To tie in with L’s school harvest festival service this week, as well as our Autumn play, we decided to start the week off by making a meal designed to celebrate the fruit and vegetables of the Autumn harvest. We decided on Autumn vegetable soup, and plum crumble. I thought this would be a fun way to remind ourselves where food comes from and also to practise some food preparation, weighing, measuring etc.
We had a lot of fun doing this. we learnt that root vegetables are so called because they are the root of the plant, and discussed which vegetables grow under the ground and which on top of the ground. We also talked about the differences between fruit and vegetables, which I wasn’t clear on myself and so we have some research to do as a result! We also talked a little bit without dwelling on it too much, about why some countries don’t have enough food, and how lucky we are, which is why we say thank you for the harvest.
L and N had fun peeling vegetables, which they managed to do by themselves for the first time. I was quite impressed that N could co-ordinate it, but they both managed beautifully. They both liked discovering that the vegetables were different beneath the peel, especially the parsnip.
We then cut the vegetables, and the children both did so with help. I think it is important to teach them to handle a sharp knife responsibly, and I think we know when our own children are ready for this. to their credit, L and N take this responsibility seriously, know they are being trusted with something grown-up and that they mustn’t touch the knives without a parent present. I am quite proud of the way they handle the knives.
This gave us the opportunity to handle the different vegetables, compare weight, size, shape, texture, as well as the feeling of cutting it – some vegetables are tougher to cut, some need more pressure, etc.
We added the veg to a pan of stock, onion and garlic, and watched it simmer, discussing what would happen to the vegetables as they cooked, and what was happening to the water (boiling, steam rising etc). So we managed to fit a little science lesson into the cooking, but rather than being bored they were fascinated and full of questions!
While the soup bubbled away we got to work on the crumble. We think rubbing butter into flour and oats is fantastic sensory play (although L seems to think the object is to get as messy as possible – he does get so much pleasure out of being given permission to make a mess and is determined to make the most of it)!
We did weigh the ingredients rather than estimate, just to get L and N to understand the concept of weight more than any real need. We also took the opportunity to have a look at the timer N was given for her birthday (thank you to her aunty, uncle and big cousin!) and introduce the idea of five minutes on the timer being the same as five minutes on the big clock, although I think that might take a while to sink in. We love our gingerbread man timer though!
More chopping opportunities…
And an in-depth look at plum stones.
The plum stone exploration actually went on for some time and turned into a full-on dissection, but not before we had caramelised some plums, watching what happened to the butter, sugar and fruit…
and had fun smelling the different spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom – and describing them.
It might be fun to turn this into a game where we guess the spice by its smell while blindfolded.
And back to our plum stones. We cleaned them, took rubbings of them, and generally explored them, discovering that they are very, very hard and cannot be broken open except with pliers (that was me, not the children!)i – L and N had fun trying with a blunt knife, and carried on exploring their stones by themselves for half an hour or so afterwards :-). Our next one is to plant one to see if we can get it to grow!
The best bit of course was eating it all. I had seconds, and baby F got to join in at this point because although I thought the stock was too salty, she got to try all the vegetables, and did have her first crumble!