Kids in the Kitchen: Italian milky lemon scented pork.
Dusted off this article I wrote for Virginia Living many years ago, and I thought with our kids being homeschooled now, it could be useful again. Good luck you amazing parents, trying to work, keep house, homeschool, and keep your kids entertained during lockdown. And with all the stupid name calling and finger pointing that our state politicians are engaged in, let's remember to be kind to each other.
When things are worrying or stressful, I head to the kitchen and take the children with me. Invariably, a simple pleasure settles in as we chop and measure and stir a slow pot on the stove. Apart from the pride and satisfaction of producing something for friends and family to eat, children learn so much in the kitchen. Dealing with weights and measures, and understanding a little about the philosophy of cooking, is1. wisdom gained while having fun. Notions of safety and prudence and good recycling habits are picked up during time spent near the stove.
Kids see firsthand that heavy-handedness can ruin a dish, or that a simple garnish on a plate can turn the everyday into elegant. By routinely inviting your young kitchen visitor to help out, a steadily built up confidence with food preparation will instill a lifelong appreciation and respect for food. Share some time with children in the kitchen — it can be both instructive and calming, and by choosing uncomplicated recipes, you all might just have a jolly good time too.
So next time the children look like they are dragging their feet, gather them into the kitchen for a therapeutic, fun cook-fest. Make sure they have covered shoes on for safety, and a clean apron to save you from laundry woes later.
The Lemon Scented Milky Pork has evolved from a traditional Italian recipe. The fresh lemons curdle the milk and produce what my children call a ‘lumpy-bumpy’ gravy, which is delicious spooned over the sliced pork and couscous.
Beans are a staple favorite with children, and a sprinkle of coconut before the pan is removed from the stove adds a nice flavor. Pick tender, bright green string beans to make this dish. My trouble with the beans is making sure that my assistants don’t eat them all as they helpfully string them! It is a simple recipe that takes very little time to prepare.
The couscous with chickpeas and fresh herbs is fragrant and buttery. A wonderful aroma fills the air when you stir in the fresh herbs at the end of the cooking process. Pineapple Fluff is an old family recipe.
My mother made it for many dinner celebrations when we were children, and the topping varied according to the age of the eager guest. Children mostly preferred mini marshmallows on theirs, but the adults experimented with toasted coconut flakes or chopped (and toasted) cashew nuts. Learning to make pineapple fluff at the age of 10 all by myself certainly felt like crossing an important culinary threshold, because it looked and tasted so sophisticated.
With the lovely variety of Virginia’s soft summer fruits, think about a jug of something fruity and cool to drink too. I have chosen watermelon juice, being partial to the fabulous bright pink, which adds so much fun color to the laid table. This is a menu that is faithfully licked clean when made at our place, so I hope you and your young friends have as much fun producing it — and feasting on it.
All the following recipes are for a family of four to five people.
Lemon-Scented Milky Pork
1.5 kg. pork scotch fillet or neck, cut into large chunks
5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thick slivers
1 1/2 to 2 cups whole milk
1/2 stick butter (2 oz.)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper, or to taste
Fresh sage leaves
Season the pork well on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan and throw in the garlic slices. As the garlic turns golden, add the sage leaves, and then carefully place the meat into the pan. After one minute, turn the meat over to brown on the other side for another minute. Now carefully pour in the milk, and scatter the julienned peel of two lemons into the pan. In a corner of the pan place half an unpeeled lemon. Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pan so that it is almost completely covered but not quite. Leave to cook on low heat for 50-60 minutes.
Lift the meat from the curdled gravy, and arrange on a platter. Quarter the rest of the lemons and arrange around the platter as garnish. Pour the gravy into a jug and serve with the meat. Serve warm. NOTE: When peeling the lemons, make sure you do not peel too much of the pith with it- the white pith will give the pork a bitterness.
Pineapple Fluff 1 pint heavy whipping cream, chilled 2 cans crushed pineapple in syrup 1 1/2 packets pineapple Jell-o 1 tablespoon castor sugar
Directions: Drain the tins of crushed pineapple and reserve 2 cups of the juice. If there isn’t enough juice, top up with water.
Heat the juice until warm on the stove or in the microwave.
Add the 1 and a half packets jell-o to the warm liquid and stir well until all the crystals are dissolved.
Leave to cool completely. In the meantime, whip the chilled cream with an electric mixer. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light.
Slowly add the cooled pineapple liquid to the cream while continuing to beat this mixture until light and frothy.
Add about 1/2 cup of the crushed pineapple to this mixture.
Stir lightly with a spoon.
Pour into a deep glass bowl and cover tightly with cling wrap.
Leave to set for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
Decorate with mini white marshmallows, toasted coconut flakes or your favorite toasted nuts such as almonds, pecans or cashews.
Couscous with Fresh Herbs and Chickpeas 2 cups plain couscous 2 cups water 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 stick butter 1/2 cup fresh herbs of your liking (try basil, flat lf parsley, sage, and oregano) 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
Directions: In a pan, combine the two cups water, salt and butter.
As soon as the water begins to boil vigorously, pour the couscous in a spray from directly above the pan. Add the chickpeas and fresh herbs.
Stir once. Turn the heat off immediately, remove from the stove and leave with a well-fitting lid on the pan for about one minute for the couscous grains to absorb all the water and swell. Fluff the couscous and mix thoroughly before serving.
NOTE: As the couscous takes about 5 minutes to make, prepare all the ingredients and only cook this dish just as you call everyone to the table. It will ensure you have a steaming dish to serve.
Watermelon Juice Chop up half a large watermelon and blend with lemon juice and sugar to taste (about a tablespoon of each). Pour the juice through a sieve and into a clear glass jug. Chill. If preparing in advance, the juice will separate, so give it a good stir just before serving.
This post brought back so many good memories. Kids who kindly took part in the shoot were neighbourhood friends : the twins John and Willis Blair, Zuri Crewe with her incredible smile, our art director Tyler Darden's sweet little girl and my own cheeky Claudia.. It was a fun day at home in the kitchen.
Photos by Kip Dawkins.