If you're anything like me then you'll agree that all food tastes better outside. Even more so when you've made it from scratch. A few weeks back, our little Free Rangers mixed, cooked and consumed some delicious banana pancakes!
I'm still to work out what makes alfresco dining so enjoyable. It might awaken something primitive in ourselves, tracing back to our early ancestors roasting all manner of hairy beasties over a fire. Luckily, the animals around Free Rangers were safe from the savages, (although our VERY free range and distracting chickens very nearly ended up roasted...) as we had something a little sweeter on the menu. Fire had been a focal point when giving the children free time and the cooking theme was being developed inside with the children cooking apple cakes. I will apologise if you didn't like the smell of wood smoke on your children, but there was no getting rid of it!
The Rangers were tasked with two objectives: mix the pancake batter, using a precise and secret recipe known only to myself (and 100 children now...), and to help light the fire. The children were given the choice to do what they wanted. It was pleasing to see some of the children, stepping outside of their comfort zone and tried an activity they wouldn't normally associate with. Others stuck to what they knew, which was fine. Our budding chefs carefully measured out cups of flour and milk, and a little spiced sugar giving the concoction a good whisk to awaken the ingredients. Counting skills were tested here, counting how many teaspoons of flour made up one cup as well as looking at capacity and measuring (MATHS TICK!), as well as hand-eye coordination to carefully pour the milk into the same receptacle. It smelt delicious as it was! This now well used recipe was co-devised with Val our children's cook and dietitian, to make it accessible and the easiest for the body to handle for all our children as we have a range of dietary requirements, such as an intolerance/allergy to cows milk, nut allergies, and even egg. Once mixed the children brought the bowl to the fire which was ready to cook the pancakes.
The second group were tasked with sourcing and snapping firewood and then lighting the fire. We talked about our Forest School rule we started to learn at the start of term, about being safe around the fire pit as this would be something the children would really need to think about. Furthermore we looked at the safe use of the tools here, such as where we put our bodies, and whether others around us were safe? Then fires were constructed, sometimes badly but we looked at why they didn't work and thought about other ways it might work. During this we began to build the children's vocabulary around fires with key components like: tinder, kindling, fire steels, flames, embers and smoke. We discussed how we first build the fire, what needs to be present for a fire to exist (heat, air and fuel) then how we light it effectively. Once lit we shared what we could sense: the light, the the flames, the warmth, the smoke, as well as how it made us feel. As the fire slowly cooked the pancake mix, the children also saw how heat can change the states of different materials, with both irreversible and reversible changes. Firstly, the fire softened and melted the butter and children linked this to the heat. Similarly, we watched as the pancakes slowly changed from their runny mix into a solid mass, seeing the butter bubble around their periphery and the sugar caramelise the pale circles into golden orbs of fluffy deliciousness. The recipe, should you want to make them is as follows: 1 cup of self-raising wholemeal flour, 1 cup of goats milk (or other), 1/2 a cup of rapadura sugar (ours was infused with a smidgeon of mixed spice!), one roughly chopped banana and some goats butter to cook them in. Stick everything into the bowl then whisk vigurously. Cook until golden as small scotch style pancakes. Then eat!
They were a complete hit with the children, and on occasion the children indulged in more one! The fire is such a communal and social event to be around and evokes camping memories for me and early forays into lighting my first fires albeit with matches not fire steels! It's very rewarding to be setting up such memories for these children now, and I hope they take them away and remember them fondly. I look forward to more fires next week too. Have an enjoyable rest of the weekend all! Don't forget to comment and share your own experiences!