The community centre in Farland Way in Hazelbank was transformed into a busy restaurant on Tuesday evening when local residents finished off a healthy cooking course by dishing up homemade soups and savoury delights.
The ‘Cook It’ course was facilitated by Habinteg Peripatetic Community Support Worker, Margaret Cunningham and was funded by the Community Fund for Northern Ireland.
“This is the end of the six week healthy cooking programme and we thought what better way to finish it off than by having the women of the group cook for the men on Tuesday and then the return the favour a few days later,” said Margaret.
“All of the food here tonight is homemade and has been prepared using the most healthy of ingredients.”
In recent years, Margaret has delivered ‘Cook It’ courses for young people living in both Hazelbank and Ballymagroarty but the most recent one held in Farland was the first of its kind aimed at older residents.
“We wanted to do something for the older people of the area and to be honest, I was completely surprised by the enthusiasm for such a course.
“Over the last six weeks the participants in the course received talks on how to prepare a healthy dinner.
“They were educated on the dangers of high salt intake, food hygiene as well as the importance of certain vitamins, nutrients and fibre,” explained Margaret.
Over the last six weeks local women met in the community centre on a Tuesday evening whilst the men would meet up on a Thursday.
Farland Way resident, Dolores McClean said she enjoyed taking part in the project and added that despite the health talks she still likes to sprinkle a little salt on her food before eating.
“I have lived here for 22 years and this is the first time anything like this has every been done here,” said Dolores who is also a member of the COSY (Citizens Of Senior Years) club.
“I had so much fun working alongside the other women and we were able to share plenty of tips and advice.
“In one of the talks we were told about the dangers of having too much salt in our diets. Don’t get me wrong, I have cut back on the amount of salt I use but I enjoy it too much to go without it completely - it’s one of my weaknesses,” laughed Dolores.
Tuesday evening’s menu comprised of carrot and lentil soup for starters, chicken with low fat cream cheese wrapped in bacon with vegetables for the main course and a trio of desserts (profiteroles, raspberry trifle and stewed apples).
“Tonight’s food has been amazing,” said Dolores. “I am not sure what we enjoyed more, eating the food or preparing it,” she joked.
“But seriously, until I took part in this ‘Cook It’ I had no idea that such food could be so tasty and really good for you at the same time.”
John ‘Banty’ Nash has lived in Farland Way for the last 14 years. John is an active member of the Springtown Activity and Horticultural Group and explained how the ‘Cook It’ course has helped him make best use of some of the vegetables and herbs he has grown.
“We have a little community garden in Shaw’s Court in Ballymagroarty. We grow a variety of different vegetables and herbs there.
“I have learned so much from this course and I now know how to make my own carrot soup using carrots I have grown myself.
“There’s a small piece of land near the community centre in Farland Way so I am hoping to turn it into a small allotment and hopefully then I’ll be able to grow even more vegetables,” he smiled.
Geraldine Fitzpatrick is the Development Officer for the COSY club and she said that due to recent success of the ‘Cook It’ she would like to see similar courses taking place in the Farland Way area.
“Margaret Cunningham is a big reason why this project was so successful - she’s a joy to work with.
“The residents who took part really enjoyed the course and for some of them it was a welcome opportunity to get out of the house and meet new people.
“I’ve no doubt that friendships have been forged on the back of the project and hopefully this type of project can happen again in the not too distant future,” she said.