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Food & Action: Baking boxes for homeless women (& shortbread recipe)

Aderemi Amusa, 11 June 2021

Hi, I am Aderemi Amusa, the Catering Coordinator at the Marylebone Project. I have been a chef for over 20 years and, yes, I know I do not look it! I love cooking and enjoying creating a dish just from simple ingredients. Food puts a smile on people’s faces and is a very sociable pastime. My mum is an amazing cook which is where my love of cooking comes from. She is Filipino, so I really enjoy South East Asian style food.

In my role at the Marylebone Project, I am responsible for supervising, assigning tasks, and training Time For God Volunteers and external volunteer cooks in the newly refurbished Drop-In Day Centre kitchen.

Aderemi teaching chopping skills in the Munch kitchenThe Marylebone Project is the largest women-only homelessness service in London. It provides 112 beds and a Drop-in Centre offering showers, laundry, clothing store, computer access, breakfast, lunch, support, advice, and a nurse drop-in.

We run two enterprises: Space in Marylebone, our meeting room venue and Munch in Marylebone, our catering enterprise. Both enterprises offer educational activities, the opportunity to gain qualifications, and volunteering opportunities for service users to gain work experience.

Munch offers training and opportunities for the ladies of the Marylebone Project and Drop-In-Centre to gain valuable catering, hospitality, and employability skills required in the industry. As a social enterprise, we aim to run a sustainable business that provides the ladies at the Marylebone Project with skills and training needed for employment and to support the overall aims of the Marylebone Project.

Munch provides homemade food prepared with the ladies for corporate lunches, bespoke menus, and events throughout London. We also support them with healthy eating recipes and basic cooking skills for those not confident in the kitchen.

I am passionate about cooking and enjoy passing my knowledge to the ladies at the Marylebone Project, and hope they enjoy learning new skills, tasting new dishes, and cooking recipes they have never tried or would like to learn. Cooking gives them a chance to be creative, is a therapeutic activity, and a useful life-skill. Sharing recipes from their culture with me and the other ladies is always inspiring.

Everyone has their own tasks, which come together to make the final dishes, bringing such a sense of achievement for them (especially when we cater for events) which I enjoy experiencing.

I enjoy improving people’s opportunities and watching their confidence grow. Kitchen skills help you be organised, work as a team, manage time, be creative, and learn about healthy eating.I love empowering the ladies who would not have had the opportunity to think about working in hospitality. Instead of just thinking of it as an idea, I enjoy the challenge of trying to take it further if they have that interest and passion, and help them to get to their goal!

During lockdown, due to the unfortunate temporary closing of the meeting rooms, we have been providing meals, vegetable boxes, healthy eating leaflets, and baking packs.

The baking packs were hugely beneficial during lockdown as they gave the women an activity to focus on and learn about how to use the kind food donations from FareShare, in a healthy and affordable way with little time spent on cooking.

The recipes are usually based on what food was donated that week, and then, with inspiration taken from recipe books, I adapt the recipes to the ingredients we have to hand.

Recipes are mostly healthy and fresh, with minimal preparation, only a few steps written in simple words as, for some of the ladies, English is not their first language.

I found pictures were helpful as this gave them before and after images to work towards. This was helpful for ladies who were not familiar with cooking or use to cooking with the ingredients provided in the boxes.

So far Munch has distributed over 300 baking boxes during lockdown!

Some of the recipes the women have cooked up are Pumpkin, Spinach, & Sage Spaghetti, Pancake Day Pancakes, and Vegetable Curry with cauliflower, courgette, aubergine, and pepper.

Here’s one of the treat recipes for you to try!

Recipe: Orange Spiced Shortbread (cooking time: 30-45 mins)

Bag of ingredients with recipe on for shortbread

Ingredients: (makes 16-20 squares)
• 85g caster sugar (sifted)
• 300g plain flour (sifted)
• 1tsp ground ginger
• 1tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼tsp mixed spice
• Orange zest from ½ an orange
• 250g butter (cold, diced)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/375°F/Gas Mark 4
2. Mix the sugar, flour ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon in a bowl until combined.
3. Using clean hands. Add the cold butter and rub in until it resembles breadcrumbs.
4. If the butter starts to become too soft, put bowl back into the fridge to harden.
5. Cut away the orange segment, just leaving the peel.
6. Grate the zest only into the flour mix.
7. Put your mix into a baking tray. Using the back of a spoon, press mix down gently.
8. Bake on middle shelf 30–35 mins or until a pale golden-brown colour.
9. Cool down for 10 mins, then cut into 16-20 pieces.
10. If you like, sprinkle with icing sugar, caster sugar, or more orange zest
11. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Orange spiced shortbread

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