My first stint at FoodCycle Cambridge…

I recently discovered FoodCycle, an amazing nationwide organisation dedicated to tackling the issues of food waste and food poverty. They collect donations of surplus food from supermarkets and local businesses, which would otherwise be thrown away and, in their own words, ‘empower local communities to set up groups of volunteers’ to prepare healthy, nutritious meals on a regular basis for those in need in the community. However, FoodCycle isn’t exclusive, the food is offered to anyone and everyone, a £2 donation is welcome from those who can afford it. I had a look at the website for Cambridge’s FoodCycle hub, saw a call for volunteers on twitter and decided to offer my services!

So, yesterday morning I defrosted my bike saddle and headed to the kitchens of St Pauls Church in Cambridge to meet Jen, the lady leading the cooking team for the day. I was the first to arrive and found Jen unpacking that days donated food. The food is collected the night before, then the coordinator devises a menu using the available ingredients. In this case, when life gives you a huge pile of leeks, an insane amounts of bananas and a selection of root vegetables, you make…

After a cup of tea and a chat with the rest of the food prep team, amongst whom, were fellow Cambridge food bloggers Miss Igs and Sue Flay of The Secluded Tea Party, we set to work…

The soup was made up of carrots and broccoli…

with a dash of cream and a sprinkle of paprika…

I was in charge of the main course along with Miss Igs. We were using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for roasted pale roots crumble as a starting point but throwing in a bit of artistic licence on ingredients. We chopped everything into similar size pieces and put them into large baking trays…

Then made up a dressing of honey, mustard, oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and got our hands dirty to make sure everything was well coated…

We then popped them in the oven for 45 minutes, gave them a good old mix up and popped them back in for another 20 minutes…

At which point they were looking and smelling delicious…

Miss Igs toasted and chopped some walnuts, which we sprinkled over the roasted veg along with a drizzle of single cream…

We then covered the whole tray in a crumble topping made of oats, grated cheese, breadcrumbs and thyme…

After 20 more minutes in the oven it looked like this…

We served it up with cheesy leeks…

Apparently bananas feature quite regularly on the FoodCycle menu due to the fact that they can become overripe quite quickly making them unsalable. Jen encouraged us to come up with an idea for pudding as banana based inspiration was running a little dry. I’d stashed a recipe for caramelised banana upside down cake in my memory banks but for the life of me couldn’t remember where I’d seen it. But with a little help from Uncle Google I found this recipe. Emily, who was in charge of pudding chopped the bananas, laid them in the bottom of a baking tray and drizzled them with a mixture of melted butter and dark brown sugar…

She made up a banana sponge batter, which she poured over the top…

It then went into the oven and we waited nervously for 40 minutes to see whether our experiment had worked. Making something like this wouldn’t usually be so nervewracking but scaling a normal recipe up to this huge size is a bit of a new experience for me. We needn’t have worried though, it came out of the oven smelling delicious with gorgeous puddles of caramel seeping up the edges of the tin…

The bananas were gorgeously sticky and sweet and the delicately spiced sponge was light and moist…

I think we can say that it was a great success…

When all the cooking was done and dusted it was serving time. A second team of volunteers had the dishing up and serving covered and we were given the chance to sit down with the FoodCycle beneficiaries and enjoy the fruits of our labour…

I thoroughly enjoyed my FoodCycle experience, not only did I get a chance to meet like minded foodies, but I got to spend a morning doing what I love best and all for a good cause! I’ll definitely be signing up for another session soon. If you’re interested in volunteering there’s more information on their Facebook page here.

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