We all know that cooking is an essential life skill, and Rob and Melissa have showed off a few skills of their own to our Youth Service taiohi!
Taking to Microsoft Teams to don the roles of Chef Manu and Andreoli, the two have been hosting virtual cooking sessions - Te Kai a te Manu - over the last few weeks, talking our rangatahi through the process of making simple but delicious meals so they can cook for themselves and the people in their lives.
"We devised it as a way for our young people to be able to provide for themselves and give back" Rob explains. "Some of them are in flatting or homestay arrangements, so we're hoping to teach them an essential skill that will let them make something nice for both themselves and those that they may be living with. They're always proud of what they've managed to make so it's quite a good boost for them too".
With the recipe and all the ingredients needed supplied to our taiohi by Rob and the team, on the menu in the most recent session was mac and cheese, a quick and easy meal that is always sure to please.
After a quick karakia to open the session, Rob talked our rangatahi through the recipe step by step, giving a few tips and tricks along the way so everyone could get amongst it.
First up was boiling the macaroni, and adding a bit of salt before giving it a good stir and leaving to simmer. The all-important cheese was then grated to begin the sauce in a separate pan "The base of any sauce is called roux" Melissa explains. Before delicately chopping up onions, Rob shows us a trick. "If you get a mouthful of water and let it sit in your mouth while you cut up onions, there'll be no tears as you chop!"
Next, the bacon. Always packed with flavour, this joined the onion and a knob of butter in the sauce. Also on hand to kick it up a notch was mustard and some flour to add to the mix, "Flour is like an activator, it helps with thickening things, and mustard really pulls flavours out and into the sauce. Four cups of milk were then added, after which our sauce was really nice and thick. Parsley is also a winner too in this particular dish, and luckily Rob had his daughter on hand to pick some from his home garden.
"I'm actually doing decent at this!" exclaimed taiohi Isaiah as he proudly showed us his sauce and pasta simmering away.
The next step was to add salt, half the cheese, tomatoes and parsley. The team were lucky enough to be able to use tomatoes grown by Rob's wife- can't get fresher than that!
A few flatties got amongst it as well, making appearances in the background grabbing various ingredients and taking over stirring duty from time to time while providing words of encouragement and support.
The final step of course was to drain the pasta, place it in a big oven dish, and spoon the cheese sauce over the macaroni, sprinkle the rest of the cheese over, and then bake at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown on top.
While this week's session had just two participants, the mood was great amongst everyone and the pace was perfect. When doing things virtually there's always the risk of getting left behind because of technical difficulties or the inability to have a clear view on where everybody is at, but this wasn't an issue today and everybody kept up nicely and communication was clear. Ka rawe guys! It looks fantastic, bon appétit!
Note: Our taiohi have given permission for us to show their names and faces for the purposes of this story.