Forget The Monkey Bars; Go For Cheesy Feet

Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson shares her recipes for fun in the kitchen with children. Rosie Greenway/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Rosie Greenway/Getty Images

For food writer Nigella Lawson, "the easiest child care option" is keeping your children in the kitchen.

"I'm not pretending they ever do anything like help me ... but the thing is I feel that they are absorbed and it's creative, but most of all it's purely selfish because otherwise I feel obliged to do something like take them out and have a run around," Lawson tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

"I'm incredibly lazy and not at all athletic so the idea of having to kick a ball about or push them in swings forever, it's OK every now and then, but if I can have them in the kitchen stirring something even if in the end there's a huge tug-of-war going on over whose turn it is to stir the muffin batter, I'll do it."

Instead of running a mile down the road behind your still-new-to-a-bicycle daughter you could be making some cookies or bread rolls, Lawson says.

"In a certain way, cooking is like playing in a sand pit or making mud pies, but I've always found that if children help cook a meal, they tend to eat it, so I find it a very good way of preventing kids from getting too fussy," she explains.

There are several recipes Lawson has used over the years with her own children, including Soft White Dinner Rolls and Cheesy Feet.

"Children like things that are rather disgusting. I think if you said to an adult 'Can I offer you a cheesy foot?' They might say, 'Are you mad?'" she says, explaining that the dish came about thanks to a cheese straw recipe and a set of feet-shaped cookie cutters.

The recipe is easy to make, she says, because you use a food processor. Once the dough is made and chilled they can cut out the feet.

Here, Lawson shares her recipes for fun in the kitchen with children.

Soft White Dinner Rolls

This recipe has not been tested by NPR.

Dough Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 - 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons (1 envelope) rapid rise, bread machine or other instant yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 heaped tablespoon butter

Toppings

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

It may seem a crackpot idea to suggest you make fresh white bread rolls for your children's supper, but give me a moment. Please. Children absolutely adore making them, although the results often don't turn out to be bread rolls, but rather floury lumps and shapes covered in peanut butter, sprinkles and more flour, as they, in turn, will be covered themselves.

Besides, if you do make them, you will find it astonishingly relaxing and gratifying, and your children will — unaccountably — thank you. Mine love them spread thickly with melting butter, and I can't say I blame them.

1. Combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour with the instant yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

2. Put the milk and butter into a saucepan and heat until the milk is warm, and the butter is beginning to melt.

3. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix with a fork or a wooden spoon to make a rough dough, adding more of the remaining flour if the dough is too wet. Then, either using your hands or the dough hook on an electric mixer, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky.

4. Put the ball of dough into a greased bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap, then leave in a warm place (I always sit a bowl of yeasted dough on a pile of newspapers) to rise for an hour, by which time it should be double the size. Punch the air out of the dough with your fist and then turn it out on to a floured surface.

5. Pull pieces of dough the size of walnuts off the dough and form them into small round rolls, like ping-pong balls, placing them as you go on to a greased or lined baking sheet. The balls of dough should be about 1/4 inch apart so that once they have sat to rise they will be just about touching. I get 30 balls of dough, and I arrange them in six lines of five.

6. Cover them with a kitchen towel and leave to rise again in a warm place for about half an hour, preheating the oven to 425 degrees F, while they sit. When the buns have puffed up, beat together the egg, milk and a pinch of salt and paint them with the glaze. Scatter alternate lines of buns with sesame and poppy seeds, leaving plain rows in between. (A teaspoon of seeds should decorate two rows). That's to say, a row of poppy-topped, then a row of sesame-topped, then one row of plain and then repeat again.

7. Bake the buns for 15 minutes, by which time they should be golden brown and joined together in a little batch. Remove them to a cooling rack or serve immediately. When I make these for adults I put them on the table and let people tear them off as they go. When I'm making them for a roomful of children, I wouldn't be as mad; the feeding frenzy is bad enough as it is, so just tear them off and hand a few round to them on a plate.

Cheesy Feet

This recipe has not been tested by NPR.

Ingredients

Makes about 16 feet

  • 1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

I have mentioned my cookie-cutter collection elsewhere and knowing of children's predilection for the grosser things in life, how could I resist — when given a set of foot-shaped cutters by a friend back from New York — making some suitably cheese-tasting cooking with them.

Naturally, they went down a storm. I've been tempted to serve them with drinks for grown-ups (as, actually, they taste fabulous) but am worried that the mixture between yucky and cute might not play so well there. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself, you do see.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the dough comes together. Just be patient: it will happen, I promise you. Form into a fat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

3. Roll out the dough on a floury surface to roughly 1/8-inch in thickness, and cut out your feet with your cutters. You can keep re-rolling this dough and cutting out feet until it is all used up.

4. Put them onto a lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes for the smaller feet, and 12 minutes for the bigger feet.

5. The biscuits will continue to crisp up as they cool on a rack, so take them out when they're still a little soft in the middle.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.