Are you getting your five portions of fruit and veg a day? Or as some now recommend even ten a day…?
If you’re struggling with that target, you’re not alone. Studies have found that most people eat three to four portions a day, and those on a budget particularly struggle to eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables. This is against a backdrop of an urgent need to decrease our meat consumption for the good of the planet.
In 2018, Good Food Oxford and LEAP conducted experimental cookery classes at Oxford Science Festival, focusing on cooking with vegetables and comparing different teaching styles. Based on the insights from the test classes, we have designed a new series of cookery classes that will enable people to cook from scratch more often, and to use fresh vegetables more confidently, with tastier results and on a budget. The target group for this first round of courses starting in mid March will be residents of South-East Oxford, in particular parents and family carers (find out more) as well as older men (find out more) from Blackbird Leys and Rose Hill.
- how to use a knife safely and effectively, and how to maintain knives and other kitchen tools,
- a handful of basic vegetable preparation methods including steaming, roasting, baking and frying (with low or no oil!),
- guidelines for combining foods for diversity, nutrition and taste,
- how to season meals with a basic set of herbs, spices and condiments to achieve balanced and satisfying flavours.
All of these will be taught along with tips on budgeting, time-saving techniques, how to shop and store fresh produce to reduce wastage and how to compost kitchen waste.
The matrix methodology proved very successful during our trials, where we found that participants went home inspired and feeling that they learned useful new skills, as well as more confident and empowered to experiement at home rather than just following recipes.
Nina Osswald, our Co-ordinator at Good Food Oxford who will be facilitating the two courses, has taught cooking classes for over 5 years and is excited to try this new approach. She says: “I have both taught and participated in recipe-based cookery classes in the past, and sometimes found that asking participants to focus too much on the recipe can actually distract from learning new, transferable skills. I have many years of experience in cooking creatively with fresh produce for myself and professionally, and am excited about sharing the tricks I’ve learned over the years. The matrix-based approach makes it really clear that nothing much can go “wrong” when cooking with fresh vegetables – as long as you have fun in the process, any combination of vegetables and seasonings that you fancy is allowed!”
She adds: “I want to enable people to do something nice with any vegetables they have at hand. For instance, when I pick up a carrot, some kale and mushrooms I can equally picture them going into a wok stir-fry with soy sauce, coconut milk and noodles; into a tomato sauce with fresh basil, tahini for creaminess and spaghetti; or a simple soup with potatoes and some vegetable stock. All of these (and many more) ingredients will be available for our course participants to play with and get creative.”
In our courses at The Oxford Academy, participants will be given a matrix of ingredient groups – a lead role vegetable or two, a grain or source of starch, a source of protein and a set of seasoning ingredients – and they will be guided on how to combine these creatively for tasty and never-boring results.
Volunteers who would like to help with the logistics of the class, support participants and of course taste the food can apply through Replenish.
The sessions at The Oxford Academy are supported by Oxford University’s LEAP Project, funded by The Wellcome Trust; by Veg Cities, a feature campaign of Sustainable Food Cities; Riverford Organic Oxfordshire, and Oxford Food Bank.