Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance

After reading about their parent and child budget cookery sessions I approached Blackburn Central High School to see if they would like to take part in our seasonal community cook ups.  Just a telephone call later with pastoral lead Miriam Rathore explaining about the cook ups – ie focus on seasonal, local and budget and it was a date! Miriam explained about the work the school had been doing to promote nutritious food and help to develop food skills.


The schools approach to good food.

She explained “We are a very community led school here, food and cooking is something we have been focusing on for a while”  The school have been running out of school activities around food for some time now- tying it into family,  wellbeing and cost of living themes. “We became very aware that many families were not cooking from scratch and seemed to be lacking in basic cooking skills. Given that we know that cooking from scratch is far more nutritious, cheaper and healthier, we thought this was something we could offer to the community via our school. We are also proud that we offer everyone at school a free breakfast. That’s everyone not just children on free school dinners. You can’t be your best on a empty tummy can you” What a great place to run our next cook up. All of the work they are doing has not gone unnoticed and they recently won the BBC Together Award.


The Challenge

After briefing school chef Amanda Storey on the objectives of the cook ups she came up with a Jamie Oliver inspired recipe for feeding your family for under a fiver.

Squash & paneer bhaji flatbreads | Jamie Oliver recipes . Amanda is passionate about quality ingredients and the link between good food and health. The school use a local wholesaler for most of their produce and that wholesaler pride themselves on sourcing and supporting local. She also doesn’t let any food go to waste and ensures any perishable food over school closing time is given to families who need it.


If you click through to the link  to the recipe you will also see if you buy the ingredients online using Tesco the price came in at 95p per serving.  Could we match or better this cost by skipping the big supermarkets and supporting local? The challenge was set.


The September Cook Up.

When I arrived Miriam, Amanda and I set to work prepping the ingredients and making up 11 trays for 11 families to feed 44 people in total.


The workshop began with Amanda leading the lesson on showing how to prep and cook the ingredients. We needed to learn how to make both the bhaji’s and the flatbreads! Miriam and I talked about the work of the Food Alliance, the reason behind the workshops and, as we cooked, the families shared their experiences around their food choices.

Michael, Amy’s dad explained that they used to live in a very rural part of Scotland where it was commonplace to buy direct from farmers. “It’s only when we moved back to Blackburn and we became more busy that we became more reliant on the supermarket”


Filza’s and her mum told me that they recently discovered Kenyan Farm in Warrington and through strawberry picking they bought whatever they sell in the shop “Mostly potatoes, onions, and corn on the cobs. The taste is amazing, and you can’t really compare it to supermarket bought. It just doesn’t taste the same”.

An hour had passed and the session was coming to an end. It was so lovely to have watched each family work together as a team. I saw real bonding going on here and it was incredibly heart-warming to witness. Food really does bring people together. The bhajis looked very good and the sense of pride in the children was clear to see.


So back to the price challenge how did we do? In line with our mission, I endeavoured to source as much as possible from local suppliers. Being realistic however I did concede to Sainsburys for flour and olive oil. The bill was:


Scott Stewart £ 26.90 – More about Scott and his business here- Meet Scott aka Scott Stewart – Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance (

Asia Continental £ 20.14 – Retail and wholesale Asian foods- open to the public – see link below

Sainsbury £7.17


We catered for 11 families of 4 and so it came in at £4.92 – £1.23 per person.


Now you may be thinking that we didn’t beat Sainsbury’s price of £1.12. HOWEVER if you look at the shopping list closely there is no olive oil on that list!


As with all of our community cook ups, we supported local businesses and kept that money in our community. Everyone commented on the superior quality of ingredients.   Find out more about the benefits of buying local Putting a face to our food – Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance (


A huge thank you to Blackburn High school and in particular Miriam and Amanda for working with us.


You can find the recipe above and the ingredients were bought from: Squash & paneer bhaji flatbreads | Jamie Oliver recipes .

Scott Stewart: Blackburn Market open 6 days a week. If you can’t get to the market Scott will deliver within Blackburn and Darwen Facebook

Asia Continental:  Unit 7 Whallley Range, Boyle st, Blackburn BB1 6DG Facebook