Cook Along Cookbook launched in Derry kitchen

A new Cookbook has just been published by Apex Housing Association, following the success of a unique cookery programme delivered over the last two years.

The Cook Along programme began in 2021 as a means of tackling social isolation and financial stress during the Covid-19 lockdown. It has seen tenants from across the north take part in cooking demonstrations led by local chef, Charlie Dillon, with ingredients supplied by Apex prior to each session.

Initially delivered via Zoom due to restrictions, the Cook Alongs now take place in-person at Apex Living Centre in Derry, with tenants from further afield also able to join in via Zoom.

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The Cook Along Cookbook, launched at an event in Apex’s unique demonstration kitchen in Derry, features a collection of recipes from the programme and has been distributed to more than 5,000 Apex tenants.

Apex tenants taking part in one of the in-person Cook Along sessions held in Apex Living Centre in Derry

Eilish Doherty, Apex Housing Manager, said: “The last few years have been a struggle for many of our tenants, with the pandemic and rising cost of living causing additional stress and worry. Our Cook Along events have provided a social gathering to look forward to, whilst also helping tenants to discover new cooking skills and learn how to budget for food. The launch of this Cookbook is a proud moment for everyone involved in the Cook Along programme.”

Martina O’Neill who participated in the programme, said: “The Cook Along sessions have been absolutely fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed taking part and have made lots of new friends in the process. Chef Charlie has been so patient and always explains everything so well. I was delighted to attend the launch of the Cook Along Cookbook which is a great achievement for Chef Charlie and Apex who have made this programme such a success.”

Chef Charlie Dillon who continues to lead Apex’s Cook Along sessions, said: “It’s been a pleasure being involved in this programme. Delivering demonstrations via Zoom certainly came with its challenges in the beginning, but we soon learned how to make it work and participants really appreciated the opportunity to get involved. Everyone has grown so much in confidence since we started and I’m very proud of what we have all achieved. This Cookbook is a terrific milestone for the programme which continues to go from strength to strength.”

Since 2021, the Cook Along programme has introduced several themed cookery courses included ‘Eat Good, Feel Good’, ‘Eat Well for Less’ and ‘Cooking Healthy Meals on a Budget’. These have provided the opportunity for Apex tenants to meet up in-person or virtually to develop their skills in cooking and budgeting.

Chef Charlie Dillon with Apex staff and Cook Along participants at the launch of the Cook Along Cookbook.

The Cook Along programme has also provided support to local communities. A Cook Along was organised for the tenants of Dove Gardens in the Bogside area of Derry to provide food for their street party aimed at preventing trouble during the August bonfire season.

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To learn more about the Cook Along programme or Cookbook, contact Apex Housing Association on 028 7130 4800 or email [email protected] The Cook Along Cookbook can be downloaded from the Apex website at www.apex.org.uk.

Chef Charlie Dillon leads a Cook Along via Zoom with tenants of Dove Gardens in Derry