Part of my role at the Food Alliance is to not only develop a greater connection between those who produce food locally and those who consume it, but also to develop food related skills and knowledge in the community.
So when I was thinking about how to do this I came up with the idea of “Seasonal Community Cook ups”. Basically promoting the use of local seasonal produce, bought, as far as possible from local producers to local established groups in our community. Could we bust the myth that buying local has to cost more and is unachievable? The rising cost of food is very much a focus for us all so I cant think of a better time than now to do this.
And so I set off to identify “host” community groups with kitchens and ideally a cook/chef – let it be known that although I thoroughly appreciate good food, I am not known for my cookery skills! Anyway, I digress.
The aims of this series of Seasonal Community Cook Ups are to:
- Continue to promote local food producers and get the message out as much as possible as to why this is so important.
- Why eating seasonal is better for us on so many levels.
- Can we bust the myth that buying local has to be more expensive?
- Promote cooking skills and bring people together with a positive focus which is FOOD- we all eat right?
So to kick off the series I started with Nightsafe. For those who don’t know Nightsafe is a young people’s homeless charity in Blackburn. They have a hostel in the centre of Blackburn and several dispersed supported living projects across Blackburn and Darwen. I was introduced to Adam who had recently qualified as a chef from Blackburn College. I briefed Adam on what we were wanting to achieve and asked could he help us with this? The answer was a very loud “YES”.
I asked him to look at what is in season for July/August and to plan menus around this. He and Jane from Nightsafe together came up with the menu
Carrot & Coriander Soup
Then I sourced the ingredients. I initially set myself the challenge of not using a supermarket at all and to only buy from those I have met so far on this journey of discovering the good food producers. After checking in with myself I decided this was slightly unrealistic, after all it was just tinned tomatoes, flour and pre made meringue nests I had left to buy. I had kept the sourcing of the fresh goods to local businesses and kept with the ethos as much as possible about keeping the pound local.
The ingredients were worked out to feed 20 people.
Scott Stewart: 2 kg carrots, 7 onions, 7 potatoes, large bunch of coriander, 3 yellow peppers, 3 red peppers, 3 courgettes, 300g young spinach leaves, 1 kg strawberries Total : £31
Pulford Farm Dairy: 2 litres and 1 pint of milk , 400g cheese, 200 g pack of butter, 1 kg Natural yogurt Total: £12.40
Morrisons: 500g plain flour, 6 cans chopped tomatoes, 240g grated mozzarella, 6 meringue nests, 1 pack of lasagna sheets £7.78
Earth Evolution: Remember this is a refill shop so you can buy exactly what you need for each dish and so that’s what I did. I bought bird nest friendly olive oil, rapeseed oil, ground coriander, organic veg bouillon and chilli flaked Total: £2.77
= £53.95 = £2.69 per head
£2.69 for the ingredients for a 3 course meal!! Made from quality, local produce!
Why do we keep banging on about local? Putting a face to our food – Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance (bwdfoodalliance.org.uk)
I arrived at Nightsafe for 10 am to meet Adam who was already in the kitchen in his chef whites and prepping the vegetables. I was introduced to Cat who works at Nightsafe and was helping in the kitchen. We all worked together to get the food cooked by mid day when Nightsafe opens up for lunch drop in every Wednesday 12-2. I chatted with a couple of the young service users about food and their relationship with it and was not surprised to get feedback about how important food is ,not only for physical but also mental wellbeing. These guys knew!
A young man called Keiran went on to show me the new pans he had just bought- he was so proud and told me he couldn’t wait to start using them. I asked him to keep in touch and maybe show me what he’s cooked in his new professional pans!
At one point I asked Adam if I could help him with the veg prep he replied “No its ok thanks. I like it. It my calming practice, it’s my mindfulness- I’m in my element” How wonderful is that??!!!
The morning went really quickly. The energy was vibrant and one of kindness, cooperation and curiosity. When it came to serving everyone seemed to enjoy the food and anything that was left over was taken to the dispersed accommodation . Nothing is ever wasted.
The first cook up went really well, and I put this down to the welcoming and embracing staff at Nightsafe and the very talented Adam. So a huge thank you to Adam and all of you at Nightsafe.
Creating a good food movement in Blackburn and Darwen will only work through collaboration and buy in from people at a community level. There is a statistic doing the rounds on social media at the moment that if every adult spent just £5 per week in their local shops and businesses this would generate £135 billion to go back into our towns. Through buying local and eating seasonal we are strengthening our local economy, our local community, our wellbeing and reducing the impact on our environment.
Next up is Blackburn High School on the 27th September……..