A Kid's Cookbook for Everyone

There's a new kid's cookbook about to hit the shelves, and it's poised to set kitchens around the world on fire - and that's a good thing.

Flapjacks from "River Cottage Family Cookbook." (Kim O'Donnel)

Anyone who's ever been in pursuit of a kid-friendly cookbook knows that the pickins' are generally slim - a patchwork selection of dumbed-down recipes, cutesy cartoon illustrations and very little culinary background that might prove useful. At last, at last, the British are coming, and they might just save the day, with the U.S. edition of "The River Cottage Family Cookbook." The latest title from the successful River Cottage series (I've got "Fish," the James Beard award-winning "Meat" and "Cookbook" in my midst ), "Family" is unlike any other children's cookbook for one reason: intellectual parity.

In fact, if you're in the market for a clearly written, entertaining cookbook for beginners with a focus on where our food comes from, this has your name all over it. Don't worry if twelve describes your shoe size instead of your age; Brit sustainable eating advocate-farmer-media sensation Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his co-author Fizz Carr don't care how old you are as long as you've got the gumption to get into the kitchen and roll up your sleeves.

So you're 42 and you've always wanted to learn how to cure bacon, make salt, butter and sausage - it's all here, plus a collection of 100-some recipes, including pizza dough, ice cream and vegetable stock. And that's just for starters. You'll get the basics on fish, vinaigrette, egg cookery - all set in a legible typeface that eliminates the need for a magnifying glass (ahem).

Could this be the new "Joy" that we've all been waiting for?

Below, a recipe for "flapjacks," which are the farthest thing from American-style griddle cakes but rather oatmeal-based granola-style bar cookies. I like how forgiving they are, allowing for a variety of dried fruit, nuts and seeds, fat and sweetener. In fact, you can improv your way through this recipe and come up with your own flapjack special. This is a nice wholesome change for breakfast on the run, mid-day snack or just because. Kids of all shoe sizes, step right up the counter.

Can you tell I like this book?

Nicola's Zesty Flapjacks
From "The River Cottage Family Cookbook" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall & Fizz Carr

1 orange, plus zest
½ lemon, plus zest
½ cup raisins (alternatively: dried apricots, prunes, cherries)
¼ cup golden syrup or light corn syrup (KOD note: I used equal amounts of agave nectar with success)
¾ cup unsalted butter (KOD note: I used equal amounts of Earth Balance buttery sticks with success)
½ cup brown sugar
2 ¾ cups rolled oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup pine nuts (alternatively: pistachios, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease the corners of a baking sheet and line bottom with parchment paper.

Zest both fruits and place zest in a large saucepan. Squeeze juice from both fruits and add to a second, smaller saucepan, along with dried fruit. Turn heat on low and bring mixture up to a gentle simmer. Remove pan from heat, but leave in a warm place so raisins may plump.

Add syrup to zest, plus butter and brown sugar. Heat very gently, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine oats, flour and nuts (and/or seeds). Stir to combine, then pour into saucepan with melted butter/sugar mixture, then add the raisins. Stir to combine, making sure mixture is thoroughly integrated.

Spread mixture out on lined pan. Oven gloves on. Place pan in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (KOD note: It took closer to 40 minutes) or until golden brown.

Oven gloves on. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes, then mark flapjack cookie into squares with a knife.

Makes about 24 flapjacks.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 30, 2008; 7:20 AM ET Cook's Library
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Hi Kim,

What a great find! And yes, I am looking forward to this cookbook. Thanks for giving us the heads-up.

Posted by: skyebluescottie | June 30, 2008 9:12 AM

This recipe looks great! I'm always looking for some healthy, non-nut snacks (I'll use sunflower seeds) for my daughters to take to school/summer camp and it looks like this will fit the bill nicely. Does anyone have any other go-to snacks that are quick and easy? Thanks!

Posted by: TLC | June 30, 2008 9:36 AM

My favorite kid cookbook is also British - but it's over 30 years old now (yes, I still have it!). It's the Winnie the Pooh cookbook. Not comprehensive, but lots of recipes made with honey as you might imagine. The illustrations are from the original Pooh editions, rather than the Disneyfied adaption. Charming!

Posted by: Reine de Saba | June 30, 2008 2:34 PM

Kids don't need a cookbook. They need parents who are willing to share the family techniques that involve the dishes they all enjoy. It is certainly more trouble to show a child what you are doing and and allow him or her to "help." But the interaction is more than worthwhile. It is very trendy, however, for childless people to go on about kids' cookbooks. Next topic, please.

Posted by: Dave | July 1, 2008 7:27 AM

Geeze, Snarky Dave,
Some children have imaginations and like to experiment and try things on their own. Do they need a cookbook just for them? Nope. But children respond to things built especially for them - things that are "hands off" to parents. Nothing will ever beat parents and children working on things together, but a little independence goes a long way. And, yeah, I am a parent. Chill.

Posted by: Jackie | July 1, 2008 10:07 AM

Dave, I know lots of kids who had a particular cookbook when they were young, and are now great cooks. Playing in the kitchen with your parents is good, too, but there are many paths to nirvana. And, please, a little tolerance for others, including "childless people"? Sheesh.

Posted by: Reine de Saba | July 1, 2008 11:42 AM

seriously dave? of all the stupid things to argue about, it's children's cookbooks? get off your effing high horse and stop making nasty comments about childless people. unbelieveable. if you want to cook with your kids in a way that works for all of you, that's wonderful. but maybe some parents don't know how to cook well themselves and are trying to find ways to cook simple and nutritious things with their kids and this is a great option for them.

Posted by: on the hill | July 1, 2008 5:40 PM

I had a cookbook when I was a kid. I think it was called the Peanuts Cookbook. It had recipes that were supposedly from Charlie Brown and friends, and the recipes were interleaved with Peanuts cartoons. I liked the book because it seemed like it was just for me, and because I could prepare some of the recipes by myself.

As a parent, I have yet to find a children's cookbook I have any interest in; however, both of my kids like to help me cook. This cookbook looks like a gateway to more parent-child cooperative meals. Yea!!

Posted by: Sara in Westminster | July 10, 2008 11:25 AM

My girls also used the Winnie the Pooh cookbook and 40 plus years later the Winnie the Pooh cake is still made for all birthdays and special occasions.

Posted by: Gaby Fryklund | July 10, 2008 7:24 PM

As one of the apparently horrid "childless" people, who is finally learning how to cook, I am quite excited about this cookbook. Thanks Kim!

Posted by: Nikki | July 11, 2008 9:09 AM

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