Like many an amateur cook, I get possessed by fleeting delusions of adequacy.
Dinner guests ask why I don't open one of those pop-up restaurants. I resist, knowing I am fully equipped with Gordon Ramsay's rudeness and swear words but few of his culinary skills.
I came up instead with the concept of a pop-up cookery club, a communal initiative where food professionals are prevailed upon to come along and pass on skills to parent-and-child pairings. Families get involved in making food and sit down together to eat. That is the social agenda. My reward is getting to hang out with chefs.
The club has to offer an affordable outing. Any budget is of the shoestring variety. The philosophy is to be beg, borrow and only occasionally steal. This is embodied in the name Broken Biscuits Cookery Club (BBCC for short).
It is a great concept and I spent many happy hours talking about it. Then the BBCC suddenly, scarily, became a reality.
The Albany Centre in Woodlands, Glasgow, offered a venue as part of its programme of community activities. The Albany is run by the Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector mainly as a conference and training centre. It is based in a refurbished Victorian school and has a wonderfully-equipped kitchen and cafe.
Monir Mohammed, the founder and chef-patron of the Mother India restaurants in Glasgow, agreed to be guest chef for the first meeting of the BBCC. Mother India and the Wee Curry Shop offshoots are all about genuine home cooking but with constant innovation and therefore ideal for people to attempt restaurant-quality fare at home. Monir not only provided all the ingredients but also devoted much valuable time.
So with a smart venue, a great chef, a team of able volunteers known as the Dinner Ladies and an eager audience, the BBCC got under way recently. There was fun and learning, but there was mainly chaos – all down to the inexperience of the organiser (me).
We tried to do too much. Hold a pakora workshop. Watch a chicken pilau dish and a spinach stew being made. Have everyone chopping away to construct a fruit chaat.
There was confusion and delay as ingredients and utensils were belatedly laid out. It turned into a three-hour marathon with young ones and some parents reeling with fatigue and having to leave with the chicken pilau in doggie bags. On the plus side, the pakora production line was a major success. Lovely tactile mixing of chopped onion, cauliflower and potatoes with gram flour and water. Also notable was the intense concentration of the young ones peeling mangoes, dissecting grapes and slicing pineapples for the fruit cocktail. The work with knives was strictly supervised. Only one minor nick on a finger, the plaster worn as a badge of courage.
Some highlights of the BBCC proceedings which made me smile and think the effort is worthwhile:
l Young ones peering from the safety of the kitchen counter to follow the progress of their very own pakora into the deep-fat fryer. (Any self-respecting Glasgow cookery club needs a bit of frying on the menu.)
l John, aged six, eating more of his chopped pear than he put in the fruit chaat bowl.
l Young ones trying dinner lady Carol's posh concoctions of hibiscus, rose hip, grape and pomegranate juices, at least until dinner lady Ian went round handing out tins of Coca-Cola and Irn-Bru.
l Knowing that however limited the BBCC budget, a donation from each monthly meeting will fund a year's food and education for a child in Malawi through the Spirit Aid charity with whom we are working.
l The bloke who turned up at the Broken Biscuits Cookery Club actually looking for biscuits.
The BBCC needs better planning and attention to the culinary concept of mise en place – having everything ready and close to hand. Our mission for next week's smoothie and fajitas workshop is that the class keeps busy with more doing and less watching. Then everyone sits down to eat.
Tom Shields will be joined by Natalie Minnis of The Flavour Co on January 26, 10.45am-1pm. Tickets cost £10 for parent and child. Call 0141 354 6521 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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