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Cooking in the community

4 April 2016

Last week I hosted a cookery demo at Glencorse Community Centre, a brand new building with enviable facilities, opened in 2014 at Auchendinny, just outside Penicuik. If you follow the 37 bus home, as I do often, you’ll know this is the ‘Hill of the Cuckoo’. Although I live just 10 minutes along the road I’d never visited.

This lovely community centre, rebuilt on the grounds of the formal social club, is a little hive of activity. There is lots of activities for the local community and a beautiful kitchen garden providing a huge range of vegetables for the cafe. And the most amazing thing is, it’s all run by volunteers – they do such a wonderful job.  

A group of lovely ladies and one very charming gentleman attended the demo. I also had one exceptionally special helper, little Lilly, who aged five, was my sous chef for the day – a work placement for the Easter holidays! My darling son made a great escape and ended up spending two hours in the car playing with his phone. He said he’d heard all my stories before – what great fans I have right?!

Anyway the day was just brilliant, such a treat, such lovely people. We ended up cooking in the community centre kitchen. I’d soaked some Cannellini beans (delivered from Atina, the village just below where my brothers gorgeous olive oil comes from) the night before so they were soft enough to cook for one hour before I left so they’d just right for the soup. Up early, I harvested some rainbow chard from our garden in the morning which is so super fresh and super earthy. When it’s been raining the vegetables can get very gritty so a very thorough wash in the sink is essential.  

We made a cracking pot of chard and cannellini soup. I’ve always thought soup needs a little extra effort to make it special. With the help of little Lilly we made a fresh Pesto alla Genovese which is so easy and delicious. Then 18 little bowls were set out and we all got stuck in serving up and dressing to enjoy a bowl of soup after the demo. I’m delighted to say they scoffed the lot. No waste.

There was a real mix of ages but mainly of the silver grey variety. We started to talk about food allergies and I shared the story of two events we had hosted at Cannonball last month. A dinner for 70 wine industry professionals and our special Valentina Harris supper. What was so interesting was the supper had 36 dietary requirements for 67 guests. On the other hand, the wine dinner had not one dietary requirement. At the community centre demo there were several ladies who had been through the war years and they were very much of the opinion that allergies didn’t exist in their day. You know I always say what I think and don’t hold back – sometimes at my peril and other times for the greater good. As a mother of a child who has had many real allergies since childhood and continues to carry this burden in later life it is a very serious issue. However as a sign of respect for those who have real allergies and intolerances I think we sometimes, and I’m guilty too, have to be aware of the ‘just don’t likes’. Of course when you are paying for food you have to get what you want but we’ve all had to cook for friends with dislikes and it can add huge stress for your host. Is it acceptable just to leave something at the side of your plate if you don’t like? Should you always say it’s not your preference, or should you just eat and maybe the way it’s been cooked you may find you actually like it?

Anyway there were no dietary requirements at the Glencorse Community Centre. I made lots of new friends and discovered a new venue which you should definitely pop in for a freshly baked scone and a cup of tea, or a bowl of hearty homemade soup later in the afternoon. You should also include a little stroll around the community centre kitchen garden which is a real treat for the eyes (as well as your tummy) if they’re making chard soup over the next few weeks.

Thank you again for the invite and I wish you another 40 happy years of servicing the community.