Everything tastes good when it's fried in butter

It's been the week the children have been baying for ever since we started the recent theme of fires. At last! Pancakes for everyone! After we'd begun to learn about fire lighting last week, we moved onto putting that knowledge into practice and making a fire for a purpose. There had been rumours going round we'd be making pancakes on Forest School, so every morning on my arrival I would be inundated with pancake related queries. Our kids are easily pleased obviously! Although for the children the main focus of the sessions would ultimately revolve around pancakes, I wanted to see how much fire knowledge they had retained from last week's fire practice but also bring into play a culinary aspect, especially from an alfresco point of view (what other view is there on Forest School?). Frying pan in hand and cool bag packed, especially important due to the warmth of the weather, we ventured out into the paddock to see what we could conjure. Before we started any cooking we again reinforced the safety aspect of fire making and how we can both enjoy and be safe around the fire once it was lit, but we also took a look at the Lords and Ladies plant which had disappeared for a while only for its distinctive green berries to rear up from amidst the long grasses of the hedgerows. We clarified with the children that this was a poisonous plant and was not to be played with!

To start, we looked at lighting the fire. I posed the same question I did for the start of last week: "We need to make a fire! How are we going to do it?" Now this is where the confusion kicked in. As aforementioned our children already had their pancake heads fully engaged so we were offered suggestions of sugar, water, and even pancake mix (shudder the thought!) into our fire bowl. To be fair, I can understand the confusion as some might not have seen the fire bowl before, nor did it have any charcoal or ash residing within so this may have led the children to believe it to be our mixing bowl. I re-phrased the question: "We need a fire before we can mix and cook the pancakes! What do we need to do that?" For some groups it worked well to give the fire making process a recipe twist, so we instead looked at the 'ingredients' to light a fire as well. We found our kindling or large, thick wood shavings, our cotton wool, and our fire steel and decided the order in which to add them. This also gave us the opportunity to reinforce the key vocabulary we started to use last week in relation to size and shape. When we talk about differences in size with children our meaning can be easily lost. Asking a child to find small sticks for the fire, will often mean they'll come back with short and quite often thick or stubby pieces, which are no good for kindling. Therefore it was important to specify thin pieces and discussed what that meant, comparing with larger sticks, and thinking about what stage of the fire lighting process they should be added. With a little assistance, we built a our fire stacks and structures which varied throughout the week, and lit our fires. Then larger thicker pieces went onto the fire to sustain it whilst we made the batter.

Our recipe, as some of you parents may know, is an incredibly easy egg-free recipe making it (slightly) less messy whilst we're outside - but the egg itself would have been an fascinating and "egg-celent" talking point with the children (sorry couldn't resist a yoke! I'll stop now...) The children were quizzed: "what ingredients shall we include in our pancakes?", and we had a few interesting suggestions as you can imagine. The children took it in turns to measure, pour and spoon the different materials into the mixing bowl, again another opportunity to look at capacity, estimation and improve key vocabulary such as mixing, whisking, pouring, cutting, spooning, how full, how empty, as well as the huge sensory side to the cooking. I asked if they could "hear the bubbles fizzing?" after they had whisked, and "how does the mix move?", "What does it smell like?", "Can you describe it?" The recipe is as follows: (Make enough for 12 'scotch' style pancakes)

  • 1 Cup of Organic Self Raising Wholemeal Flour,
  • 1 Cup of Organic Goats Milk,
  • A few teaspoons of Rapadura unrefined sugar,
  • 1 roughly chopped Ripe banana or apple
  • Butter to fry

The amount of sugar is dependant on the fruit you decide to put in. We had very ripe bananas at the start of the week, so we used a little sugar, but the apples at the end of the week were quite tangy, so we put in a little extra of the good stuff. We also discussed about whether or not the children thought these pancakes were a healthy option to eat? Some recognised the fruit represented a good choice and we talked about the vitamins, energy and flavours. In the Den, the group work has revolved around brushing teeth and keeping them clean so we discussed whether these pancakes were good options for our oral and bodily health. Unfortunately when I asked the kids they usually had their mouths full of deliciousness, so they either ignored me, muffled an answer or just nodded.

Then we cooked. Here we looked how fire or heat changes states of materials. The children delighted as the butter hit the hot metal pan, watching as it melted and discussed why it was shrinking and sliding around, what sound it made, and would the pancakes melt too? In the batter went and the aroma was rather tempting. We also puzzled over why the pancakes went brown and I mentioned the link between the heat, the sugar carmamlising and browning the pancakes. Once out we let them cool and then tucked in under the apple tree. When eating the apple pancakes we looked at the apples hanging precariously above our heads and thought about how nature has played a hand in all the ingredients that went into providing our pancakes. With sessions like this, there is always so much learning you can tap into as with all Forest School sessions and has provided us with not only a tasty treat but the chance to develop some key lessons and knowledge that our little Rangers will hopefully remember and cherish for years to come.

Thanks for reading as always, and enjoy the rest of your weekends.

(A rather rotund) Red Fox