LITTLE Luca picks up the colour-coded measuring spoons, carefully selects the correct one, and heaps a load of baking powder into his bowl.

Meanwhile, pre-schooler Amber cracks an egg like a pro - banging it on the side of a cup and letting the contents slide inside. She checks to make sure no shell has dropped in before beating it with a fork.

The children are the latest recruits to Little Bites Cookery School run by York mum of two Penelope Henderson from her home in Heworth.

Today, they are making olive and feta bites. They begin by washing hands, rolling up sleeves and putting on aprons.

York Press:

Luca mixes his dough then washes up with Amber

Penelope has set up a child-friendly kitchen in her own kitchen/dining room at the back of her end-terrace home. There are two small tables covered in a wipe-clean cloth and all the ingredients for the session are ready for the young chefs, pre-weighed out in small dishes.

As Luca and Amber work their way through the recipe, they are learning key skills, such as using scales, measuring with spoons, tearing, chopping and mixing. Penelope has special serrated knives which cut through produce but not skin, which give the kids (and the parents) the confidence to attack the cheese and olives in the recipe with gusto.

Luca is two years and nine months old and it is his first time at the class. He's been brought by his mum, Val Vladea, who says he loves food and cooking and that they make pancakes at home. She says: "His favourite toy since he was one year old has been a wooden knife and some toy fruit and veg."

Amber, aged four, has been to the cookery class a few times, and likes to go home and show her big sister Evie, seven, what she has made then teach her how to make it.

Mum Sinead Ash says: "She loves it. She talks about it all week. It is a real sense of achievement. She shows her sister how to do it, which is nice because she is then in charge. Also, the recipes can be done in under an hour, so it is an instant success."

Tutor Penelope, who is mum to Oliver, seven, and James, four, wants to teach her young charges more than how to cook and bake. At every opportunity, she asks them about the ingredients, and while the bites are in the oven, the children do a little activity, where they draw the olives and cheese in the recipe.

Penelope is a qualified nutritionist and home economist and has worked in the food industry. Her passion is to teach people about eating well - and she set up her cookery school for children last year to try to pass that message on as early as possible.

"There is a lost generation of young people who have difficulties cooking or even knowing where fruit and veg come from," says Penelope. "By having classes aimed at young children, the parents come along as well and get engaged in cooking. They take the recipes home and hopefully replicate them there."

Children learn to make a range of dishes, from dips and salads to soups, as well as sweet and savoury snacks and bakes.

Penelope says cooking in this environment can often encourage children who are fussy eaters to be more adventurous.

York Press:

Luca enjoys his feta and olive bite, and Amber takes them home to share with big sister Evie

Also, the earlier you encourage children to eat a wide variety of food, the better. "It sets in stone everything for life," begins Penelope. "They need to taste food ten times before they like it and when they try them in a group it does encourage them."

Val says she will bring Luca back next week. "It gives him confidence that he can do things on his own. It is really nice that everything is all laid out and he doesn't just start cracking six eggs from the fridge." And she says it's lovely that Luca listens to someone else in the kitchen. "It's also nice that I don't have to say: 'No, don't do that!'"

Sinead says the cookery class does make Amber more ambitious. "She made a stripy salad and it had spinach in it. She doesn't like spinach but she ate it when it was in her salad."


Olive and Feta Bites

These can be made using green and/or black olives or by using other strong cheese

(makes 3-4 bites)

What you need:

15g or 3 green or black olives

half an egg

35g plain flour

20g rye flour

3/4tsp baking powder

1-2tbsp milk

1tbsp rapeseed oil

15g feta cheese

What to do:

1. Ask a grown up to turn the oven to 200C. Place bun cases in your baking tray.

2. Weigh and mix all the dry ingredients together into a bowl (flours and baking powder).

3. Measure out the olives and chop or tear into small pieces and add to the mix.

4. Crack and beat the egg before adding to the mix along with the oil and milk.

5. Weigh the feta cheese and tear into small pieces into the bowl.

6. Mix everything together well. If too dry add a drop more milk.

7. Take a tablespoon of mix and place into paper bun liners.

8. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Little Bites Cookery School is for 3-5 year olds during term time (£6.50 per one-hour class) and for 5-11 yr olds during weekends and holidays in York (£14 for two-hour class). A new class will be held for 5-11 year olds on the first Sunday of each month. Find out more at or email or text 07768 207839.