This morning we were invited by Coles Supermarkets to the launch of their new initiative, the Coles Fresh 5 Challenge, a healthy eating program aimed at Aussie kids. Whilst we were there, there was also an announcement of a new, three year partnership between Coles and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.

The children got to pick, cook and eat with Stephanie Alexander and Curtis Stone, and afterwards I sat down to have a chat with these Aussie favourites to ask them some questions about cooking with and for children.

Coles has just launched the Coles Fresh 5 Challenge.
Cooking with Stephanie Alexander AO
The Coles Fresh 5 Challenge aims to help parents motivate their children to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

TA: Are there any vegetables that you think are underrated, that parents might not have tried with their children?

CS: There’s so many…

SA: So many! There’s things like bulb fennel- it’s something that people are a bit frightened of because it looks a bit strange. Things like kohlrabi- not many people cook kohlrabi.

CS: I always sort of think of it in blocks of seasons. We are coming out of Summer soon and we will be getting into Fall and I start thinking about all of the things that become great at that time of year.

TA: What’s one you think we should try?

CS: Well….mushrooms. There are so many incredible mushrooms in Australia and we tend just to cook one or two varieties but I think there are so many ways you can use mushrooms.

SA: Pumpkin in massive varieties with the skin left on- its much nicer. Parsnips! I mean how many people roast parsnips on a regular basis?

CS: Kale….I have a variety of kales in my garden.

TA: We have tried kale. I think that’s becoming more popular with people such as yourself promoting it and stuff…

CS: But people serve it as a salad all the time. That’s not my favourite way to eat kale. I much prefer it slowly braised and cooked all the way through.

SA: You cook it all the way through and serve it on a grilled piece of sourdough as a sort of a bruschetta, which is delicious.

TA: Fantastic! Thank you.

TA: What’s an under-appreciated kitchen tool that all parents need?

SA: A potato ricer.

TA: We have one of those actually, they are amazing! Super creamy (potatoes).

CS: I was going to say a microplane grater because I think a lot of people don’t have good graters and if you can get that fine rice with a grater you can use it so many different ways.

TA: What is your favourite family recipe?

CS: Mine’s super simple and my mum used to do this when I was a kid-it’s roast chicken and veggies, and we do the same thing. I have a butcher shop so I have access to incredible chicken, so my wife regularly calls me and says ‘Bring one of those nice French chickens home’ and I bring that home and then it’s whatever’s in the garden. There’s something about opening the door when you get home from school and smelling a roast chicken in the oven.

TA: What about you Stephanie?

SA: Well my family also has roast chicken and vegetables but if I’m on my own, which I often am, and I know I’ve got a busy week, I’ll spend one hour- that’s including cooking time- making a huge pot of ratatouille. For the rest of the week I eat some ratatouille with some prawns, ratatouille with some chicken, ratatouille with a piece of fish or with an egg in the middle, and it’s fantastic!

TA: Fantastic! Do you have a favorite quick meal? If you have to make something super fast

CS: I did a TV show and we shot 140 episodes of this show and the cameraman and I would always joke when we wanted to finish work early ‘If it swims, it’s fast’. He’d always be like “Cook fish today- I’ve got something on!” and it’s true- if it comes out of the water, you can cook it in minutes. So, a piece of quick, cooked, grilled fish with some grilled’s done in ten minutes.

SA: The same thing, I’d say fish but I’d also say perhaps scallops which people don’t cook often enough. I mean, really, by the time you brush a scallop with a bit of olive oil and put it in a pan it’s virtually cooked.

TA: As parents, what have your tricks been for surviving meal times?

CS: I mean, my kids are in the kitchen with me a lot. Early on, I adopted the idea of ‘They make a mess in the kitchen, but they also make a mess in their bedrooms or in the family room’….Wherever they are, you have to tidy up after your kids or you have to get them to tidy up after themselves. I adopted the idea that they can do whatever they want in the kitchen and I don’t care how messy it gets- it only takes you ten minutes to tidy up the kitchen anyway. I have never really struggled with meal times to be honest.

TA: You don’t have a witching hour? You’re very lucky.

CS: No, I think as long as you get your dinner on time…

TA: Yup, nice and early then. Stephanie?

SA: Well when my children were young, they had the disadvantage of living above a restaurant and that was actually a challenge because we ate thrown together things whilst the restaurant was getting ready for service. I don’t think that was great but what happened on the days where I was not in the kitchen, family meal was the highlight of their life and it was the highlight of my life too. It’s gone on and when they come to visit me now as grown adults with, in some case, their own family, they walk in, they say “What can we do to help?”, pour a glass of wine, and that’s it! It’s the most fantastic time, so meals have never been a problem.

TA: Fantastic. Thank you so much for answering those questions.

For more information on Coles’ new partnership with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, click here.

To join in the fun of the Coles Fresh 5 Challenge, customers can pick up a free placemat in the produce section of Coles supermarkets while stocks last or download one here.

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