Child’s Play

by Sam Bilton on August 23, 2013 No comments


It is often assumed that because I like to cook my children like to cook. This is a myth. Or at least they don’t like to cook with me. This is not a cry for sympathy in a vain attempt to elicit compliments about my maternal skills. If truth be told, I don’t like cooking with them either. So the feeling is entirely mutual. I don’t touch their Lego and they don’t play with my Kitchen Aid. Simple.

I should perhaps clarify this point. I do make the occasional foray into the class room as a Parent Helper usually to assist with some basic cooking event – gingerbread and muffins – that sort of thing. I am told, by parents and teachers, the children really enjoy these sessions (even my own). I will even admit I enjoy these lessons. But you see cooking at school is an entirely different scenario to cooking at home for a number of reasons.

Firstly, with the exception of two boys, they are not my children. This means you have to be more patient than the Virgin Mary and all the catholic saints put together. However, this is surprisingly easy when they are not your children and explains how teachers can do their job every day. Did your parents ever try to teach you how to drive? How did that work for you? It was a disaster when my father tried to teach me. No patience you see (on either side) so it appears I am genetically predisposed not to have enough patience with my own children to teach them anything.

Secondly, other people’s children tend to be better behaved when you are looking after them. How many times have you picked your child up from a friend’s house to be told they have been an ‘absolute angel’ only to find Gabriel has turned into Beelzebub on the way home? I have become quite adept at using the stern teacher’s voice when I’m in the classroom to kerb any unruly behaviour (which doesn’t occur that often).  Sadly, my own children appear oblivious to this tone in the home environment and rarely respond to anything less than a shout.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it’s not MY kitchen. Drop an egg on the floor? No worries, I’ll clean it up. Accidentally, break a cup or a plate? The school will replace it. But in my own domain it’s a different matter entirely. I’m a very territorial beast and the kitchen is my space. It may be a mess at times but it’s my mess. Everything has its place and I know just where that place is (unless someone else has emptied the dishwasher and put things in the wrong place. That really pisses me off). I like to be in control at all times and I hate any interference. Woe betide anyone, whether they are seven or seventy, who intrudes on my space. On the rare occasions my children and I cook together there is foot stamping, fist pummelling and tears galore – and that’s just from me.

So the crux of the matter is that I am a kitchen tyrant with possible OCD tendencies and this explains why I don’t cook with my children and they don’t like cooking with me.

If however you are of a more patient, less tyrannical disposition than me you may find the straight forward recipes below useful to amuse the children during what’s left of the school holidays. They give the kids a chance to make a mess (I need a glass of wine to get me through the very thought), are relatively quick (which should help with the stress factor) and aren’t in the least bit healthy (which is why the kids will like them).

Thankfully the end of the school holidays is nigh….Good luck!

Thin & Crispy Sweetie ‘Pizza’



  • 100g soft unsalted butter plus extra for greasing
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 20g plain rice
  • 2 rounded tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 50g white chocolate, melted
  • Sweets, glacé fruit, sprinkles etc


  1. Lightly grease an 18cm round tin with butter. Preheat the oven to 170℃.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or electric whisk until pale and thoroughly incorporated. Mix the flour and the rice flour together then gradually add the flour mix to the butter and sugar stirring well with a wooden spoon after each addition. You may need to use your hands when you add the last of the flour. You should end up with a crumbly dough (a bit like short crust pastry before you add the water) so that it just about comes together in a ball when pressed.
  3. Press the dough into the greased tin with your hands. When all of the dough is in the tin you can use a small jam jar to gently roll over the top of the dough in order to even it out.
  4. Place in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Once the shortbread is golden leave to cool slightly in the tin (it will still be soft when first removed from the oven) before turning out. Allow to cool completely.
  5. When you are ready to decorate the ‘pizza’ heat the jam in a microwave for about 10 seconds on high to make it more spreadable. Spread this over the entire shortbread round. Place dollops of melted white chocolate over the jam to resemble melted mozzarella then decorate with sweets, glacé fruit, sprinkles or whatever takes their fancy.

‘Deep Pan’ Chocolate Pizza



  • 110g soft unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 95g self raising flour
  • 15g cocoa powder*
  • 1 – 2 tbsp natural yoghurt or milk
  • 2 rounded tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 50g white chocolate, melted
  • Sweets, glacé fruit, sprinkles etc


  1. Lightly grease an 18cm round loose bottomed tin with butter then line the base with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180℃.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar together by hand or using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. Sieve the flour and cocoa together. Add this to the mixing bowl and beat in (if using an electric mixer) or fold in with a metal spoon if making by hand. Mix in 1 – 2 tbsp of yoghurt or milk until you have a dropping consistency.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin smoothing it out as best you can. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until well risen and springy (when inserted into the cake a skewer should come out clean). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
  5. Decorate as the Thin and Crispy Pizza above.

* You can make a plain base by using 110g self raising flour and omitting the cocoa all together.


Sam BiltonChild’s Play

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