Food & Action: Baking buddies (& soda bread recipe)

Karen Webb

In summer 2020, one of the churches we work with, in the Shankill area of Belfast, came to us with an idea of how to engage with children and families in the local estate. The idea was to give families an opportunity to work on something together and perhaps learn a new skill during lockdown.  Baking Buddies was born!

Each of the 13 families who registered an interest received a baking box that contained everything they needed to bake – mixing bowls, wooden spoon, weighing scales, measuring spoons, rolling pin, and baking tray.  Then each week they could access a ‘how to’ video explaining the week’s recipe, while also receiving a bag of ingredients, which the local community police delivered each week.

Initially, the project was for four weeks in September, and at the end of it, we were able to have a celebration with certificates for each participant and a Bible-based talk for children, using the same puppets from the videos. This celebration went really well, and although we were restricted due to COVD-19, we still managed to celebrate their achievements and, for many of the children, the first time they had baked anything.

The project was such a success that we agreed to revisit it for Christmas with two weeks of special Christmas bakes. The puppets were of course dressed appropriately for Christmas and this time we had 18 families involved.

In January, we learnt that the Belfast City Council were willing to fund the project for a further four weeks. This meant 4 more videos of ‘how to bake’ and four more weeks of ingredients to families via the community police. So, from mid-February to mid-March 2021, during another local lockdown, we have been able to enable 17 families to bake together!

Why do we do it?

Baking Buddies gives us the opportunity to build good relationships with the local community and for those families involved to see the church as somewhere that cares about them and encourages families to have fun together.  It has also been amazing to see the patience and willingness of the community police to deliver the ingredients each week. This gives them an opportunity to engage with the local community in a really positive way too. Before lockdown, we delivered school assemblies in the local schools using the puppets. Baking Buddies gave us the opportunity to let the children see the puppets in another activity.Once the families had finished baking, they could send their photos of the finished product to the church, to be put onto their Facebook page. One of the favourite recipes was Easy Soda Bread, which could also be used for pizzas.

We are now seeking funding to deliver Baking Buddies in other estates we work in as it has been such a success in building relationships and hopefully, when lockdown eases, we can meet for some more celebration days.

Recipe: Easy Soda Bread

  • 350g (12oz) plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 285ml (½ pint) buttermilk
Method (or watch the video below!):
  1. Sieve the flour with the bicarbonate of soda and salt into your baking bowl.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour the buttermilk into it.
  3. Mix until it forms a dough.
  4. Place the ball of dough onto a floured baking tray and cut a deep cross in the top. This helps the bread to cook all through.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C (350°F) for about 30 mins until pale golden colour and the base sounds hollow when you knock it. Place on a wire rack to cool.
  6. OR, instead of a loaf of bread, you can break it into smaller balls of dough and roll out into a round shape for the pizza base.
  7. Cover with tomato sauce and cheese and place in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for about 15min

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