As one of the Embercombe gardeners I care for the plants in the ground a little more often than I transform them into magical meals in the kitchen. I wanted to hold the kitchen on a Friends’ Working Weekend as a challenge for myself. It involves cooking 3 meals a day for the hungry workers and on this weekend I was expecting around 70 people. I was keen to support the Friends too who come and give their time and energy to help us working on the land, in the kitchen and with various tasks on our 50 acre site. It’s a really valuable contribution. Some people come every month and others dip in and out when they can. This particular weekend had a real family vibe and I felt I had some lovely conversations with many new people. Friend’s Weekends are a great way to connect with people and get inspired.
I began the weekend with a warming evening meal of 3 bean chilli which seemed to go down well. Cooking the morning porridge was a comedy sketch as I couldn’t sample the taste or texture (I’m gluten intolerant) and my taste tester kept pulling faces. He eventually admitted he hated porridge generally which heartened me so out it went regardless. I was later told it was “the best Embercombe porridge” that one Friend had ever tasted. I was proud of my simple efforts.
Saturday afternoon arrived and I collaborated with the lovely Gazala, one of our volunteers, as to the evening’s menu. It consisted of a dahl, vegetable curry, spiced rice and a hot tomato salsa. Cooking with Gazala opened a window into the world of authentic Indian cuisine for me. I was amazed at the attention to detail and variety of flavours that comprised the dishes. A brief hitch when we thought there was no fresh coriander was averted when it transpired there was plenty. Whilst keeping a calm face she later told me our meal would have been like “macaroni with no cheese!” without this. I would not have been able to produce the feast that ensued without her direction and I loved what we had finally created over five hours of focused work. Our kitchen support team tirelessly chopped a mountain of onions and garlic without which dinner would not have made it to the table.
I realised I was really enjoying the rhythm of the food, keeping everyone full and happy and seeing how one meal flowed into the next. It never really stops in the Embercombe kitchen at times like this! The washing up merges with the chopping up of the vegetables for the next meal. There is a very real connection here between plot and plate. The beautiful vegetables I tend are lifted from the ground and within the hour are simmering gently in a pot on the stove, ready to feed the whole community.I felt really grateful to our land for providing such feasts. A cheerful team of helpers throughout made the kitchen experience a real joy. Tunes on my Ipod were also essential for evening washing up dances accompied by a small celebratory evening cyder all round………