Nora Sands shot to fame in 2005 when she appeared on the TV series Jamie's School Dinners. She was working as a dinner lady at Kiddbrooke primary school reheating turkey twizlers to serve to the kids when Jamie Oliver came along with his crusade to revolutionise British school meals and Nora was thrown in at the deep end, not only did she have to deal with Jamie and a camera crew following her around but she had to train the other dinner ladies and then try and convince the kids to eat some proper food. Nora soon became the star of the show, she bossed Jamie Oliver around telling him what would and would not work in the school kitchens and people around the country fell in love with her no nonsense personality and enthusiasm.
Nora's Dinners is a cookbook for kids and obviously a spin off from the TV series. In the book she says that her aim is to get kids enthusiastic about food and get them into the kitchen to learn basic cooking skills. By her own admission Nora does not know much about posh food like ciabatta or celeriac which will come as a relief to both parents and kids who just want to eat good simple food, what she does know about is good old fashioned home cooking and that is what she writes about in her book.
The first section of the book introduces the reader to kitchen safety and basic kitchen tools and techniques. A few pages about vegetables and herbs is illustrated with the names of all the veg under the pictures, very handy for the kids who do not to a potato from a carrot but also good for those of us who need help with the more exotic veg. A short section on nutrition gives some common sense advice about healthy eating and ensuring you get a good balance of different types of food in your diet.
The next section gives breakfast recipes , the simplest recipe is for banana toast which even a very young child could manage since it is basically mashed up banana on wholemeal toast. More complicated recipes include boiled or scrambled eggs, French toast, muesli and porridge.
Moving on to snacks and salads and there is a couple of salad recipes and also advice about pick and mix salads, i.e. making up your own salad. The lunch recipes include home made burgers, pasta and sauces, macaroni cheese and sticky ribs, personally I think some sandwich fillings would have been nice in there as so few of us eat a cooked lunch these days and there are endless variations on the humble sandwich by varying the type of bread and filling which are healthy as well as tasty.
The next section is dinners and we have old favourites in here like bangers and mash as well as a risotto, chicken curry and even a roast chicken. The last section is snacks which kids will love as it has things like healthy ice lollies, flapjacks, cookies and cakes.
Each of the recipes is fully illustrated with colour photos of smiling kids doing every part of the preparation as well as having preparation and cooking times listed, the written instructions are very clear too. The recipes are all fairly simple but I don't know how suitable I think all of them are for kids, I would feel very uneasy letting a child loose near boiling water to cook pasta for instance because of the risk of spills. Many of the recipes would need a significant amount of adult supervision and help, for example the roast dinner involves roasting the chicken, making roast potatoes and veg for a whole family and there's no way that even an older child could do this on their own.
I would say this is a book for the older (i.e. 9+) child rather than the younger. I like the emphasis on healthy eating without getting preachy and the fact the book is totally unpretentious and all of the dishes and most of the ingredients will be familiar. As far as the recipes go there is a good range and I'm sure that even adults will pick up some tips for handy meals, as always there are some recipes that sound horrible like fish pie but that happens in every recipe book and On the whole the dishes look really appetising.
Nora's dinners is a good cook book for the older child to learn to make a range of basic dishes, learning to cook is something so many people don't know how to do and teaching your kids basic cooking skills is a good way to get them to be a bit independent. There's no reason why a kid can't start making family meals under supervision from a fairly young age, I know I was cooking dinner from the age of 12 when my mum worked but so many kids these days do no household chores which is not good for them in the long run. A good book to buy for the kids but be prepared to help them with some of the trickier recipes and be prepared for the mess they will make too!