Cooking Club

Cooking Club
Delicious and Nutritious!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Very Positive Cooking Club Story......

.....A conversation at Cooking Club between Jill (Tutor) and Ese (Volunteer Participant)........

Ese…“I have lost 2 st 4lbs in the last 6 months!”

Jill…..”Wow, Ese that’s amazing. Tell us your strategy”

Ese: “I have a dietician who is based at The Maudesly Hospital. She works out a plan and weight-loss targets with me. My aim is to go down to 10 st.
I have already gone from 22st to 19 st.10lbs.
I have cut out a lot of processed foods: No biscuits, No cake, No chocolate or sweet fizzy drinks. I now drink pure sparkling water instead.
I have been eating smaller portions at mealtimes and now my stomach has got used to it so I don’t crave more.”

Jill: “Another  tip is to drink a large glass of water 30 minutes before a meal. As well as being very healthy, it makes your stomach feel full up. It’s better to drink water before a meal than with a meal because water with a meal will dilute your gastric juices and make it harder for your body to digest the food.
Has coming to Cooking Club helped?”

Ese: “I have learned a lot from coming to Cooking Club. It has got me to like vegetables and I use the mint tea recipe we learned to make which helps my heartburn. I mostly ate processed carbohydrates, sugars and a bit of fruit before but now my diet contains a lot of fresh vegetables and salads. We cook with vegetables I just didn’t know about before, such as, sweet potatoes, coriander leaves, fennel and beetroot. I didn’t know that sweet potatoes are more suitable for diabetics than regular potatoes. I have noticed my tastes changing and things I used to eat like chocolate biscuits are too sweet to me now.
 I get a lot of tips and nutritional information which I take on board. I have started to copy quite a lot of our recipes at home.
I have been inspired by all the water-based smoothies we make and I make them at home now.
I have started going to a walking group once a week, too.”

Jill….”Have you seen any health improvements, apart from the weight loss?”

Ese….”Yes. I am now away from the threat of diabetes. I was on the borderline before. My blood pressure and cholesterol are good.
Also, no more backache and joint pains. This means that I can begin exercising. I now go to a walking group for a one hour group walk around Ruskin Park once a week. It’s organised by Peckham Pulse.
I generally move about more than I did because it’s not painful anymore. I used to be an athlete so I am really keen to return to running. There was a time I couldn’t think about that.

Cooking Club is nice. It’s social as well as therapeutic. We chat while we prepare food. Because it’s relaxing, we feel open and have a rapport. We enjoy good conversations while we cook.” 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

My Big Healthy Breakfast - Bubble 'n Squeak

Bubble and Squeak is a traditional British working-class dish - usually made from yesterday's left-overs: mashed potatoes and green vegetables. Food didn't get wasted - it would be re-imagined into the next meal. 
As Cooking Club happens one day a week, we have no our B&S has to be made fresh.
First, we washed, chopped and boiled potatoes. We left their skins on for extra vitamins and minerals.

Put into a large pan, cover with cold water, add a little salt and a few herbs and allow to boil until soft.
Meanwhile, finely chop onions (and a little garlic if you like).

Add to some olive oil to "sweat" in a large frying pan. "Sweating" means heating the onions on a low heat for a long time until they become shiney, see-through, soft and sweetly flavoured,(approx 10 mins)
At this point, still on a low heat, add the greens. We used spinach, but kale, cabbage,cavallo nero, chard are all options.
When the potatoes are soft, remove from the hob and strain away the water. 
Put them in a bowl and drizzle on olive oil (or butter), black pepper and salt to taste. We like to add some grated nutmeg as it goes well with the other flavours.
Mash well.
Add the mash into the frying pan with the onions and greens. Mix them up well together.
Turn up the heat. keep turning and checking it isn't burning. The idea is to get the bubble and squeak brown and crunchy on each side. You will need to turn it regularly.
Thank you to Jeff Crownson for the photos.


Today we made quick and easy pizzas using pitta bread as a base. This is a very accessible way to begin making your own homemade versions. 
You can choose whatever toppings you fancy......Each member of cooking club designed their own bespoke topping selections.
(If you decide to use green leaves like spinach, basil  or rocket - just be sure to add them at the bottom layers otherwise they dry up in the oven.)

Photos by Jeff Crownson.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Soda bread has become a staple of Cooking Club meals. It is very popular with our participants as it's scrumptious, cheap and incredibly quick and easy to make....... So much so that the group can turn out batches now without any help from the tutor.

It takes only 10 minutes to mix the dough and approx 30 minutes to bake in the oven. It has no preservatives or added sugars and can  last for a few days in a cool place.
Here's how.........

Ingredients: (1 loaf)

500g plain or self-raising flour
400ml milk/soya/almond/coconut/hemp milks
1 teaspoon  salt
1 teaspoon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda


*Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C
*Grease a loaf or cake tin and line inside with greaseproof paper

*Measure out all the ingredients and sift the flour through a sieve.

*In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking soda

*Slowly start adding the milk and stir together and then use clean hands to  the mixture into a ball of dough

*Place the ball of dough lightly in the grease-proofed cake tin and mark a cross on the top with a knife (this is the traditional Irish way of presenting the loaf)

*Bake in the oven for approx. 30 mins.
*You can test if it is ready by pushing a  knife into the centre of the loaf. If it comes out clean, the loaf is cooked through. If it has sticky residue then place the loaf back in the oven for more baking. (Test regularly.)

*Allow to cool for 10 minutes then cut the loaf into segments and serve warm with butter... can add extras to  the to flour give your loaf a variety of flavours: dried herbs, cinnamon and raisins, cheese, walnuts, sundried tomatoes,.........lovely with soups as well......

Thank you to Jeff Crownson for the photographs.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

My Big Healthy Breakfast - Homemade Baked Beans


.............They're easy! tasty! healthy!

 PREP TIME:     5 mins
COOK TIME     35 mins
TOTAL TIME    40 mins


1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
Half an onion (finely sliced)
¼ - ½ tsp(depending on taste) mild smoked paprika
300g passata
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 300g (195g ) tinned haricot beans (drained)


Heat oil in a sauce pan over a medium heat.
Add the garlic and onion. Allow to sizzle but be careful not to burn.
Reduce heat to low, add the smoked paprika and stir.
Add the passata and puree and then simmer for around 20 mins (until the sharp taste of tomato has gone and the sauce has thickened.)
Add the beans and simmer for a further 10 mins.

Cooking Club: My Big Healthy Breakfast - Braised Portobello Mushrooms

If you  want to make a healthy big breakfast and substitute the usual bacon and sausages with something vegetarian, try those huge Portobello mushrooms instead. 
They are now readily available in street markets and supermarkets. They are delicious, nutritious and have a "meaty" texture.
We braised ours in the oven in a baking tray and served one per person but for a really big breakfast you could have two! (They are not very calorific) :

Sprinkle mushrooms with seasoning.
Drizzle with olive oil and a little water to keep them moist in the oven.
You can add other ingredients such as chopped garlic, cheese, pesto.
bake in a pre-heated oven on 175 /gas mark 4 for 25 minutes or until the mushrooms are juicy and brown. You can save the liquid to make into a stock or sauce.

Thank you to Jeff Crownson for taking photos.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


After many  chats (usually whilst chopping the veg) about the importance of a healthy, hearty breakfast to all aspects of our well-being - the group decide to make a vegetarian version of the traditional "British/Irish" big breakfast. 
We substitute bacon/sausages with the large Portobello Mushrooms - braised whole in the oven for succulent, "savoury fleshiness".
Instead of chips or fried brownies, we will make a Bubble 'n Squeak to introduce greens such as spinach, kale or cabbage.
We will make our own baked beans so we can exclude sugar and excessive salt from the sauce and therefore include people with diabetes and high blood pressure.
The group were given the choice of having  scrambled or poached eggs instead of fried and they opted for scrambled......we usually serve meals to a lot of CoolTan users so scrambled eggs will go further.
Our regular favourite, soda bread was voted for. It's so quick and easy to make fresh and very delicious.
To add some vitamin C.....and keep calories down, we decide to make our own fresh orange and mint juice.  
We will be posting up recipe methods in pictorial form so they will be very clear to follow.