Catherine Burns

So easy an eight-year-old can do it

  • Top chef: eight-year-old Belle Burns prepares her chicken roast for the oven (Photograph supplied)

Back on the rock and itís full steam ahead into the new year with a whole load of new intentions or, more accurately, renewed intentions.

My resolutions can take a while to kick in and sometimes I get distracted by something completely different (or never make it at all ó remember my resolution to cartwheel? Or run a sub-25 minute 5k?!). But the year I was supposed to take up yoga was the year I ran the Bermuda Day half-marathon. I never perfected my downward dog but Iíve run that race from both ends of the island now, so, Iím pretty sure itís not a fail Ö I just do still have yoga on the list!

Also on the list, the never-ending battle with sugar ó especially when it comes to the kids. We have always had a little sweet stuff in the house, but one of my girls is especially good at sniffing it out. Even if I hide it at the back of a cupboard, Iíll find her standing on the kitchen counter, elbow deep in a bag of icing sugar. And letís face it, as adults, we do it too ó maybe not with icing sugar but have you ever found yourself at the bottom of a bag of chocolate chips? You know those ones that are meant for baking but seem so irresistible at 11pm?

So, now that we are back, Iím taking the advice I gave you last week and applying it at home. Itís so much easier to keep the kids off sugar if itís just not there. Itís not that weíll never have it (Iím sure there will be a tub of ice cream now and then) but we just wonít routinely have it in the cupboards. Itís less stressful for everyone Ö the kids wonít persistently ask and I wonít have to constantly say no!

Kicking the sugar out of the house might seem a little draconian and you could argue that there is a lot to be said for teaching (and enabling) balance. The problem is, sugar is so completely addictive that if you have a kid with a raging sweet tooth, itís exceptionally difficult to manage. Having a sweet tooth can be genetic (nature), acquired through exposure (lifestyle), or it can be a combination of the two. When it comes to exposure you can do your utmost as a parent but, eventually, via birthday parties, well-meaning relatives or community events, your kids will get a taste of the sweet stuff. I once remember Chloe turning down a chocolate chip cookie for a ramekin full of chickpeas, but that was before she had her first sugar rush. She didnít know what she was missing. The chance of her doing the same now is slim to none!

With all that in mind, keeping a clean-eating, low-sugar home environment seems like a good idea. And fortunately, after Belle saw a headline in the UK about kids and sugar consumption (see my Instagram @naturalbda), she got on board with just cooking savoury things for a while. So on the last day of the holidays, I taught her how to cook a roast chickenÖ. and it was amazing!

It turns out that getting kids to prepare a roast is super easy. I had shied away from learning how to do a roast for the longest time. The timing of everything seemed so complicated and I didnít like the idea of handling meat that was so obviously part of an animal. I got over it though recently and am so happy I did. I donít always do a whole fleet of sides (we just did rice and green veg this time) which makes things simpler, too.

Like me, Belle thought that handling a raw roast chicken was ďtotally grossĒ. But she got her hands in there and was pretty happy with herself when she put it in the oven. She was even happier when we all ate it and loved it. Getting the warm and fuzzies when people enjoy the food you make is a major motivator for her.

I unwrapped and rinsed the chicken, but aside from that, at age 8, Belle was able to do it all. She scored the top of the bird, prepared the rub, rubbed the Ďrubí (technical term ha ha) and stuffed in wedges of onion, apple and lemon. I had her baste it halfway through, cover it in foil and check the temperature at the end. I had two OCD moments ó firstly, when she flung dried herbs all over the kitchen (accidentally, although with her you never really know Ö) and secondly, when her hands had been rubbing the raw chicken and she wanted to touch everything before washing them. I get so nervous about raw poultry. Anyway, we survived!

Helping kids learn how to cook from scratch is probably one of the best life skills you can give them. And if you can teach them how to cook a roast, theyíll probably have friends for life ó itís such a crowd-pleaser. I kept the ingredient list here really simple by using a Whole Spice herb and spice blend from Two Rock Wine Co. They do half the work for you and I really recommend giving them a try. Such a great way to add healthy flavour and they have lots of different options for you to experiment with. Hereís how we did ours, but this is a really flexible recipe; you can adjust the herbs, spices and things you stuff the chicken with as much as you like. Give it a try this weekend ó and good luck with the kitchen chaos!

Belleís Easy Roast Chicken

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, preferably organic

2 large onions (peeled and quartered)

1 apple (unpeeled and quartered)

1 lemon (quartered), possibly another for extra juice at the end

1/2 cup Whole Spice rotisserie rub

1/2 cup grass-fed butter or Earth Balance vegan margarine

Little bit of cornstarch

White wine (optional)

Method

1, Preheat the oven to 425F

2, Mix the Whole Spice rub into the butter or Earth Balance. Prep the onion, apple and lemon.

3, Unwrap and rinse the chicken, removing giblets if necessary and being careful to wash hands and clean the sink afterwards. Pop the chicken in a roasting tin.

4, Score the top of the chicken a little so the skin stretches in a few places but you donít really cut into the flesh.

5, Rub the butter/herbs all over the chicken, coating the whole body and legs. Rub it into the scored areas. Stuff the chicken with some onion, apple and lemon. Place the rest around the chicken ó Belle stuffed a lemon wedge in between the body and the leg on each side. We also squeezed one of the lemon wedges over the top. Make sure you leave some onion outside the chicken as these bits are delicious after roasting! Wash hands super well afterwards.

6, Pour a little water into the bottom of the tin, approximately half a centimetre deep. Put the chicken in the oven and set the timer for 90 minutes.

7, Every 30 minutes, check that there is still plenty of water in the bottom of the tin. Add more if you need to (we did, twice) as this makes the gravy! If the skin and herbs start to go too brown, then cover the bird in foil (doesnít have to be airtight, just cover it!)

8, Once the 90 minutes is up, use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature is up to 165F. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird, but not so deep that it hits a bone. If itís not hot enough, pop it back in the oven for a while (the water in the pan should keep it moist). My mum never uses a thermometer, she just says ďcheck the juices run clearĒ. But I use a thermometer to be sure!

9, Once your chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan and allow it to rest on a board. Put the pan over a low heat if you can, or pour the juices into a saucepan thatís up to the job. You can add a little water or white wine if you like ó we added a bit more lemon juice ó then thicken it. We do this by taking a heaped teaspoon of corn starch and mixing it with about five teaspoons of water. Add it slowly to the juices while stirring constantly and youíll get perfect gravy!

10, And thatís it! I canít even begin to tell you how to carve it! We made a huge mess but it was totally delicious. Am sure YouTube has a video if you want to be fancy! Serve with the usual sides but donít be afraid to go with something simple like rice and broccoli or spaghetti and salad. No harm in throwing out the rule book every now and then.

ē Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, on Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda