Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance


A huge thank you to Peter Stead and his level 1 hospitality students at Blackburn College for the effort that went to for our third community cook up. Peter used the cook up experience as a research project for the students and  spent a few weeks leading up to the event integrating into  his lessons the theme of the cook ups with his own spin on it; “Encouraging home cooking, identifying local producers, sourcing, preparing local food stuffs. Cooking to a budget and encouraging the students to look at the food history and diversification of the region.”

He gave the students a brief of; Prepare a 2 course meal using the following criteria; Budget £2.69, sourced within a 20 miles radius  of Blackburn, preferably seasonal and using local producers. 

Peter said “ I see events like this as an opportunity to develop the students skill sets even further by developing an holistic approach to food and culture by looking closer at what’s available around Blackburn and Darwen.”

I arrived at the college in the morning and was introduced to the first class which was split into four teams.  They were all on time, ready in their chef whites, hands washed and just got straight to work. It was all very well organised.  Some class members were unfortunately absent which left 2 teams down to 1 but it certainly did not dampen the spirit!  The teams and menus were:

  • William, Callum and Mackenzie: Garlic bread, followed by fishcakes and chips
  • Daisy: Spaghetti Carbonara and semolina
  • Alf and Toby: Onion Bhajis, Custard tarts and fruit merengues
  • Victoria: Chocolate brownies


I was impressed with how efficient and professional it all looked. The students had their recipes at the ready and were collecting their ingredients all in a manner that showed they had done this before!

I spent time with each team asking their whys about the menus and what they had discovered along the way about the reasons for shopping local and seasonal. Alf told me his chose onion bhajis because he really liked them and he also knew how much cheaper it was to make your own especially if you were sourcing home grown produce. He proudly told me that his onions cost nothing because they were out of the garden. In all he got his costing to 52p and that was to feed four! After cooking their menus and cleaning up each team got on with costing out their menus, we sadly ran out of time for everyone to fully complete this exercise, but it is safe to say all 4 teams definitely came in under budget!

An hour later and it was time for the second team to come through. These were

  • Caitlin and Katie: Shortbread and brownies
  • Keaton : Autumnal lentil and tomato sweet potato cottage pie, followed by apple and plum crumble and custard
  • Katie and Liam: Garlic bread and pizza


Keaton had already prepared his dishes at home and had sourced his own ingredients. So I got the opportunity to talk to him about his understanding of why we were doing this. It was so lovely to see a young man talk so eloquently about the importance of eating seasonal and supporting local. “My mum shops local as much as possible.  I got most of my ingredients for this meal from Scott Stewart on Blackburn market and a small amount local to me. It’s so important to support local businesses, its healthier and its cheaper!”


The format for this cook up was totally different from the others. I let Peter’s students lead in the direction that suited them and it was heart warming to witness the conversations taking place. Even though we didn’t get a thorough breakdown of costings for each meal it was clear that they all came in under target and it was clear all of the students knew and understood the importance of the theme.  And ultimately that is what its all about!

Thank you Peter and Blackburn college but most of all thank you to all the young people who made the day what it was.  I hope your adventure with food continues and a passion for local produce  anchors into everything you do.