I grew up cooking with the women in my family, and so I learnt to cook by osmosis. Decades later when I wrote my cookbooks, and started teaching cookery, my mother always joked how she didn’t even think I could cook, since she never taught me. As a result of this childhood, I don’t think there has ever been a time I didn’t know what to do with an ingredients or fresh produce – it just came naturally to me, to pick it up, and make it into something edible.

I don’t find cooking a trend, but in fact a life skill that I would feel lost without. After having my daughter, I realised that growing up in a different world from me, far removed from Pakistan, the responsibility to teach her how to cook would be mine, and that I must create a healthy relationship with food for her, right from the beginning.

From making her weaning food myself, to focusing on baby-lead weaning, and cooking with her as a child – I did it all. It was hard work but worth it when I see a 10-year-old able to make chapattis, and distinguish flavours and spices. But not all children have this exposure, or helping hand to pick up a basic life skill, that somehow has lost its way through a whole generation or two.

Things are slowly changing though, schools are doing more to create an interest in cookery, parents are trying to get engaged with children and food. Creating the interest in children to engage with produce leads them to the process of making something to eat themselves. Nine out of 10 times, kids will enjoy what they normally wouldn’t have, if they make it themselves. I have been involved with Education Scotland’s Food for Thought programme and helped teach kids in schools how to cook and now with my social enterprise cook school, Kaleyard, I am trying to do my tiny bit to teach kids as much as possible.

Along the way, I have met passionate food educators and they inspire me. It is never too late to understand how important this skill is to instil in the young ones. I came across the Edinburgh chef Steve Brown through some of my sustainable food pursuits. Steve has had some very impressive credentials, from working in The Savoy in London to heading up the Daylesford Cookery School in England, he then set up Pop, after moving moved back to Scotland in 2017, which is a business that aims to educate and inspire people to cook. He now passes on the knowledge that has gained over the years and works with both Edinburgh School of Food & Wine and Edinburgh Food Social.

He focuses on teaching children how to cook and has been involved with a project which worked to show children the journey of seasonal food from field to fork. He recently worked with Queensferry Primary School, to do just that. Steve tells us that they took those seeds of knowledge and took them into the classroom, where we worked with them to create a number of seasonal recipes. Steve says that the children were engaged, feigning disgust and all of the normal emotions that you would expect people to show when trying new things. The main thing Steve says is that they never once told the kids that they either would or wouldn’t like things and gave the children the ownership of what to create.

I asked Steve how important it was for children to cook. He says: “I think it’s extremely important for kids to cook from an early age. Food is the one thing that we all share and it anchors numeracy, literacy, geography, history, sciences and so much more. It’s not about telling kids what to eat and not to eat, but rather igniting a passion for real food.”

As adults our job is to start simple. Open up a dialogue with children and create a conversation about food, tell stories, cook together – make it a bonding experience. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just simple food, food that connects children to the process.

I asked Steve how best we can engage children with choosing healthier options. Steve says that teaching them to respect each other, themselves and enjoy a healthy food relationship is all about balance, understanding the decisions we are making will impact our health and the environment.

One of the wonderful recipes Steve created with the children was this version of a classic treat – jammy dodgers. Recipes as simple as this can help create a curiosity in children for cooking, appreciating varied flavours, how to use them and most importantly, understanding the journey of food – one delicious step at a time.

Thanks to Steve Brown and the children at Queensferry Primary School for this recipe and to Jess Dennison for the photograph.

Homemade rosemary and bramble jammy dodgers – makes 8 dodgers

For the biscuit

50g caster sugar

100g butter

150g flour

a pinch of salt

chopped rosemary

For the jam;

500g fresh or frozen brambles

(you can use other fruit like raspberries too)

450g caster sugar

a squeeze of lemon juice


First, make the jam by popping the fruit and sugar in a pan and bring gently to a simmer. At this stage, boil the mixture until a thermometer reads 105c. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and cool completely.

To make the biscuits, rub the butter, sugar and flour together with your fingertips, adding a touch of cold water if necessary to bring the mixture together. Add the chopped rosemary and a pinch of salt and knead gently, which will make the biscuits a little more robust.

Roll out the biscuits and cut out into discs. Use a smaller cutter (one of the smallest you have) to cut out a hole in half of the discs that you have cut – you can do this off centre or with a differently shaped cutter if you're feeling funky. Pop on to a baking sheet and cook at 170c until golden at the edge.

Sandwich the bottoms with the tops using the jam and enjoy with a cup of tea.