Hand made Gnocchi

Bringing Communities Together Through Food

I’ve been thinking a lot recently have how we really do bring communities together through food. I’ve recently involved myself in various community based initiatives that are relatively new in the concept of ‘bringing communities together through food’. So this post is one of sharing and reflection…

In the ‘modern world’ where people become very busy looking inward at their own lives and may not take the time to observe the lives of others, I’ve noticed people are making more of a conscious effort to contribute in a positive way in society for the benefit of others. Whether this is something new in the circles I move in, or just new to me, is questionable. But still it makes you think about how societies evolve and adapt to change in circumstances and environment.

Food Bank

Food Bank

In the UK, the grown on Food Banks where people are overly relying on food donations we are seeing massive increase in the number of ‘Junk Food Cafe’s’ popping up. The concept behind them are to cook food for the public from ‘goods that would otherwise have been thrown away by supermarkets, independent grocers and food banks’. These unwanted food is charging a “pay as you feel” policy, allowing ‘customers’ to pay what they feel they can, and if that is nothing, they can help with the washing up.

The idea of a ‘Pay as You Feel Cafe’ is an interesting one as how do you ensure that everyone actually makes a contribution? If the concept of ‘Pay As you Feel’ isn’t embraced by all then will the concept as a successful business model? I’m hoping to find out through getting involved in a couple of such cafes so I’ll soon find out!

Another interesting idea is how we bring single people together using food. In today’s fast pace world we often isolate ourselves from others by keeping busy with what is within our comfort zone. This often means that people who are looking to be in a relationship so not have the opportunity to meet new people outside of their existing social circle. For me the rise of internet dating somehow takes away the social aspect of meeting new people, and potential matches. There seems to be a lot of pressure to make judgements on individuals based on what they choose to say or disclose about themselves to complete strangers. And who does that in real life?  So the idea of a ‘singles night‘ where a group of people get together through a shared love of cooking and eating seems to be a great way around this…

My next experience is one that is probably familiar to most but was new to me, and nicely ties into the ideas I’ve shared above. I was invited to attend this fundraiser where the food on offer was wood fired pizzas made from ‘waste food’ to raise money for local food banks! The event took place in a community allotment and people got together to eat and drink whilst raising money for a good cause. I went alone and got chatting to several people who shared stories about how they love to spend time in the shared allotment to grow the fruit and vegetables. I grow a few vegetables my yard at home but the space is limited and although I enjoy pottering around the garden, the idea of doing it with other people really appeals… that day I even bought some local honey and organic eggs from some allotment owners, how else would I have been able to do that?

My final experience to share is that of a local apple cider distillery I happened upon whilst volunteering for a new Junk Food Cafe. As I was working with a small group of volunteers to break down wooden pallets to be recycled into cafe furniture, a slow trickle of local people came along and dropped off bags and bags of apples they had harvested from their gardens. This project takes unwanted and excess apples and turns it into cider or apple juice and the apple donors can take away samples of the cider or juice back with them! In late summer I often wander past gardens full of over ripened fruit trees and wonder why people let the fruits go to waste. The Moss Cider project encourages the fruit donors to get involved in the processing of the fruit so people can get a real experience out of it too.

Just from this handful of experiences I have had in the past two weeks has really opened my eyes to the different ways that food really is bringing communities together. I often think back on meals shared with friend and family remember the food we ate as much as the memories created.

I have found that by keeping an open mind to new experiences and taking the leap to do something out of my comfort zone, I have met new friends with similar interests but from hugely different walks of life. Who knows where my next step into the unknown will take me? 🙂

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No Bake Pizza

Pizza in a Pan (No Oven Recipe)

No-Bake Pizza

No-Bake Pizza

Living in a ‘developing’ country when you are used to the comforts that the UK has to offer was always going to be a challenge for me. I’m a ‘home-girl’ at heart and like to have my familiar things around me… my family, friends, kitchen gadgets… Oh I miss my electric whisk, my kitchen scales and my food mixer… 😉

So it has been nearly two months since I left England and came to live in Yangon. I only have a couple of weeks left in the city before I head off on one final adventure around Singapore and Malaysia. Then I head back to England. Back to reality and ‘real life’. I’ve been taking a career break since September 2014 and I’m now 9 months down the line. It’s been an adventure, full of learning and re-discovering what I love most in life!

I write this post after a particularly gruelling 24 hours of unexplained 12 hour illness, lack of running water (in the middle of handwashing laundry) and sporadic internet access. Being a quite a pessimist, although I’m working on that, I have struggled to get back into a positive mindset and remember the good things about my Yangon adventure. A decent meal in a new cafe and a huge slice of carrot cake soon got me on the right track!

Home Made Tomato Pizza Sauce

Home Made Tomato Pizza Sauce

So today I share with you a recipe I am particularly proud of- Pizza in a pan!

At Harmoneat we have been working very closely with the Yangon Women’s Christian Association to teach local Myanmar women to cook ethnic foods from all over Myanmar as a way to learn about the cultures of the different ethnic groups that make up the country. As part of this we also introduced an ‘International cooking’ class for women interested in learning how to cook foods that may never have tried before.

Rice Cooker Banana Cake

Rice Cooker Banana Cake

One of the main challenges for people who love cake in Myanmar is that oven’s are not widely owned, so baking is a challenge. For the past few weeks we have been experimenting with ‘baking’ cakes in a rice cooker. I’ve not had much success but my colleague, Mellissa, has definitely cracked it! Using a basic banana cake recipe, she has produced some lovely, fluffy, cakes!

Pre-cooked Red and Yellow Sweet Peppers (Capsicum)

Pre-cooked Red and Yellow Sweet Peppers (Capsicum)

The next challenge posed to us was how to make pizza without an oven. One of our regular attendees had tried it but was confused with the technique so it was obviously do-able! A quick internet search later found a basic recipe that works every time! I did a practice run the day before the class and was surprised by how easy and pizza-like it was. I then left the second half of the dough to proof a little longer and it baked perfectly into a small loaf in the oven. So a good all-round bread recipe!

Pizza in a Pan

Pizza in a Pan

Ingredients: (Makes 4 large frying pan-sized bases)

  • 2.5 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fast action yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Toppings:

  • anything you like on your pizza but they must be pre-cooked- we used roasted peppers, aubergines and extra oregano (can add cooked meats too)
  • tomato pizza sauce
  • some grated cheese (mozzarella or cheddar work well)
Steaming the pizza to melt the cheese

Steaming the pizza to melt the cheese

Method:

  • Add sugar and yeast to the warm water and mix thoroughly, allowing it to sit for 10 minutes to get the yeast working (although I have tried it without this resting time and it worked fine)
  • Add the flour and the salt to the yeast water and bring it all together into a ball of dough, some extra water/flour may be needed if too dry/sticky
  • Knead on a floured surface until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands
  • Cut your dough into 4 equal portions and roll them out into round bases. The thickness depends on your liking but it needs to be smaller than the base of the frying pan you are using.
  • The actual cooking of the pizza is very quick, so you need to have all your toppings ready!
  • Dry-fry one side of the pizza base in the frying pan over a medium heat. You will see the dough start to change colour as it starts to cook through, the dough may bubble up but thats fine as the toppings will squash those bubbles back down
  • Take the pan off the heat then flip the pizza base over so it is now cooked side up. Add the tomato sauce base, toppings and cheese as you would with any pizza recipe
  • Put the frying pan back on the heat but with a lid on it this time, turning the heat to a medium-low. This is important as the lid will help to melt the cheese and warm the toppings whilst the heat will cook the underneath of the pizza base. This takes about 3 minutes, but need checking to make sure it’s not burning!
  • Repeat these steps with the next three bases.
Pizza in a pan- no oven

Pizza in a pan- no oven

Not only is this pizza recipe good for when you have no oven, but also when you want a quick meal! Once you get fast at making the pizzas, you can do cook several at the same time, if you have the frying pans available! Make the bases as thick as you like, some people prefer the thicker, doughy texture, whereas I like mine thin and crispy! 😀

No-Bake Pizza

No-Bake Pizza