Earlier in the year, we were successful in securing grant funding to run several cooking sessions to celebrate National Vegetarian Week. Mental ill-health and poor diets often go hand in hand, so when we became aware of the NVW funding we immediately saw an opportunity to run some practical, educational sessions with the people accessing our services, where we could show that vegetarian food can be just as (or even more) delicious, healthy and filling as meat dishes!
Six of MHM’s services in the North-East ran sessions throughout the week. Several of these services, such as Middlesbrough Floating Support and Fairfield House, already run regular cooking skills sessions, but this grant provided a great opportunity for them to branch out and explore new ways of building healthy, cost-effective meals. For other groups it was a lively introduction to a new type of activity, and several are thinking of making cooking a regular addition to their own service.
Prior to each session, those interested in attending held a session to discuss which foods they would like to learn how to make at home, including which of their favourite meals they’d like to learn how to make vegetarian versions of. The groups each decided on 3 dishes which used some of their favourite ingredients and which were not too complicated to prepare. Among the menus chosen were stuffed peppers, vegetable pasta bake, baked cinnamon apples, and mushroom stroganoff. On the day of the event, we shopped for the ingredients and read through the recipes together, then shared out the preparation of the meals. Once the dishes were finished, we all sat down together to eat and enjoy our hard work!
All the dishes that were cooked at the sessions came from the ‘Food for Mood’ cookbook which staff had prepared, and every attendee at the sessions received the booklet (as well as having access to a PDF version which they could use on a phone or tablet). This cookbook is packed full of recipes for breakfasts, lunches and dinners, cooking tips and nutrition advice, as well as a one-week meal plan and shopping list to show how easy, tasty and cheap a vegetarian diet can be. Download it for yourself by clicking HERE!
Every session was thoroughly enjoyed, and many people commented on how surprised they were to be able to make such flavoursome and filling food without using meat products, and how easy it is to ‘sneak’ extra vegetables and healthy ingredients into our everyday meals.
(Not wanting to be left out, the team at Central Office in Sunderland also organised a pot-luck lunch for Friday afternoon which fed the whole office with an array of delicious home-cooked vegetarian dishes!)
MHM are grateful to The Vegetarian Society for the grant funding provided which has made the production of these materials, and the running of cooking classes in our services, possible.Thanks also to Paul Ogle for letting us use his photographs.