Last Saturday I took myself and my camera off to Forres in Morayshire for a community cooking event run by Transition Town Forres – a volunteer-led group working towards a sustainable low-carbon lifestyle, based in and around Forres in the north east of Scotland.
It was a lovely day in Forres (a place that we’d only driven through to Aberdeen, or to Logie Steading), so it was a nice opportunity to walk from the train station and enjoy the view of the river.
I had seen this event advertised on the Moray Food Network Facebook page, but there’s also a very comprehensive events page on their website detailing all manner of events, classes and markets in the north of Scotland. Regular readers of the blog might remember that about a year ago I took part in a local short evening course in Inverness, which focused on how money and waste can be saved in food preparation. I really enjoyed that course, so the TTF courses sounded like something I’d enjoy. The particular class I had signed up for was “Soup as medicine” – perfect for cold months when we eat a lot of soup!
As I was the first participant to arrive, I familiarised myself with the space – a purpose built wooden hut with plenty of space for a sizeable group to congregate. Even with work stations dotted all over the place, it felt very homely and I was very envious of all of that open shelf space in the kitchen! Rob, one of the TTF cooking trainers took time to give me more information about the ethos of these classes – open to anyone who wants to learn the basics, as well as particular groups like diabetics or young mums. As funding has been received from NHS Grampian, the classes are either free or ask for a small donation to cover costs.
After our group of 7 had congregated together and shared a bit about why we had come (reasons ranged from wanting to know more about the health properties of spices, to learning some new recipe ideas) it was time to see Eveline, our trainer for the class, demonstrate the recipe that we would be making for our lunch!
The soup of the day was red lentil and vegetable, with no less than 7 spices included in the recipe. The soup is great for aiding digestion, is cheap to make, is purely made from wholefoods and is really good in having a lot of nutrients per calorie. Often we think too much in terms of calorie value alone, but by avoiding processed/packaged foods in favour of wholefoods, we have a much better chance of maximising our nutrients. Food for thought indeed!
Eveline explained how good soup often has five elements of taste in:
“I love making soup. I feel it sustains me and warms me in winter. Over time I have learned that it takes five tastes to make a really nice one: salt, sweet, sour, spicy and fat. The salt can come from a good quality salt, like a sea salt or a pink salt. Or a good quality bouillon powder. The sweet part for me often comes from caramelising onions or leeks (my husband can’t eat onions!) or from using sweet vegetables such as carrot, beetroot, parsnips or squash. Adding a bit of sour often makes the taste come alive: I mostly use tomatoes or lemon juice. Just a bit of the latter. I don’t like hot spicy food but I do like a soup having a little ‘kick’. Fresh ginger is great for that, or a pinch of cayenne or black pepper. And a bit of good quality fat makes a soup SO much better. That could be a lump of butter, some ghee or coconut oil or some coconut milk. Using a bone broth with some animal fat is the best. Don’t be afraid of using good quality fat: we need it, it’s healing and it doesn’t make you fat.” (words taken verbatim from Eveline’s personal website – www.herbcraft.co.uk)
I had always been aware that spices were good for health as well as adding flavours to food, but I really was blown away when Eveline listed all of the different health properties that these spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, turmeric, bay leaf, cinnamon, ginger) had. If you search images of ‘health benefits spices’ you will see all manner of infographics that give you information about these.
Once the demo had been completed, it was time to pair up and share the preparation of our own soup.
We were free to amend the recipe (add more or less of ingredients according to our personal taste) as we wished, and I enjoyed working with Susanne – a really nice Dutch woman. In fact there were three dutch people at the class and this was a amusing coincidence to me, only because the night before Mr B and I had booked our summer holiday to the Netherlands (we’re spending 4 days in Amsterdam and 9 days travelling round – itinerary TBC – any suggestions gratefully received)!
After preparing and cooking our soups, it was nice to sit down together and try all the different soups.
We all were amazed that although our soups had the same basic ingredients, due to using different quantities of spices and tomatoes, each creation was uniquely flavoured in some way. The soup that Susanne and I had made had a real thai-esque kick to it – due to us chopping the ginger quite coarsely and using just a quarter tin of tomatoes.
The two hours passed very quickly and it was lovely to spend the time with this organisation. If you live along/close to the Moray Firth I’d strongly recommend going along to one of the Let’s Cook classes – I’ve included February’s schedule for you below. I would love to return next month but alas no dates are convenient – however I’ll be keeping an eye out on the relevant Facebook pages and will share them on my Facebook page as and when they pop up!