Learning to cook

We’re delighted to have our Hastings project featured in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer. Please click on the image to be taken to the article on their website.

Featured as a story in BBC News on 1st January 2018.

Free cookery classes are helping people make healthy meals for no more than £1 a portion.

Bags of Taste is teaching hundreds of people how to cook new dishes and make their money go further.

Filmed, edited and produced by Emily France; additional filming by Charlotte Pritchard.

Watch the video if you haven’t!

Cooking classes for people on low budgets, with recipes designed to cost less than £1 a head – and you can take away a £3 bag of ingredients to serve four people at home.

Read full article here.

Today’s students range from teenagers in Nike tracksuits and white sport socks to pensioners. We take our seats in front of a table set up with a small portable stove and a chopping board. A teacher wearing a red striped apron welcomes everyone and the class begins.

“Today we’ll be making chili sin carne and sticky fried rice,” she says, first showing us how to sweat chopped onions on a low heat with garlic.

The teacher is Alicia Weston, a think tank researcher who set up the Bags of Tastecookery class with funding from the West Hackney Parochial Charity. The aim is to help those living on low incomes in East London eat healthily and save money. All classes are free to attend and feature a cookery demonstration, followed by a chance for students to split into smaller groups and recreate the dish themselves. At the end of the class, everyone sits down together to enjoy what they have cooked. Students are also offered a bag containing the ingredients to make four portions of the day’s recipe at home for £3.

Eating well for a quid sounds impossible but Weston hopes to show people that through bulk buying, identifying the best supermarket offers, and swapping more expensive ingredients such as red meat for chickpeas, it is possible to reduce food costs.

“Iceland sells the cheapest chopped tomatoes,” she tells us as she empties a can into the frying onions. Later on in the class, she shows us a diagram that illustrates why it’s better to buy large bottles of soy sauce, rather than lots of small ones.

As the tomato sauce for the chili sin carne begins to reduce, Weston adds paprika and cumin. Volunteer Linda, who has been assisting in the demonstration, shares some of her own advice on preventing food waste and saving money.

“You can keep onions in the freezer,” she tells the class. “I chop whole bags of them, my husband comes downstairs and I’m crying my eyes out holding a knife—he gets quite worried.”

After the demonstration, the students break into groups to try the recipe themselves. I watch volunteer Yvonne’s group make a start on the chili, with some of the teenagers fighting over who gets to slice the garlic. One student accidentally drops a plastic sandwich bag of sweet corn into the pot and watches transfixed as it sinks to the bottom. No one seems to mind.

I ask a student named Ali how he found out about Bags of Taste.

“Alicia told me about it at the Jobcentre,” he explains. “I thought, ‘Yeah I’d like to know how to cook.’ Normally I just eat plain chicken breasts with rice, it’d be nice to make proper stuff for my mum.”

For full article click here








LANA has never cooked anything before our course, and after 3 lessons she’s teaching a disabled student how to chop an onion.  She is having a dinner party for 6 people tonight, and her mother is astonished.
PERRY is fairly severely disabled and we got this message from his mother after the lesson:

“He has taken such an interest in cooking. We will be cooking the recipes tomorrow. I still can’t believe when he went shopping the other day with June, his other carer he came back with broccoli, garlic, an onion and pasta and then with June they cooked me dinner for when I got home from work. He’s normally only interested in the chocolate counter. So thank you. It’s giving him a healthy outlook on food.”


In addition we heard a story from an ex-student yesterday (who is now a volunteer) who took on the “mobile phone challenge”.  We sometimes tell students that they will save enough money for a new iphone in a year (which obviously also helps with debt levels etc.).  This student put all the money she saved each week on food into a pot.  By the end of the year she bought her son a new smartphone for Christmas.

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