From Dad and kids, with love

I love the idea of cooking with young children. Teamwork, sharing special moments, introducing young, impressionable minds to new ingredients and exotic flavours. Yeah, right. It's really about managing expectations, making sure tasks are divvied up in a way everyone thinks is ''fair'' (impossible) and finding jobs for people when there clearly aren't any. It's about standing back and surveying your kitchen afterwards and not calling the Department of Human Services on yourself. It's about food, yes, but it's also about your kids not ending up with third- degree burns or horrific knife injuries.

Mother's Day is a chance for dads everywhere to be stoic, to go into patient culinary battle with their children and whip up something wonderful for mum in the kitchen. And do all the dishes at the end.

In short, it's time to spoil mum and give her the day off. For inspiration, we spoke to three chefs to find out how they make it work at home.

Neil Perry

Dark and dense

Chef dad: Neil Perry, Rockpool

Children: Josephine (19), Macy (9) and Indy (7)

Mum: Samantha

Dish: Flourless chocolate cake

Degree of difficulty: 3/5


Growing up at Bald Face Point on the Georges River, Neil Perry's Mother's Day usually involved a roast chicken or lamb. Now with three children of his own, he's keeping the tradition alive, on the balcony at his Rose Bay home, with a Burrawong free-range roast chicken lunch.

His youngest children, Macy and Indy, are most interested in what comes next, though: a flourless chocolate cake that Perry has been doing since ''the Barrenjoey House days'', in 1984. ''They help out but mainly that's trying to eat as much of the batter as they possibly can.''

The key to getting the recipe right, says Perry, is creating a nice, firm peak with the egg whites and cream and then folding them delicately through the chocolate mix, losing as little air as you possibly can.

''It's almost like a chocolate souffle, really, in that it rises in the oven and just sets, so it's a beautiful, moist, dense chocolate cake you just serve with a bit of whipped cream.''

Neil Perry cake

Chocolate cake

6 egg yolks

150g castor sugar

50ml Cointreau

400g couverture or dark chocolate

6 egg whites

300ml cream (35 per cent butterfat), whipped to firm peaks

icing sugar, for dusting

cream (35 per cent butterfat), whipped

1. Preheat oven to 140C. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit a round 20 centimetre cake tin. Spray with oil and put the paper in the tin.

2. Beat the egg yolks and 100 grams of sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the Cointreau and continue beating.

3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water. Don’t let the water boil in the pot or you will scald the chocolate. Cool the chocolate to room temperature.

4. Whisk the egg whites separately in a very clean bowl and, when soft peaks start to form, slowly add theremaining sugar. Whip until very firm.

5. Add the cooled chocolate to the egg yolks and stir until completely incorporated. Take a quarter of the whipped cream and egg whites and fold through the chocolate mix until well incorporated. Add the rest of the cream and egg whites and fold through carefully.

6. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, place in a bain-marie filled halfway up the mould with hot water, and bake for 1½ hours.

7. Turn off the oven and open the oven door, wedge it with a wooden spoon and allow the cake to cool for two hours.

8. Run a knife around the edges of the tin. Dip the cake tin in hot water for 20 seconds and turn it over on to a plate – it should slide out easily.  Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream.

Serves 8

Gnocchi D'Sylva

Grandma's gnocchi

Chef dad: Adam D'Sylva, Coda and Tonka

Children: Ava (4) and Javier (2)

Mum: Lauren

Dish: Gnocchi with an heirloom tomato, pea, garlic and fresh basil sauce

Degree of difficulty: 3/5

Mother's Day used to be just another busy day in the restaurant for Adam D'Sylva. Now it's about cooking for his wife Lauren at home with their two young children, Ava and Javier. ''Gnocchi's been a bit of a theme because the kids love making it and it's something I used to make with my grandma, and my mum.'' Boil standard potatoes (nothing too waxy) in their skins until tender. This reduces wastage from peeling and keeps them nice and dry in the centre. Use a potato ricer to ensure you don't get lumps in your gnocchi and, once you combine the mashed potato with flour (D'Sylva doesn't use egg, preferring a lighter, fluffier gnocchi), give your kids a piece of their own dough to work on.

This is the first year the youngest, Javier, has started to contribute, says dad, but these days Ava likes to take control of things, handing him potatoes, putting them through the ricer, bringing the dough together, kneading and cutting. ''I assist her along with that, without giving her too much, without getting her too upset. She doesn't like me taking jobs off her.''


Nonna's gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes

1kg desiree (organic) potatoes, unpeeled

250g plain (organic) flour, plus extra for dusting

3 cloves Australian garlic

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil [[how much]]

500g heirloom tomatoes

100g shelled peas

sea salt flakes

freshly ground black pepper

3 sprigs basil

2 balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella

1. Cover potatoes with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes became soft (test with a skewer). Drain well and set aside to cool. Peel the potatoes and place through a potato ricer.

2. Add flour to potatoes and bring mixture together, be careful not to add too much flour as the gnocchi will become too hard.

3. Lightly flour bench and roll out dough. Cut dough into strips and roll in to logs. Cut into desired size.

4. In a pot, sweat the garlic with olive oil until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and peas and cook for a few minutes, until the tomatoes and peas are slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, season well with salt, and add the gnocchi. As they cook, the gnocchi will rise to the surface. Cook for a further 15 seconds then removeand add to sauce.

6. Tear mozzarella and scatter evenly over the gnocchi and serve with basil.

Serves 6

Shane Delia

Berry berry nice

Chef dad: Shane Delia, Maha

Children: Jayda (5) and Jude (1)

Mum: Maha

Dish: Pancakes with butterscotch strawberries

Degree of difficulty: 2/5

For Shane Delia and his children, Mother's Day means letting Maha sleep in, digging out the present they've hidden and making pancakes with strawberries. ''Jayda loves strawberries, mum loves pancakes, so it's a good mix of both.''

Delia says the trick is not to make your pancakes too sweet. Sift the flour to add lightness, use fresh eggs and beat them well, add a little bit of sugar and salt, plus a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to help the lift. He also likes to use butter and olive oil in a non-stick pan that isn't too hot. ''Then you get a nice crunch on the pancake and I think that's the best bit.''

Jayda helps chop the strawberries and, using the same pan, dad cooks them with some butter and castor sugar, adding a splash of brandy to flambe and a dollop of cream to get a beautiful caramel/butterscotch sauce. ''I just pour that beautiful butter sauce with the strawberries over the top with a scoop of ice-cream and bang, done.'' Oh and for the record, this chef doesn't flip his pancakes. ''I'm not stuffing around - it's at home. If I drop that thing I have to clean it.''


Pancakes with strawberries

2 cups self-raising flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of sugar

pinch of sea salt

2 whole eggs

1 1/2 cups full cream milk

1/4 vanilla pod

knob of butter

Strawberry topping

1 punnet of strawberries, cleaned and cut in to quarters

100g butter

100g sugar

100ml brandy

1 cinnamon quill

100ml cream

1. To make the strawberry topping, caramelise (lightly brown) sugar and butter in a pan then add the strawberries. Flambe by pouring on the brandy and flaming it with a match, when flame has died, add the cinnamon. Add the cream, and gently reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon

2. To make the pancakes, sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and mix to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and whisk together with cream and seeds from the vanilla pod.

4. Fold the dry ingredients through the egg and milk mix and whisk until smooth.

5. Warm a pan and addthe butter.

6. Pour the batter in to a pan and cook on a low to medium heat until golden brown on both sides.

7. Top the pancakes with the strawberries and serve with a scoop of ice-cream.