Thank you to all the families, staff and children at Comet Children's Centre - especially Gareth, Sarah Jane and Clara. We made our own mincemeat, mince pies, mince muffins, Christmas cakes, soaps, gingerbread shapes, carrot cake muffins, chocolate muffins, lots of icings and more.
Action Aid UK are an amazing charity and I was thrilled to be asked to be part of their Latitude Festival activities. The theme this year within their tent at the Festival was menstruation. There were mixed reactions when I discussed this with lots of people prior to the event; from mild interest, confusion and lots of pulled faces. It's something that all women will experience in their lives, a rite of passage, a cycle and the varied reactions reflect the different experiences that women will feel at different times. What we often do not think about are how people struggle with issues pertaining to menstruation in third world countries, while experiencing homelessness or poverty. The Action Aid Uk tent were offering activities including henna painting, dance and drumming workshops, my jewellery workshops and more.
My session focused on creating waist beads from recycled African glass beads:
- Waist beads are a celebration of womanhood and femininity.
- Waist beads are not only for the young or slim!
- Waist beads can also be worn around wrists or necks.
Waist beads can be traced throughout Africa, they are depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics are famous from the Yoruba tribes of Nigeria. They are a chain of beads worn at the waist and have personal meaning to the wearer. Meanings include:
Adornment - worn under or over clothes or via an exposed mid-drift, waist beads are decorating our vital middle sections with one of a kind, personal pieces. It is not about conforming to body pressure but empowering this area and highlighting femininity.
Menstruation - Mothers may traditionally create and present their daughters with waist beads as a rite of passage into womanhood. Waist beads were/are practical as menstrual cloths could be strapped to the beads to provide a type of belt.
Celebration of Womanhood - waist beads are worn during rites of passage during puberty, at weddings. Waist beads are used as a tool to measure weight loss or gain as they will roll up or down which can also be used to signal a pregnancy. They are also said to allure partners and to signify that a young woman was ready for marriage.
Protection - as with lots of jewellery, waist beads are thought to offer healing energy to the wearer and protect them from negative energy. Gems and stones are included to provide specific powers.
Waist beads, like everything, can be seen negatively by some:
Ownership of Women - Some say that the placing of the waist beads at puberty can be seen as staking a claim on the woman’s virginity, purity and placing the father or parents in control.
Charms - Some waist beads have been known to be charmed or have spells placed upon them to entice or entrap the opposite sex.
African beads reflect the diversity of African geography, culture, resources, technology, religions and society. Beads have been found on or next to human remains dating as far back as 100,000 years ago, a number that gets larger with further archaeological finds. African beads have historically featured organic materials such as seeds, shells, bone, nuts but include those made from stone, shell, ceramic, glass, wood, bone, metals, plastic, computer chips and more. Today there is a growing industry of recycled glass and plastic beads.
Bead use and meanings range from decoration, trade, monetary, emulation, religion, adoration, fashion and more.
Thank you so much to all the staff and volunteers of Action Aid UK and Latitude Festival!
Here is the completed mosaic made over a four week period at Henry Maynard Primary School in Walthamstow London. Henry Maynard is a wonderful school where everyone from the children, staff and students are enthusiastic, kind, caring and proud of their lovely school. I facilitated a family learning course with eight children and their mothers. The children and parents came up with the theme of a ship, which is the schools emblem, coming out of a book and different items which symbolise what they love about their school such as music, reading, maths, friendship, sport and arts. The hand border are the mosaic hands that they all made from their own hands on the first day and symbolise the teamwork that they all showed throughout the project. I am so proud of everyone on the course and at the school and so thankful to everyone, especially Lauren and Alison Pearson. Please do check out my other mosaic projects at Wentworth Children's Centre and Comet Children's Centre.
I've been teaching a six-week Soap Making Course at Wentworth Children's Centre and for weeks 4 and 5 we have been learning the cold press (CP) technique. We could have easily spent the whole six weeks on the CP technique but since part of the course has been family learning and we involved the children of the families there in the activities where it was appropriate for them to do so.
We had been building up to this session and this was our most technical as well as creative which explains our scales, goggles and gloves. For the first of the CP technique weeks we used the following recipe which I calculated using the fabulous SoapCalc.net:
150g distilled water (or filtered water, then boiled and cooled)
160g olive oil
160g coconut oil
40g almond oil
40g castor oil
10 g lavender essential oil
For week 5 of the Healthy Eating Fast Food Alternatives course we prepared a Turkish feast at Sebright Children's Centre. Each time I run this course the fifth week's menu is chosen by the students. Turkish food is very healthy and very varied but like any food eaten at restaurants it can be full of extra calories and fat. A special thanks is due to Selma who is Turkish and works at Sebright and another very kind Turkish woman who attended the course with her daughters. Together they helped us tweak the recipes and gave us lots of tips. Selma noted that Turkish food often involves a lot of preparation and different stages so we chose these recipes that can be prepared in advance, are cost effective and served with healthy sauces and sides. Selma and Itidal and all the staff at Sebright have been so helpful to myself and the families on the course and they make working at Sebright such a pleasure and I am very thankful for their hard work and support.
For our feast we prepared falafel, lamb kofte, hummous, vegetable cous cous, salad and a homemade mint dressing served with pita bread for 8 adults and 5 children for £15 in two hours.
400g can chickpea, rinsed and drained
Half a red onion, finely chopped
garlic clove, chopped
handful of fresh parsley
handful of fresh coriander
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp canola oil or coconut oil
toasted pitta bread
lettuce, tomato and various accompaniments as desired
- Rinse the chickpeas and soak them in water and lightly rub the chickpeas with your finger and thumb to remove the shell surrounding each chickpea and then discard shells.
- Blend all the ingredients until they are a smooth consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the mixture to rest for 20-45 minutes, if not longer.
- Heat up your oil to medium hot but be careful to not burn the oil.
- Shape the mixture into golf sized ball shapes and gently flatten a bit using wet hands so that the mixture does not stick to your hands. Place the balls ready to fry on a plate.
- Fry the falafel balls until they go a deep brown in colour, turn carefully and cook the other side. When they are ready remove and place on a sheet of kitchen towel for a few moments to soap up any excess oil.
- Serve in pita bread or on their own with tomato, lettuce, hummus and other dips and gerkhins, pickled cabbage or other accompaniments.
Lamb Kofte Recipe
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp chopped mint
500g lean lamb mince
1 small red onion finely chopped
1/4 green pepper, cored, deseeded and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lamb Kofte Instructions
- Mix together the garlic and mint in a bowl, add the lamb and stir well. Cover and leave to marinate in a cool place or the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Shape the mixture into 5 cm long sausage shapes or 3 cm wide round disc shapes and leave to rest covered in a cool place or fridge for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the grill to a hot setting.
- Place the shaped lamb kofte in a single layer on a baking tray and place on the top shelf and cook for 10 minutes, after 10 minutes turn each kofte and cook for another 10 minutes being sure to not burn. Alternatively you can grill the kofte as well for 4-5 minutes on each side until cooked through.
- Serve with mint dressing, cous cous, salad, hummous,e tc.
Two tins (425 grams) chickpeas
Fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, depending on taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash of ground paprika for serving if desired
A sprig of fresh coriander for serving if desired
- Open the tin of chickpeas, drain the liquid and then rinse well with water. Soak the chickpeas in some water and using your fingers and thumb to lightly rub the chickpeas which will release the shells from the chickpea. When all the shells are removed strain the water and keep the chickpeas to the side for the moment.
- In a separate bowl or blender add tahini, lemon juice and the olive oil to a bowl or blender and mix until thoroughly combined. Make sure to scrape the sides down into the mixture and blend/mix again.
- Add the garlic, cumin and salt to the mixture and blend for one minute. Make sure to scrape the sides down into the mixture and blend until thoroughly combined.
- Add the chickpeas in stages to the mixture and blend until combined. Keep blending until the humous is thick and smooth.
- Taste the humous and add any more ingredients until it is of a desired taste and consistency. If the mixture is still not a smooth enough consistency you can add another tablespoon of olive oil or water and then blend again for 1 minute.
- Place the humous into a decorative serving bowl or plate and then garnish with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and garnish with a sprig of coriander.
Homemade hummous will last for one week in an airtight container in the fridge.
You can add all sorts of things to hummous to jazz it up, for example roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, chillies and more. You can also use any sort of pulses such as butter beans to make a slightly different type of dip.
If you like a very smooth consistency of hummous you can remove the shells before adding it to the mixture.
For an even more inexpensive hummous you can use dried chickpeas which are cheaper. For this you should soak the chickpeas in water overnight and then cook gently for an hour the next day until soft.
Vegetable Cous Cous Recipe
500g cous cous
500g organic vegetable stock or one free of MSG or additives
100g tomato diced small
half a red pepper diced small
half a green pepper diced small
half a yellow pepper diced small
handful of fresh parsley
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly cracked pepper
Vegetable Cous Cous Instructions
- Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl, pour 500ml/18fl oz of vegetable stock over the couscous. Leave to stand until the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper and fluff the couscous with a fork. Set aside until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
- Add all the remaining ingredient and stir until combined. Any diced vegetables can be added to make a tasty cous cous salad.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with some larger slices of vegetables like peppers or tomatoes and serve.
Basic Mint Dressing
one bunch of mint
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbsp boiling water
4 tbsp cider vinegar
1 level tbsp sugar or agave syrup
Basic Mint Dressing Instructions
- Separate the stems from the mint leaves and discard the stems.
- Gently rub the salt into the mint leaves sprinkle and chop into roughly .5-1 cm pieces.
- Add the leaves to a heatproof bowl then stir in the sugar or agave syrup.
- Top the mint with the freshly boiled water while stirring thoroughly and then leave to cool.
- Once the mixture is cool, stir in the cider vinegar.
- Add more water or vinegar and adjust seasoning to suit your taste.
The dressing can be added to vegetables, salads, meat and fish.
For week three of our Healthy Eating Fast Food/Takeaway Alternatives we made pizza at Sebright Children's Centre. The pizza session is always a favourite because everyone loves pizza. Each family made their own batch of dough which resulted in dough for two pizzas 20cm in diameter to decorate with different toppings of their choice. Lots of families took their second batch of dough home to share with their families.
300g plain flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon baking yeast
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp cornmeal (if desired)
several basil leaves or dried oregano (if desired)
- Preheat your oven to 200C.
- Sift all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Slowly stir in the water and olive oil. The dough should form a nice ball with all the ingredients mixed thoroughly and to not be too sticky or dry. If the dough is too sticky sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the dough and mix in until the dough and add a teaspoon of water to the dough if it is too dry.
- Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 20 minutes.
- Uncover the ball of dough and place onto a sheet of, lightly floured surface, lightly rub a rolling pin with flour and starting in the middle of the ball roll the dough, turn and flip the dough until it is in the desired shape be it circle, square of even heart shaped.
- You want your dough to be roughly 3 cm thick on the bottom for a thin crust or 5 cm thick for a thicker crust. Do not roll it so thin that you can not lift the dough onto your baking sheet. When it is the desired shape transfer it to the baking sheet and you can sprinkle a teaspoon of cornmeal onto your baking tray before you place the dough on the tray for a bit of added texture to the crust.
- Slightly roll and turn up the edges to form the pizza edges.
- Add any ingredients that you may enjoy. (see below)
- Place in the pre-heated oven and cook for twenty minutes checking to make sure that it is cooked to your preference.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Base - You can use passata as your tomato base or fresh tomatoes or even a bit of minced garlic and olive oil to create a non tomato based pizza or "white pizza".
Cheese - You can use any cheese of your choice including shredded mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, feta, etc
Toppings - You can put absolutely anything you would like on your pizza which is the great part of making your own. Ham, mushrooms, peppers, salami, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke, pineapple, etc.
These are some of the soaps created by my students on a six-week soap making course I have been running at Wentworth Children's Centre in Hackney, London. We have spent two weeks on melt and pour techniques and worked with the children on decoration, colour mixing, scents and packaging. We are also a week of face and body scrubs, a week of bath fizzies/bath bombs and two weeks of cold press technique. The courses have been fun and well attended since everyone is interested in making their own products in order to know exactly what is in the products that we use every day. The students have been excited to learn all the techniques so they can practice them with their family and friends or perhaps even take up soap making as a hobby or making them as gifts or to sell.
Here are some photos and the recipe from the second week of the six-week jam and chutney making course at Daubeney Children's Centre in hackney, London. You may recall that we made
. The feedback was that all the families enjoyed the jam, even children who generally do not eat much jam. I always tell customers and students that jam isn't just for toast, I put a spoonful in porridge for breakfast in the winter and in natural yoghurt in summer or an all-year round snack. I also use jam as a binder when making oatcakes, use it in muffins and in jam tarts.
This week we made plum jam. I always keep it seasonal for Smy Chutney and for the courses so this was the perfect time of the year to make plum jam.
This recipe makes such a beautiful, deep red jam, notice it up the sides of the pan and the wall.
Here is lovely Lola stirring the jam. She makes stunning cakes so we chatted a lot about different recipes that can be added to cakes, tarts and puddings.
Plum Jam Recipe
2 k Plums
2 k Sugar
- Select fully ripe plums with which to make the jam
- Wash and rinse the fruit.
- Carefully remove all stems, pits, skins, and blossoms, if necessary, from the plums.
- Cut the fruit into pieces and make sure to remove each plum stone and discard.
- Measure the fruit and place in a large saucepan.
- Stir in the correct amount of sugar for the recipe and keep stirring as you bring the mixture to a boil.
- Continue stirring until the mixture thickens.
- You will need to test that the mixture has reached its setting point, or readiness for jarring, keeping in mind that the mixture will continue to thicken slightly as it cools. There are two methods for testing: Refrigerator test – Place a plate in your refrigerator while you are making the jam. When you think that the jam is ready, remove the plate and allow a few drops of the mixture to drop onto the plate. After a few minutes, check to see if the mixture has gelled. Push the droplet with your finger and if it wrinkles it is ready to place in your sterilised jars. Temperature test – Using a thermometer to test that the mixture has reached the optimum temperature for your altitude: Anywhere from a sea level of 300 metres to 8,000 metres will be alright to reach a temperature of 220°C.
- Once the mixture is ready, remove it from the heat and skim off any foam that may have formed on the surface.
- Pour the mixture into sterile jars (see above), leaving .5 cm headspace.
- Use a clean, damp piece of kitchen towel to wipe the rims of the jars.
- Top each jar with a lid, screw on the cover tightly and allow to cool.
- The jam will be best if eaten within one year, refrigerate once open.
I recently taught a six week course in jam and chutney making at Daubeney Children's Centre in Hackney, London for local families. The course was open to parents and carers to learn the basics of jam and chutney making, food handling and preparation, health and safety and how the resulting jams
and chutneys could be used. The first recipe that we covered was pineapple and passion fruit jam.
I love combining pineapple with other fruits such as strawberries or mango when making jam and passion fruit also pairs very well with pineapple.
The facilities at Daubeney are wonderful, as are the staff and it was a great six-weeks meeting and sharing with them. I would also like to especially thank Lola who attended with her daughter for their enthusiasm and sharing with me her passion, skills and creativity for cookery and especially cake-making. I am always learning as well!
We used a play room with a fully equipped kitchen so that we could prepare and involve the children in identifying the fruit, tasting the fruit and helping to prepare the recipes. It was great to introduce fruits that some of the families had not tried before or had not eaten much of because they weren't familiar with how to choose or prepare them. We followed the recipe below and measured, chopped, strained , stirred, cooked and poured our jams into the sterlised jars.
The families also decorated labels for their jam creations inspired by the days activities and ingredients. All the families took a jar of the jam that they made home with them and all the additional jars that we made were sold at a Christmas fair held at Daubeney Children's Centre.
I'll be posting some photos and recipes from the six-week course at Daubeney as well as workshops held at other Children's Centre's. I will also be sharing other arts and crafts workshops that I have been teaching.
Pineapple and Passion Fruit Jam Recipe
1.5 k pineapple after removing the skin, eyes and core
1.5 k passion fruit which will give you roughly 300ml of strained juice
This recipe yielded 6 x 500ml jars and one 500ml jar that as not fully filled so we used this to smother the still warm jam onto toast to share amongst ourselves and the Centre.
- Take the pineapple and cut off the top and bottom. Stand the pineapple on the chopping board and remove the outer skin and then remove all the brown “eyes” from the outside. Cut the pineapple in half lengthways and then cut each half lengthways again so that you have quartered it. Then remove the core from each quarter segment and then chop the pineapple into small chunks. A top tip given by one of the mums is to refridgerate segments of pineapple cores and let teething babies gnaw on them to soothe their aching gums.
- Take the passion fruits and cut each one in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and seeds into a measuring cup. Then pour the flesh and seeds into a sieve over a bowl and use the back of a spoon or plastic spatula to press the juice into the bowl. You can reserve the seeds to add to your jam if desired, since we were sharing our jams with children we decided to not add any seeds. Remaining seeds can be dried and roasted to make a healthy snack or addition to salads.
- Measure your pineapple and passion fruit juice and take note of the amounts.
- For each 1 k of fruit take one lemon and cut in half and put the juice into a measuring jug making sure to remove any seeds.
- Measure out the same amount of sugar as there is fruit.
- Add the pineapple, passion fruit juice, sugar and lemon juice to your pan.
- Continue stirring until the sugar disintegrates and keep stirring until thickened.
- If small children will be eating the jam and you are worried about larger chunks, once the sugar has disintegrated you can remove the pan from the heat and use a hand blender to make the mixture smoother, if so desired.
- The mixture may start to boil and you can keep stirring and reduce the heat. Once it has settled you can raise the heat again and keep stirring and repeat until the jam is of the desired thickness.
- You will need to test that the mixture has reached its setting point, or readiness to put in jars, keeping in mind that the mixture will continue to thicken slightly as it cools. There are two methods for testing: Refrigerator test – Place a plate in your refrigerator while you are making the jam. When you think that the jam is ready, remove the plate and allow a few drops of the mixture to drop onto the plate. After a few minutes, check to see if the mixture has gelled. Push the droplet with your finger and if it wrinkles it is ready to place in your sterilised jars. Temperature test – Using a thermometer to test that the mixture has reached the optimum temperature for your altitude: Anywhere from a sea level of 300 metres to 8,000 metres will be alright to reach a temperature of 220°C.
- Once the mixture is ready, remove it from the heat and skim off any foam that may have formed on the surface.
- Pour the mixture into sterile jars, leaving .5 cm headspace from top of the jar to top of the jam.
- Use a clean piece of kitchen towel to wipe the rims of the jars.
- Top each jar with a lid, screw on the cover tightly and allow to cool. Store in a dark, dry, cool place.
- The jam will be best if eaten within one year, refrigerate once open.