I was approached by the PR company of Hammerson, the developer of Victoria Gate in Leeds, to take part in a challenge to promote the importance of food banks and healthy eating - a project that Hammerson have funded. Zest Health for Life created a recipe book to give simple, healthy recipes and tips on eating healthily, the Hammerson project has paid for these books to be reprinted. These books are being distributed by Leeds East Food Banks.
I was sent a parcel with the ingredients for Falafels, one of the recipes from the book. Bread, garlic, chickpeas, ground cumin, baking powder and a lemon. I was also sent a packet of pasta to go with the dish - but who on earth has pasta with falafels? Surely couscous is better, and so cheap - but perhaps not as widely donated, or trusted to use? I used a packet of flavoured couscous that's been in my store cupboard for far too long, and also served with a dollop of hummus. The other half of the lemon could have been used to flavour some plain couscous though.
Following the recipe was very easy, although I was lucky we have a food processor that I could use to blend the ingredients - mashing them wasn't very appealing. I thought they tasted good, although sadly my husband is not a falafel fan and labelled them "FalAwfuls", thanks for that! The recipe called for two full cloves of garlic - I thought that was way too much to add, so I just used one, and the garlic was still very strong.
Am I convinced that the clients of the food bank would make these falafels - not really, it was faffy and time consuming to do - but I fully admit to being completely naive about who those clients are, perhaps I'm totally wrong and plenty do make them?
The only revisions I'd make to this recipe is to use bottled lemon juice, and garlic puree - which might possibly be one of the things given out? It's certainly useful to have in the store cupboard. To me these would be cheaper alternatives.
So, the rest of the book.
I like the way the book was written, I like the information on cooking terms, I like the budgeting tips - particularly going to Leeds Market. Recipe wise I liked the Sausage Casserole recipe, and the basic tomato sauce recipe. I loved the fruit and vegetable seasons page - so much so I'm going to stick it on my fridge.
I didn't like the number of ingredients in each recipe - take the leek and potato soup for example, their recipe has 9 ingredients - mine has 4 - and that includes using fry lite! Flicking through the book I'm sceptical that some of the recipes would be used - but I tried to sit and think of what I'd replace them with - and other than a lot more pasta dishes and various soups I don't think I could come up with anything better.
I was going to write about my thoughts on how food banks should operate etc - but I'm not sure I'm qualified to do so, I've never been in one. My assumptions are based on what I've seen in the news and read in articles. I'm assuming the people using them aren't all that dissimilar to my family, and although I often order falafels when eating out, it's not something I'd ever thought to make for my family.
After I made my recipe I'm left with half a lemon, the pasta, some garlic and the rest of the jars of baking powder and ground cumin. I've also got the full loaf of bread in my freezer for emergencies, I had a loaf that needed using that I pinched two slices from. I'm going to buy another tin of chickpeas, find some oil in my cupboards and then use the garlic, the remaining half lemon and ground cumin to make some hummus, which my girls would happily eat vats of!
Doing this, and flicking through the book, has brought Food Banks back into my mind. I'll definitely look out for one of the drop off points for one next time I'm at the supermarket, and pop a few tins in - and a packet of plain couscous.