Strawberries can take the biscuit for you

Strawberry shortbread. Picture courtesy of sweetevestrawberry.co.uk
Strawberry shortbread. Picture courtesy of sweetevestrawberry.co.uk
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Picnics and barbecues may be off the menu while the skies are teeming, but families can still have food-based fun.

Encouraging children into the kitchen is a great way to occupy their minds and set them on a path to culinary know-how and healthy eating.

But one step at a time is the order of the day, so baking scrummy cakes and biscuits is certainly a great starting point.

Katie Fairhall, who runs Gosport-based cookie mix company Katie Bakes, says her love of cooking began at an early age and she often spends time in the kitchen with her two children.

‘It’s a life skill and will hopefully help them develop good cooking and eating habits. And of course it’s a lovely thing to do together,’ she says.

Katie sells baking ingredients in her cookie mix jars and party bags so everything is ready for families to get started. But she also has tips for those wanting to bake from scratch. Katie advises:

1. ‘Make it fun, Mess is inevitable and if you’re constantly worrying about that you’ll spoil it.’

2. ‘Keep the work age-appropriate. Under-fives love decorating biscuits and cupcakes or pizza bases. They can also roll things out and cut biscuits or sandwiches with cookie cutters. Stirring is also good, but make sure they have a small mixing spoon. Older children can get into measuring and cracking eggs, or even helping to choose recipes.’

3. ‘Use it to teach safe practices like washing your hands regularly and keeping pan handles away from surface edges.’

4. ‘Don’t be too controlling but supervise closely. And make sure you leave enough time.’

Strawberry shortbread

Serves four people

· You’ll need:

230g unsalted butter, soft

125g caster sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

250g plain flour

250g Sweet Eve strawberries

150g icing sugar

25g unsalted butter, softened

· What to do:

1. To make the shortbread dough, butter and line a baking tray with parchment. Cream the butter and the sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and then flour, a little at a time, until the dough is smooth.

2. Using a little flour, knead the dough and then roll to a thickness of just under 1cm. Cut the pieces out with cookie cutters. Place on some baking parchment. Clingfilm the tray and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

3. Make the icing by placing half of the hulled strawberries in a blender. Puree until smooth, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Put the icing sugar and butter into the blender and blend until pale and creamy. Re-add the strawberries and blend for a few seconds.

4. Take the tray out of the fridge and prick each of the shortbread biscuits with a fork.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes until the biscuits are golden.