By guest blogger CRACKING COOK AVRIL POVAH
The sun was shining as Adele and I set off over the Pennines to Bradford on Monday 24 May. We were going to see the latest Jamie's Ministry Of Food centre, opened by Jamie Oliver following his famous TV programme of the same name. The first opened up in another Yorkshire town, Rotherham, which was highlighted in the show as being one the “fattest” places in England, and we were keen to learn how people were being inspired to get back into the kitchen to cook good wholesome meals instead of eating takeaways and ready meals.
Jamie's Ministry Of Food centres are council funded and their kitchen costs, whatever they may be, are outweighed against the long-term savings in treating obesity in their respective areas. The centres are centrally positioned right in the heart of the towns so local people just passing by can pop in to learn the basics of cooking and how to make good simple meals on a tight budget, or just get friendly advice on recipes, shopping, nutrition, equipment, and local and seasonal ingredients.
Soraya Overend, the project manager at Bradford, made us feel very welcome, showing us the ultra modern and sleek kitchen, perfectly designed with cookery classes in mind. She explained that they offer 10-week cooking programmes covering a range of meals from simple egg dishes to homemade soups, pasta and pizza, and roast dinners. People from all walks of life can learn how to cook quick, simple, healthy and cost-effective meals in just one hour, and the “pass it on” strategy encourages them to tell their friends and family all about it. One lesson is just £4 and you get to eat the food afterwards, either at the centre or to take home.
We arrived early to ask Soraya (pictured on the left, with me on the right and Adele reflected in the window!) how it all started and how it’s going, then joined the Week 5 group for a Thai green curry lesson. Some of the participants had popped in during their work lunch break - what a great idea: learning a new skill and getting fed too! Soraya explained all the ingredients we were using for the Thai green curry - we even had fresh seasonal asparagus to cook with - and demonstrated how to make a Thai green curry paste. There was lots of herb smelling, and we were all hooked on the fresh lemon grass and coriander. We picked from a choice of chicken, prawns or Quorn (which Adele plumped for immediately), then we were let loose on the induction hobs to prepare our stir fries. When we tucked into our creations afterwards, all the fresh flavours came flooding through - it was absolutely delicious!
The next Jamie's Ministry Of Food centre opens in the centre of Leeds this month, and I hope it's as successful as the others. Please come to Manchester, Jamie!
Avril works for Nutrimens and The Sunshine Cafe in Sale. She is also on Cracking Good Food's team of Cracking Cooks and will be running a public session called Tasty Salads With Pulses'n'grains on Tuesday 22 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm). All details on the June and July sessions, which cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions), are on the Cracking Good Food website here.