Families all across Oxon and Bucks are familiar with the fabulous Mrs Bun for her kids cookery classes from age 2 (!!) to teen, which were a weekly highlight when they went online during lockdown, but also for her cooking sessions in various Oxfordshire schools, scout groups and charities, and the legendary Mrs Bun baking parties. It was only so long before the Muddy Award winning baker produced her own recipe book, Make, Bake, Celebrate, and we thought we’d try as soon as we could get our sticky hands on it.
The book is presented with recipes by month, linked to seasons and celebrations, such as heart cake for Valentines, soda bread for St Patrick’s Day and Mexican bowls for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). We plumped for the pasta cannelloni recipe to celebrate the Italian Ferragosto summer feast and extend my own kids repertoire of ‘sugar, with sugar, and a sprinkling of sugar’ beyond the sweet to something more hearty.
The book is packed with photos, not just of the finished dish but also of kids tackling the various stages, and a step-by-step guide of the trickier parts of each recipe. I was amazed to find that my two daughters, aged 6 and 8, needed very little help until a bit of muscle-power was needed for the rolling out section. The instructions are very clear and concise, and separated line-by-line (no constant re-reading needed – why can’t grown-up cookbooks be like this?), and where possible, kids use scissors or tearing to break up ingredients.
Our recipe started with breaking an egg in flour, making a dough and kneading it – all great fun and while the dough looked really crumbly and umpromising to start, it did come good.
Making the filling was the knife-skills part though we used a grater too as Mrs Bun has suggested using other vegetables. Unsure as I was of carrot cannelloni, if it gets them to eat veg, then why not?
I was impressed with the rainbow of veg that was going into this meal (we also added courgette and supplemented spring onions with chopped tomatoes) – most definitely my kids would be romping past their five a day if, in my wildest dreams, they were actually to eat it. Mixing in the ricotta and mozzarella cheese (we could only find grated in our local shop) was easy and another chance to get stuck in with their hands.
The construction part was straight forward with the help of the pics, though my eldest insisted I didn’t help with rolling out her pasta which meant her cannelloni was a little stubbier and thicker than her sister’s (it was still eaten though!).
What surprised me most was that, having left them almost entirely to their own devices, the meal looked a lot like the picture when it went into the oven, and tasted really good when it came out (even the stumpy ones).
Had I made this dish and presented it to my youngest there’s isn’t a hope in hell she’d have tasted it, but to my astonishment, she did give it a go and says she’d have it again. I also had filling left over which I used for a pasta bake the following night – again, not a dish they’d have touched had they not had a hand in it themselves. This constitutes nothing less than a massive win and has galvanized me to try more cooking with the kids because the mess is totally worth it (after starting off wiping up around them I realised that you have to just go with it and face the chaos later).
THE MUDDY VERDICT
An easy to follow kids cookbook with a good mix of sweet and savoury dishes. Would suit kids from age 6 and up though the dishes might not tempt older children with a more adventurous palate.
Fancy giving it a go? Here’s Mrs Bun’s Pasta Cannelloni recipe in full:
In Italy, August the 15th is a public holiday. Ferragosto originated as a ‘day off’ for the peasants and was the idea of Emperor Augustus. Usually, families get together for a big lunch and there are fireworks in some towns. The Buns remember going to see friends in Italy; and we all went down to the beach and had a big feast at their house.
100g PLAIN FLOUR
1 HANDFUL of SPINACH
2 SPRING ONIONS
3-4 SLICES OF HAM: optional
200g TINNED TOMATOES
2-3 TABLESPOONS CRÈME FRAICHE
2-3 TABLESPOONS CHEESE: grated
Preheat the oven to gas 5 or 190c (fan 170c).
You will need an ovenproof dish for the pasta 20 x16 cm.
2/MAKE THE DOUGH
Place the flour into a bowl.
Crack the egg into a cup, make sure there is no shell and pour into the flour.
Stir them together with a spoon.
You will need to use your hands to pull the mixture all together.
If you have a few crumbs add a little water and mix in.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes.
Leave the dough to rest, while you make the filling.
Use your hands to tear the spinach into small pieces.
Using scissors, cut up the spring onions.
If using ham, tear it up with your hands.
Cut the pepper into long strips, then use scissors to cut the strips into smaller pieces.
Place all these ingredients into a bowl.
Tear in the mozzarella and add in the ricotta. Use a spoon and mix it all together.
It should all stick together to form a ball.
Divide the pasta dough into 6 equal pieces.
On a floured surface roll each piece of dough into a rectangle shape about 15 x 10 cm.
Share the filling evenly between the 6 rectangles of pasta.
Place a spoonful(s) at the end of each rectangle and spread it from end to end. Then roll it up.
Continue to fill and roll each piece.
Place the rolls into your oven proof dish.
Pour over the tinned tomatoes.
Tear over the basil leaves.
Spread over the crème fraiche.
Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Place in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes.
If you lack time, use fresh lasagne sheets as they work just as well.
Try using other vegetables.
Maybe try adding some cooked chicken.
If you can’t eat gluten, use strips of courgette or aubergine instead of the pasta.