Cooking with your kids is a great way of exploring new tastes and broadening their horizons. If you’re heading overseas this summer, make a special meal before you jet off to talk about the language, culture and geography of your destination. Your child may then have more confidence about trying the real thing on holiday. If you’re not going abroad, you can still take your family on an adventure through French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, South American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisines without the hassle of the airport check-in.
Plus, education isn’t just for the kids: take an opportunity to learn about cultures you haven’t been exposed to and tastes and flavours that aren’t part of your usual routine. This will then influence family members, who will appreciate the wonderful spread you’ve put out and be more inclined to try different foods. You may even find dishes to add to your staple recipe book.
Follow our extensive holiday-at-home recipe collection for recipes like the ones below, with loads more pasta dishes, Greek salads, fresh fish, northern and southern Asian cuisines, a variety of desserts and more.
For lovely holidays on this side of the pond, follow our guide for the best UK foodie holidays – they’re most suitable for a more grown-up holiday, with restaurants using the finest ingredients and offering unique experiences such as wine-tasting, cheesemaking and foraging.
Ask the children to snip herbs with kitchen scissors, scrub mussels or peel prawns while giving them a lesson in the cultural background of paella. It’s served all across Spain, but originally comes from Valencia on the south-east coast. There are many variations on the basic recipe, but most are made with rice and either seafood or meat, although mixed versions are also popular. The story behind fideuà (noodle paella) is that it was created by a boat cook from Gandia, Spain. His captain loved rice so much that the rest of the sailors were left feeling hungry, with much smaller portions. The cook decided to try using noodles instead of rice to see if the captain left more for the rest of the sailors. It was so popular, it soon spread through harbour restaurants. Some people say, however, that the cook just forgot to pack the rice! We have a collection of paella recipes for you to explore, too.
Recipe: Seafood fideuà
Steak haché is a version of burger and chips, minus the bun. It’s often served rare in restaurants in France, so if you’d prefer it cooked through, ask for it ‘fait bien cuit’. Pommes frites are skinny chips that are usually fried, but here they’re baked, so children can help to cook them. With this recipe, children can mix and shape the patties, too, and tip the chips into cold water and drain them. If your kids like creamy sauces, encourage them to try the classic béarnaise flavoured with beef juices and tarragon.
Souvlaki is a popular fast-food choice in Greece. Skewers of marinated meat (lamb, pork or chicken) are cooked over an open fire. It’s normally served with tomatoes, red onion and tzatziki (chopped cucumber mixed with Greek yogurt, garlic, mint and lemon juice). In some tavernas, they serve chips inside the pitta, too. Another Greek dish you might have heard of is gyros. It’s similar to souvlaki but lots of meat is sliced and cooked on a single spit. For a more home-friendly option, cook the meat on skewers in the oven. Little ones can mix, knead and divide the dough for the pittas and help make our tzatziki recipe. Ideal for hot summer days.
Recipe: Chicken gyros recipe
The Basque is an autonomous region in northern Spain that has a cuisine centred around grilled meat and fish, stews, bean dishes, tapas, cheeses and delicious wines. This burnt Basque cheesecake takes inspiration from French desserts, combining the sweet flavours of caramel with the creaminess of cheesecake. Where other cheesecakes have a crust or biscuit bottom, this version has its own unique mix of flavours and textures. It’s said to have originated in 1990 and has been a delicacy since. Give our recipe a go – it will make for a crowd-pleasing dessert. For a wide range of cheesecake inspiration, see our collection of the best summer cheesecake recipes.
Recipe: Burnt Basque cheesecake
A classic Caribbean dish with a distinct flavour, Jamaican brown stew chicken never disappoints. It’s called brown stew chicken because of its dark golden colour. This is done by cooking the chicken in brown butter, creating a sweet sauce, then adding onion, garlic and carrot. The scotch bonnet pepper adds heat and pairs well with the sweetness of the brown sugar, while the thyme adds some tang without taking away any flavour from the marinated chicken. It’s a versatile dish that has many variations, but is designed to be a quick, easy dinner for the whole family to enjoy. We recommend serving rice and peas and slaw alongside. If strong spice is not your preference, you can omit the scotch bonnet pepper. Kids can help make the marinade – it will help them learn about quantities and ingredients. Try more punchy flavours with our Caribbean recipes collection.
The margherita pizza has a long and amusing history. When Italy unified in 1861, King Umberto I and his wife Queen Margherita visited Naples, where the queen became bored of the food being served. She summoned a man named Raffaele Esposito to make three delicious pizzas for her to try. While she didn’t enjoy the pizza marinara or pizza Napoli, she did like the one inspired by the unified Italian flag – a green, white and red or ‘tricolore’ pizza. Esposito named the pizza after Queen Margherita and received a Royal Seal in recognition of this. A classic such as the margherita deserves to be the symbol for Italian holidays abroad.
Recipe collection: margherita pizzas
A dessert that’s sure to provide a ‘pick me up’ (‘tirami su’), with a decadent coffee flavour, creamy filling and rich chocolate topping. Tiramisu is thought to have been invented in the 1960s or 70s, with one account being claimed by the region of Veneto at a restaurant called Le Beccherie. Other claims include a ‘tiremesù’ served semi-frozen in a restaurant in Pieris from about 1938. Our version is great for beginners as it requires little effort but results in the perfect coffee-cream treat. Look through our collection of tiramisu recipes for more ideas.
Recipe: Best ever tiramisu
Barbecued chicken and meat is a staple in both Brazilian and Portuguese cuisines. Churrasco, the method of barbecuing meat over a wood or charcoal fire, was originally invented by Brazilian cowboys (gaúchos) in the southern part of the country in the 1800s. They lived rurally, had only basic natural equipment and were surrounded by cattle. Our recipe for a chicken churrasco combines tangy and spicy flavours for a smoky barbecue kick. The marinade ingredients are mixed together and slathered on the chicken, ready to be cooked on the barbecue in no time. Have the kids help with the marinade and mixing, but be sure to supervise the use of skewers. For a slightly different take on Brazilian churrasco, have a go at cumin & onion marinated beef.
As with many cuisines, there are often many different variations of dishes in Mexican cuisine. For example, this fiesta rice could also be considered Spanish, but with a few ingredient tweaks, it could change completely. Even within Mexico, rice dishes are prepared differently. Fiesta rice is exclusively cooked in a special broth with onion, garlic and tomato, and is from northern Mexico. Our recipe moves away from a traditional chicken broth base and uses vegan-friendly vegetable stock instead. If you prefer a meatier flavour, try chicken stock or add pieces of bacon along with the onions. For more Mexican-inspired recipes bursting with flavour, try our easy Mexican recipes.
Recipe: Mexican fiesta rice
Kebabs are thought to have originated during the early years of the Ottoman empire, when Turkish soldiers grilled meat on their swords over fire while resting. Traditionally, kebab meat was lamb or mutton, but as the empire expanded, kebabs were made with beef, chicken, goat and even fish. Our chicken kebabs have loads of spice, tangy flavour and freshness from the coriander and parsley garnish. They can be served alone or with warm flatbreads. This is a great family-friendly meal that’s very easy to make and assemble, and it provides vegetables and nutrients for kids. Delve deeper into Middle Eastern cuisine with our collection of Middle Eastern recipes.
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Have you tried one of our recipes with your kids? We’d love to hear how you found them below…