I volunteered for the People’s Army for the past three weekends to provide meals for Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London, UCH hospital in Central London, and the Marie Curie hospice in Belsize Park. The Asian supermarket Wing Yip donated ingredients for the main course. As I’m strictly self-isolating, the ingredients were delivered to my door and the People’s Army picked up and delivered the meals.
The first week I made 50 main courses of stir-fried vegetables in coconut milk with udon noodles, 25 portions of cake (blood orange loaf, apple and cinnamon, banana and poppy seed stollen) and 25 lentil soup.
Since I shut my supper club in mid-March due to the lockdown, I’ve only been cooking for one person – me. So I was a bit out of practice. But it was exhilarating to feel useful once again, to feel properly physically tired. My self-esteem has taken a battering due to no work, no income (about £500 earnt so far this year) and being alone. I’m fortunate in that I have a garden – planting seeds, mowing the lawn, watering- have kept me sane. I’ve done a stock-take of ingredients in my pantry.
Hazel Jhugroo, a 29 year old mother of an asthmatic boy, 9, is the founder of the The People’s Army. Despite being stuck at home due to her own disabilities, “I’m quite isolated generally. I couldn’t bear the thought of other people being isolated, not getting enough food”, she acted quickly, amassing a team of 150 volunteers and mobilising The Angel Church to lend their kitchen.
The People’s Army now produce 600 meals, spread over four days a week, which they hand out to vulnerable members of the Angel church community, the Hornsey Lane Community Association, Elizabeth House, Whittingdon Hospital, and the Metropolitan Benefit Cottages, almshouses for people over 75 years old. “I spoke to the warden there who told me ‘ they can’t get out’. Leave it with me, I’ll sort it out” promised Hazel.
“I’ve had help from Perch Smokehouse in N16, who only opened in January of this year, the Black Cat Cafe, a vegan cafe in East London, who gave me all their leftover stock, fashion designer Regina Pyo and her husband chef Jordan Bourke, who donated profits of £1,600 and Guardian food writer Felicity Cloake who has cooked for us.”
“I’m a community person, I’m sociable. I spent the last year caring for my mum who had cancer. She died in October. I did this for her really. ” Nonetheless, Hazel does believe some good will come out of the Corona virus lockdown: “While all this is going on, the pollution is disappearing, which is great for my son, and while I may sound like a mad hippy, I feel the earth is healing”.
Stir fried veg in coconut milk with noodles
- 1/4 white cabbage, finely sliced
- 3 red peppers, seeded, chopped into fine strips
- 4 spring onions, thinly sliced, dark part kept separate for garnish
- 2 large carrots,cut into batons
- 250 g button mushrooms, finely sliced
- 3 tbsp vegetable, sunflower or ground nut oil
- thumb fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp Thai 7 spice
- big splash dark soy sauce
- bunch fresh coriander, separate stems and leaves
- 2 sticks lemon grass, finely chopped
- 6 lime leaves, fresh or frozen
- 1 tbsp sea salt, or more, to taste
- 400 g coconut milk, check side of tin to make sure there aren't too high a percentage of thickeners
- 800g fresh udon noodles or other noodles. If using dried noodles, use 100g per person.
- toasted sesame oil to garnish
- 2 birds eye chillis, finely sliced
- 1 lime, quartered
- Prep all the vegetables into separate bowls, ready for stir frying, keeping the dark part of the spring onion and the coriander leaves separate for garnish.
- Add the oil to a wok on a high heat then add the ginger, garlic, spice, then in order, add the fresh vegetables, continually stirring. Add the dark soy sauce.
- Place the coriander stems, lime leaves, lemon grass, salt into the blender with a third of the coconut milk. Blitz until green.
- Add this green liquid to the stir fry.
- Prepare the boiling water and add the noodles. Fresh ones only take a couple of minutes to cook. Drain and divide into bowls.
- Add the rest of the coconut milk to the stir fry, add the coriander leaves, keeping a few back for a final garnish.
- Divide and tip the stir fry mix on top of the noodles in each bowl, garnishing with coriander, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, a little chili and a wedge of lime. Serve hot.
Blood Orange loaf
- 3 eggs
- 225 g caster sugar
- 75 g salted butter, melted
- 100 ml creme fraiche
- 180 g self raising flour
- 3 zest of blood oranges
- 1 zest of a lemon
- 75 g caster sugar
- 3 juice of blood oranges
- 1 juice of lemon
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy
- Mix the butter and creme fraiche and add slowly to the mixture
- Add in the flour and zest
- Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes
- Put the sugar and juice into a saucepan and heat until dissolved.
- Remove the cake from the oven and make holes all over the top of the cake.
- Pour in the syrup
- Garnish with thin slices of citrus and icing sugar
Please donate to the crowdfunder