The Australian equivalent of our own Darina Allen, cook, restaurateur and food writer Stephanie Alexander is best known for her authoritative 'The Cook's Companion', the essential kitchen bible of choice for Australian cooks. An active food educator, she has long been a promoter of Australian cooking and ingredients. In 2001, inspired by Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard in California, she teamed up with Collingwood College, an inner city school in her home town of Melbourne, to start the Kitchen Garden project. Working together with school staff and volunteers, Alexander worked at educating children about food, from seed to the table, with weekly sessions in the school garden and kitchens.
Written by Alexander in collaboration with her research assistant Anna Dollard, 'Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids' is a document of what has been done in Collinwood College over the last six years as well as an inspirational how-to manual for schools interested in doing something similar. The non-profit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation was established in 2004 to support the project at Collingwood College and to introduce Kitchen Gardens into other schools in Australia's State of Victoria; 'Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids' shows how the idea can travel.
It's also a great cookbook for parents who want to introduce their children to new flavours and kitchen skills. Divided seasonally into menus to take advantage of the vegetables that grew in the school garden, recipes for simple dishes like Bubble and Squeak sit happily alongside more unusual combinations - Carrot Muffins with Garlic Butter, Rhubarb and Scented Geranium Crumble Tart, Golden Bantam Tea Eggs, Beetroot and Chocolate Muffins. Each recipe is designed for and has been cooked by kids, with straightforward lists of ingredients, instructions and details of techniques. There is also plenty for parents to learn here - how to make different types of bread and dough (Flatbreads, Polenta and Rosemary Bread with Fresh Sweetcorn, Potato and Rosemary Pizza), gnocchi (Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage) and pasta (Fettuccini with Tomato, Sausage and Fennel Sauce, Three Cheese Ravioli with Herb Butter).
With advice on how to get children to eat a range of food and try different dishes, 'Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids' is an intelligent read that will give you plenty of ideas of things to try out with your own kids.