buttons or beads. Try tearing paper randomly and then sticking it to a bold background.


Photography and pattern making

Make a pattern out of everyday objects on a background and photograph them. Patterns can be found in nature by zooming into a texture. Or a pattern could be made by placing objects in a pattern. Try jewellry, buttons, coins, pasta shapes etc.

Play with scale

Play with scale… Big, huge, massive and tiny. Mix huge shapes with tiny shapes. Play around with how tightly packed together they are, or how far apart.


Play with colour

Choose colours that clash and sing together. Put colours together that you wouldn’t normally. Create colour themes – a natural theme, a metallic theme, a cheerful theme, a monochromatic theme.

Go random or repeat

Don’t be scared to go random. Patterns do not have to be neat repeats, although you can have a lot of fun with both styles.


Don’t forget the hashtag #artwindows and sign up to my newsletter for more resources and challenges!

Get set up for home school

I’m not an expert on home school, but I am a mum as well as being a teacher. So I am hoping that marrying my experiences of these two will help.

I’ve put together some tips and ideas to help you and your kids make the transition from school-school to home school.


Structure is important but don’t over do it! We are all undergoing huge change, in our homes, jobs, society. If your children are used to the structure of a school, I think that having some sort of structure to your days will help them to not feel so unsettled by all of the changes that are happening at the moment. Both of my children seemed relieved to have a timetable of sorts to base their ‘home school days’ on.


It’s probably best not to impose a timetable on your child and then enforce it with military precision. Some home educators call their daily structure a ‘rhythm’. I’ve chosen to call ours a routine. Ask your children what they think is important to include. Ask them about their daily routine / timetable at school. They may not admit to it just yet, but they are going to really miss being part of a school community and the daily structure of a school. If your children have played a part in building your new routine, they are more likely to invest and engage with it. Another thing you can do is ask them to help write it up / decorate it, type it and then review it at the end.


Content. You probably have some ideas of what you would like to include on top of school work. I know I do! My ideas are for including things I never get the time or they don’t have the inclination to do in normal busy term time life. I want to include gardening, household work, creativity and cooking as a part of our home schooling.


Simplicity. Try not to over complicate your plans, be flexible, Things can and will change and that is o.k. The simpler your plans, the easier it will be to make changes. You could have an over arching theme to a part of your day such as “organised activities” ” School work” “exercise” and then include suggestions of activities which may form part of that time each day. This way you can pick and choose each day from a selection of activities.


Include plenty of break times. Try to encourage a change of scene during or after each break. Maybe some sessions could take place in bedrooms, others at the dining table and some in the garden? A change of scene will help to break up the say and refresh tired minds.


Before you begin, it might be an idea to establish some ground rules. For example, what is your policy on mobile phone usage? Your rules do not have to be draconian, or involve punishments, but they should be clear expectations. We decided that phones might well be useful for school work, and my (teenage) children enjoy having their friends on a video call whilst they do their homework. I think this is a nice way to maintain contact with friends and also build social skills such as teamwork. However we have built in some sections of the day where we know we will not need or want to use mobile phones and therefore we will get a healthy break from them as well.


The younger your child is, the shorter your planned sessions should be. It is unrealistic to expect them to sit down and work for long periods of time. For a secondary aged child I would recommend periods of no longer than 1 hour per piece of work. For younger children or those who struggle with concentration, it would be beneficial to break down larger tasks into smaller tasks with rewards – such as snacks, breaks, games in between sections.


I don’t think you need to rush out and buy anything special for this, I’m sure you have everything you need in some form or another at home. It might mean re-purposing somethings. We dug around to find a folder with plastic wallets that could store work done for different subjects. You could get a shoe box with useful items gathered together such as glue stick, scissors, felt tip pens, eraser and ruler. A desk, or clear space to work is helpful, even if it is the dining table which gets cleared for meal times. You could empty a shelf or drawer to store Home school books, folders, and equipment.

personal project

It is likely that there will be times when your child has completed all of the tasks set by their teacher. I would like to encourage a bit of self directed learning here. We are going to call it our personal project. We don’t know what it is yet, it will appear at some point and each child’s starting point and outcomes will be different. It is likely to be something which emerges from a personal interest… and who knows where it could end! Examples could be … animation, making a magazine, a diary, a sketchbook, a sculpture, research into a period of history, or a country of interest. It might be about animal care, or personal care. A personal project might last one day or months. This is the time to let your child run with their ideas with minimum input from you. I guarantee they will surprise and impress you!

ideas stash

We are going to a have a notice board, shoe box or drawer where I will store some of the amazing ideas for home school activities that are circulating on the internet right now. I might pick out a few to display on a notice board and change them weekly or monthly. This is a place for ideas of things to do when the children have exhausted all other activities. I’ve seen some really great stuff on the internet and will be sharing some of my favourites on my Facebook page over the coming weeks.

getting stuck

Don’t be scared or worried about not knowing how to help your child with certain topics. Remember, the teachers are still around, at the end of an email. Show your child how to deal with being stuck… how to ask for help and how to try to find solutions independently. Don’t forget – you can always ‘phone a friend’ as well!


I’ve included a blank copy of my timetable here for you to use as a stating point. I have also shown our completed one if you fancy having a peek for inspiration. Feel free to use it.

Have fun! Let’s try to make the most of this situation we find ourselves in. This is the year that our children will never forget! Let’s try to make some amazing memories with them. Check out the Art Windows challenge #artwindows on Facebook / Instagram as a creative way of connecting with others during isolation.

Stay in touch! Sign up to my newsletter for more ideas and resources as well as recipes.

Help! My teenager is a vegan

Help! My teenager is a vegan

Recently I had the pleasure of cooking with a teenager who had recently decided to eat a vegan diet. 


When teenagers make such decisions it can cause us (parent’s, carers and sometimes even teachers) a bit of worry. 

We worry about their nutrition… How will they get enough or the right mix of proteins, iron, vitamin B12?
Will it cost loads more to buy substitutes?
Am I going to have to cook several different dishes.


I spent some time putting together some reading materials for this young lady which I know she will dip into when she’s alone later. It covers matters such as protein complementation, plant sources of iron and how-to get B12 on a plant based diet. I will share some of the nutritional information with you below.

We chatted informally while we cooked and I managed to drop in some useful nuggets of info.

We looked through s few cookbooks, some vegan, some not and discussed how we might cook certain dishes. 


Many teenagers experiment with their ethical beliefs and dietary preferences. It’s a natural way of finding out who they are. Our job is to support them as best we can.

I’m not a dietitian, but I do have an understanding of nutrition. It was not hard at all to find some reading materials that would suit her. 

Turn it around

Showing an interest in food, ethics and diet in this way is a great way to get our young people into cooking and to start them taking an active role in their own nutrition. 

My advice…

Don’t fight it…. Go with it, support them on their journey!

Romanesco gnocchi vegan dairy free recipe sundried tomato cook from scratch

Pictured is the dish we made. It’s Romamesco sauce with pasta. Adapted from Joe Wicks recipe for Romamesco Gnocchi. Romanesco sauce if often made using peppers, for my recipe I have just used sundreied tomatoes from a jar. We added yeast flakes (excellent sauce of B12) instead of parmesan.

Romanesco gnocchi tasty alternative adapted vegan dairy free recipe sheet free

You can use my adapted recipe here if you’d like to try it. My (non-vegan) children love this sauce either on Gnocchi or stirred through noodles and it freezes really well in an ice cube tray for future use.

For other recipes – vegan and non vegan, check out my recipes page here

Some nutritional information to help

What about protein?

One of the important things to remember when following a vegan diet is that plant sources of protein do not contain a complete set of the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) needed by the body.

Most plant based proteins are of Low biological value (LBV) proteins – an incomplete set of the EAAs.

A vegan diet can provide all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health by combining a variety of sources of protein across the meals in a day. This is called protein complementation.

Protein complementation

This means that the amino acids in one LBV source of protein may work together with the amino acids in another source of LBV protein to form a complete set.

Some examples are below: Beans on toast, rice and bean salad, lentil soup with toast, nut butter sandwich, cereal with almond milk. There are many more.

Protein complementation does not have to make use of food that is eaten in the same meal, but could be spread across a day or so for example.

There are some exceptions which do contain the full set  of amino acids and are known as high biological protein sources. These are quinoa and soya. Soya comes in many forms to be used in cooking such as tofu, soya beans, soya milk, tvp (textured vegetable protein). 


The other nutrient which you should be mindful of is vitamin B12. 

B12 is not found in plant food sources. For a vegan, this could be found in fortified foods such as cereals which state that they are fortified with vitamin B12. Or they could consider taking a supplement. 
There is a good product called Energevita yeast flakes which contain B12 which can be sprinkled on top of foods such as salads or pasta dishes instead of cheese.

Marmite is also a good source of B12 a spoonful of which can be used in all sorts of cooking to add flavour and nutrition. I have even been know to drink a spoonful in a cup of boiling water!

Iron and Vitamin C

Vegans and vegetarians should also ensure that they eat a variety of foods rich in iron and combine them with a good rich in vitamin c.

Vitamin c helps the body to absorb iron which is more difficult to absorb when taken in plant based sources than animal based sources. 

Try not to worry

I hope this has helped you not to worry. Try to see this as a new adventure, an education and a way of expanding yours and their culinary repertoire. Vegan cooking does not have to be expensive, or include lots of unknown fussy, hard to find ingredients.

Teach your child how to chop an onion

Teach your child how to chop an onion

How to chop an onion for beginners

Chopping an onion is one of those things that everyone has their own way of doing it.

If you have your own established way of chopping an onion, please carry on. My method below is not the only way to chop an onion, however it is an easy way to teach a child to do so.

Before you begin – please do read my previous blog on teaching your child to use a knife safely and effectively. You can find the link here

When doing this with very young children or those with stiffness of joints or difficulty gripping I recommend the use of a vegetable holder. It looks like an extended comb with a handle. 

Bridge hold

bridge hold claw grip onion teach teacher cookery hold safely safety knife lesson cookery kids

For others I start by teaching them two safe grips for the vegetable: Bridge hold – useful for cutting a larger/round vegetable and keeping it stable. Lay the veg flat side down (if possible) and make an arch over the food with your thumb on one side, fingers on the other. The knife goes under the bridge.

Claw grip

chop claw grip onion teach teacher dice safety vegetable knife chopping board fingers hand children cook cookery lesson

Claw grip – useful for fine dicing and slicing and often useful for long thin items such as carrots/celery.

Make your hand into a claw and grip the item like this using your finger nails as buffers for any possible slipping with the knife. 

To start off with…

Talk your child through the anatomy of the onion. Let them hold it and describe the textures, and shape. Identify the root (the hairy bit) and the shoot (the pointy bit). This is a good chance to teach children where their food comes from. Onions do no grow on trees, they are not made in factories, they grow in the ground.

You could also talk about the papery skin and it’s colour. This could lead into a discussion about different types of onion – how many members of the onion family can your child name?

This is a perfect lead into a bit of gardening – if you so wish. Or maybe a tip to the garden centre to identify other members of the onion family.

A note on how to hold the knife…

One more tip … Children often hold a knife or spoon by the very end of the handle. This gives them weaker/more wobbly control. R

emind them to hold the knife firmly, with the hand along most of the knife handle and as close to the blade as possible.

My safety knife and vegetable holder

* I totally recommend my safety knife, but can’t sell them to you as they are out of production.

Anyone know of someone who can help me with this?

I’d love to get them made, they are so useful…. I pretty much use mine all the time at home!

My cookery teacher job – a peek behind the scenes

private cookery lessons with Kate, Make with Kate cookery teacher kate ferrer behind the scenes job teach teacher

My cookery teacher job – a day in the life

Sometimes the young people I teach, their parents/grandparents/carers comment on how they’d love to do a job like mine. 

It is the best job in the world for many reasons, not least  because it’s creative, I’m my own boss, I’m helping others to be able to do what I love doing and ultimately I’m making a difference. 

This is all the tip of the iceberg; the fun and games you see above the surface. 

If you peer behind the curtain however, there is much more going on in the background that makes all of this possible. 

My Day – It’s not all cupcakes and pasta making you know!

Take today for example. My ‘day off’ as some would call it. 

8.00 am

I dropped the kids at school, loaded up my car with every piece of electric equipment in my store room, unloaded the car and assisted Dave/Bumpa who does our PAT testing to make sure that all of my electrical equipment is safe and fit for purpose. 

10.30 am. Following this; car loaded up and unloaded again, I finalised arrangements for my primary school job on Friday. This involved printing off and sharing risk assessments, planning documents, recipe cards and designing a worksheet. 

12.00  I then took a break to walk the dog and help unload our fish tank into our new home. 

2.00 pm Next I went to the primary school for a pre-event site check, sorted out my DBS check documentation, checked for electrical points discussed timings, allergies, staff and set up. 

3.30 pm Then I collected the kids from school, made and ate dinner.

6.30 pm I’m off out again to take the eldest to Boys brigade then sat in the car and did two hours of marking for school tomorrow. A usual Monday night for us until she’s finished. Sometimes – weather permitting, I squeeze in an evening walk/jog for half an hour around Westgate whilst I wait.  

Do I begrudge any of this?

Would I change a thing? 


I love every little bit!

The sad truth is … that despite Food preparation and nutrition being a compulsory part of the KS1, 2 and 3 curriculum in the UK, children and young people still get very little access to hands on cookery and food education.

This is due to heavy pressure on time spent on other ‘more important’ parts of the core curriculum, a lack of funding – it’s not a cheap subject to teach – large class sizes and lack of equipment or facilities.

There is also a shortage of qualified food teachers for secondary schools. This is often a subject taught by non subject specialists as a timetable filler. I don’t have a problem with this if the teacher is on board, keen and enthusiastic about it. Enthusiasm and passion go a long way in getting children started on the road to food discovery and enjoyment.

I hope my ‘day off’ has not put off any budding food teachers out there. I can’t think of a more important job to do than to teach our future generations how to feed themselves and others – properly.

If you have any questions about a job as a cookery teacher in a school or how to set up as a self employed teacher etc, I am very happy to help.  

You can find out more about training to become a teacher here. Training is essential if you want to work in a school and helpful, but not essential if you are setting up as self employed.

I’ll write up some future blog posts based on answers to your questions.

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What did you do today?

How I got my kids to help me with the housework

I’ve been asked to share my new household task system designed to get my (reluctant) children involved in housework. It’s been brewing for a while now, but it’s taken time to come up with something that ticks all of my boxes and feels right for us. You are very welcome to use my plan, or tweak it to suit your family / household. For this reason I’ve provided a copy of our task list and also a blank template that you can customise.

Below I’ve outlined how I came up with the idea and my reasoning behind each aspect. You may or may not agree, it might be right for your family, it might not. We are all different, but perhaps it will inspire you to build your own system that is just right for your own set up.

It’s lonely doing it all by myself!

It get’s pretty lonely being stuck in the kitchen washing up / clearing up, hanging out washing etc alone…. most of the time.

Not to mention frustrating that I now don’t know whose knickers are whose, and no one was willing to help me sort them.

I was feeling annoyed that my ongoing household drudgery was keeping me from spending quality time with my children… in fact I’d often say to them “If someone would just help me… I’d be able to do x with you before bed… ” Sadly, this did not have the desired effect.

Money can’t buy you love

My eldest had recently asked if she could earn some pocket money by doing jobs for me. I have to admit, the way I was feeling, this was a tempting proposal.

Tempting as paying her to do the tasks might have been, I’m stubborn, and a bit old fashioned too. I don’t want my children ONLY helping me if I affix a payment to it!

My dream is to have a family camaraderie, for us to be a team, for them to appreciate what I do, and for me to be able to show my appreciation to them for their help and support.

Reluctant pre-teens

So, I knew what I didn’t want, I also know what they wouldn’t want too!

A long list of rules and an arduous rota to follow, chase and manage was not looking appealing to me or them.

So I really had to get my thinking cap on.

Whilst I really did not want my household helpers system to be all about payment, I did think that pocket money in some form could be tied in somehow if  cleverly worked out.

Firstly, I established  how much pocket money I’d be prepared to give my children and I settled on £5 each per week. However, I still want them to value money and understand the concept of working for it, so this money  would need to be earned, but not before we’ve worked together as a team with no recompense but good feelings and camaraderie.

Part of a family team

I’d love for us to feel more like a team, and for them to enjoy the camaraderie that I know comes with working together. I also hope that my children will learn some life skills from this. Even if my system doesn’t stand the test of time, for the period that it does last, I hope to be able to teach my children how to do a variety of household tasks independently … and properly!

New house – new rules

We’ve just moved house, and returned from holiday, so I feel that this is the perfect time to implement new systems. It’s an excellent time to start new habits, and to naturally teach the children where things go, and how I run the household. They each have their own print out and refer to it daily.

How it works

household chores tasks children help helpers pocket money earn teach cleaning washing ironing make system rota cleaning family kids children parents

There are two basic rules:

  1. Five family tasks must be completed each week
  2. No moaning or arguing over any tasks

There are two categories of tasks; Family tasks (unpaid, general daily tasks – always need doing!) Paid tasks (mainly weekly tasks, things they might not do already, but could learn to do independently, and most importantly – these are things I don’t really want to do myself)!

The paid tasks have different weightings, some are worth £1, some £2, some £4 etc. My children have been told that they can earn up to £5 per week with a combination of tasks. They could do a £4 and a £1 task, or 5 £1 tasks.

We have a blackboard tally chart in my kitchen that we keep a record on of how many family tasks have been completed, and how much is owed for that week on paid tasks.

chalkboard tally cleaninghousework household chores kids learn teach pay pocket money system

You are very welcome to download and use my system here 

household chores tasks children help helpers pocket money earn teach cleaning washing ironing make system rota cleaning family kids children parents

Here is the blank version if you’d like to customise it. 

This system is still very much in it’s infancy. We are just a couple of weeks in and I can see some tweaks I’d like to make, and some rules I need to establish with my girls – who are experts at seeking and testing out loopholes in the system! I’d love to hear your thoughts / feedback on my idea so far!