On 21 May 2017 Melissa (Penylan Pantry), Sam and Shauna (Hangfire), Bettina (Brød-The Danish Bakery), Goldie (Samosaco), Ericka Duffy (cocktail and taste expert), Ashli (Spillers Records) and I worked together to deliver a unique night of food, drink and music. What united us, apart from our extremely worthy cause to raise money for Action Against Hunger, is our passion about women leading the way in food business and good, ethical, tasty food. We delivered this event under the banner of Meal Squared, a format that delivers collaborative events and which Melissa set up last year to strengthen Cardiff’s growing independent business community.
The inspiration for Cooking From the Heartland came from the ‘Severn Sisters’ Bristol dinner organised by Romy Gill MBE and Kim Somauroo in autumn 2016. It involved women from different food cultures to create a female feast. ‘We were so inspired by our experience [of attending the event] that we decided to have our own version in Wales. Our feast, ‘Cooking from our heartland’ is inspired by the international drinks, food and music makers we know and love’, say Sam and Shauna. For me and the other women who were approached to participate in this evening there was no doubt that this was going to be our kind of fun.
This is the story of our coming together. It tells you why we chose Action Against Hunger, what ‘Cooking from the Heartland’ means to us and why we think it is so important that women work together…
I would particularly like to thank Oliveology, Blaencamel Farm, Cig Lodor Meat, All Greek Delicatessen, CocoCaravanCocoCaravan for donating ingredients for the mezze platter and dessert I prepared for the event. A massive thanks to all the other women who volunteered and worked hard on the night . And to Kas of Waterloo Tea who gave us access to his amazing restaurant/coffee house in Wyndham Arcade to run the event.
We chose Action Against Hunger because …
‘165 million people suffer from childhood malnutrition. If they joined hands, they could form a complete circle around the earth. I think this says it all.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘When we started Hang Fire, we sofa surfed for the first year, ploughing every penny from the last pop-up back into next. Now that we have a roof over our heads, we think if you have two quid, you have a quid to share. It’s important to always give a something back. Action Against Hunger does amazing work all year round, both at home and further afield. It is our chosen partner charity this year. With everything happening in the world right now, we need to keep looking out for each other and help those who aren’t as fortunate as us.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘We’re told that we’re living in exciting times of such progress and achievements in the sphere of technological development and medical advancements, yet so many children are going hungry and die of malnutrition. That isn’t right. Thank goodness for Action Against Hunger for making it their business to help those who are less fortunate.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘Nobody is immune to misfortune. People’s lives change overnight through war, unemployment, illness. People go hungry in Wales. Refugees walk thousands of miles to safety, water and food. In Greece people like us bin-dive to find food. Recently, at food community project in Uganda I often drove past international relief lorries transporting food to South Sudan and Yemen on a massive scale. I support Action Against Hunger with all my heart’. (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
Cooking from our heartland means ….
‘Seasonal, free thinking, creative cooking inspires me. I love nutritious, wholesome ingredients, that are good for your health, soul and mind. My heartland is wherever I happen to fall. I like to cook with local produce from the surrounding area. I feel strongly that the best way to know a new place, is to get stuck into the local food culture.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘We are Celts and experts in the art of slow cooking and smoking. Cooking from our heartland brings those two things together to create our own version of Southern Wales style BBQ using great local produce. We take the best that the UK has to offer and couple it with the cooking techniques we learned in the States all to a soundtrack by Dolly Parton!’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘Baking is an important connection to my birthland. Moving to Wales in 1998, I quickly felt at home but always missed Danish bread. The rubbish Danish Pastries in the UK meant I had to set the record straight. My heartland is with my grandfather (FarFar) who was a baker in central København. My mother, grandmother and I baked to his tales of making bread (brød), pastries and cake. I’ve kept going and now I can do the same for you through Brød.’ (Bettina, Brød)
‘We live in an age where access to “stuff” in unlimited. Every thing’s a commodity. You can hear music from a culture a million miles removed from your own. You have access to ingredients from lands far and wide. Anything goes. This creates an exciting palette for a music fan or food lover. But if something is made with passion, with heart and soul oozing out of it, it hits you in the solar plexus and resonates. That sort of passion is the difference between wholesale, mass produced for the highest margin return and the real deal. I think that the unifying thing about the team bringing this event together is that we are only interested in the real deal. It’s all about passion.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘The Heartland theme meant exploring my connection to Wales which for me revolves around art and literature. My cocktails are inspired by the Davies sisters who contributed much to the artwork and culture that enthrals me about Wales. They bought whole galleries of artwork (Monets, Manets, Rodins). They established Gregynog Hall as a centre of excellence for the arts, crafts and music. Most importantly, the Davies Sisters took in Belgian refugees including the sculptor George Minne, and the painters Valerius de Saedeleer and Gustave van de Woestyne. All three artists were to spend the rest of World War I largely dependent on the Davies family for support. You can visit the Davies Galleries at National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)
‘Cooking from the heartland brings you the taste of my Greece whilst mixing it with world food influences, and good Welsh/UK produce I discovered in the past twenty years living away from the birth land. My platter is about ingredients from some of the businesses involved in the collaboration, whilst I introduce you to some of my favourite Greek and Welsh, UK- based businesses. And every dish reminds me of someone I love. My Yaya (Grandma) for the boozy tzatziki, my Mana (Mom) for the meatballs and my Aderfo (brother) for the fava dip.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
Women should work together …
‘Women make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and account for about two-thirds of the world’s 600 million livestock keepers. Still to this day millions of women and girls around the world are discriminated against simply because they are born female. Events like International women’s day send a message of unity, solidarity and compassion. I hope MealSq Menywod sends out the same message on a smaller scale. Gender discrimination should not be accepted in this day and age.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘We have always championed the idea of bridging the gender gap in any industry, and the hospitality industry is no different. We’re surrounded by talented, courageous women who are a daily inspiration to us. It’s a great privilege to come together and produce an event that is not only authentic but heartfelt from some incredible women truly passionate about what they do.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘In the words of Poly Styrene “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. But I think “oh bondage, up yours!”. Being a go-getting female with a lot of knowledge in your field, you often have to play down your expertise and shrink below your ambitions. With politics at the forefront of many people’s minds at the moment, it’s important to remember that not so long ago women were denied the basic human right to have our say. But let’s not forget we are the lucky ones. Many women worldwide still do not have the right to exercise their own choice. In the face of regressive steps the world has taken lately we must continue to fight for our rights and demand equality.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘I like working with inspirational people, both men and women. But I think this is an event that shows how we women can support each other in business.’ (Bettina, Brød)
‘This meal presents females who work in flavour and taste – each of us in traditionally male-dominated fields. Between our different skillsets, point-of-view, and aesthetics there is a collaboration occurring – from baking, Greek cuisine, smoking, cheese pairing, cocktail mixing, and the music selection by the World’s Oldest Record shop.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)
‘I have had fun and struggles being a female immigrant claiming my place in Britain! As a Greek girl, I was often stereotyped to suit the service industry just fine but some people were shocked I was also a law graduate, a young lecturer or that I chose to start my own food venture. I have had many lives. I refuse to be pigeonholed. And women should fight together against prejudice. Antagonism is not a female trait so it’s time to resist being turned into alpha-males. Our global village relies on running it together. There is space for everyone. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
As the year draws to an end and in the midst of this wonderful festive season it is time to reflect on our food consumption and the amount of edible food that may be wasted. What can you do to love your leftovers and to reduce your food waste?
This Christmas weekend we have had fantastic time in our kitchen using our limited leftovers from Christmas dinner. They went such a long way making us two delicious pie dinners (one with turkey and one with ham), bubble & squeak with our roasted veg, whilst we had planned to use our organic cabbage in a pickled raw salad with seeds because it lasts well over a week! Yesteday we cleared through our cupboards making sure that everything is clearly labelled and this week we will be mainly eating what’s already there.
Make a pledge to join us this year in our effort to help reduce waste, to take care of ourselves better through nutritional meals and to benefit our pockets. There is plenty of inspiration and help from us and Green City Events coming up with Love Food Hate Waste roadshows and cook ups scheduled most of the weekends of January and February 2016.
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In the past couple of months I have worked with Green City Events and Cynefin Cardiff to deliver two cooking workshops and a roadshow to help the kind people of Roath to find ways to reduce their food waste. We have done this in the process of delivering the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign  in Cardiff supported by Wrap Cymru.
The week after our last cooking workshop on 21 February I decided to practice what I preach and took my own personal Love Food Hate Waste challenge. I pledged to shop very little food (apart from fresh essentials) and to eat what is already in my cupboards and freezer for the most part of the week.
The challenge was a great creative success and I saved around £30 as I only bought small quantities of milk, some cheese and some salad to complement the meals we made.
The meal I was most proud of that week was a Mexican spice inspired vegetable dish made from frozen cauliflower, quorn mince and spinach (all commonly kept in my freezer), the leftover greens that we did not use at the cooking workshop on 21 February, the final two spoons of yoghurt, a tin of black beans from my essentials’ pantry and the last cup of couscous from that bag that we have not eaten for ages. Not only did that dish give us dinner and lunch the next day, I actually froze a couple of portions in anticipation of the busy week that followed.
During my challenge I looked carefully through my cupboards and my freezer. For example, I thawed just over half a kilo of meatball mix that was leftover from one of our supper clubs and made a linguini ragú with which gave us a couple of meals for two and another frozen meal.
At the Love Food Hate Waste workshops we aimed to empower people to make personal and household changes to their food consumption and wastage. Lots of people seemed worried about getting a recipe right or that they couldn’t cook with random ingredients. So hopefully through making different mixed vegetable Ribollita soups with various herbs and whatever vegetable was available to us at the same workshop we empowered participants to be creative and daring in adapting recipes to what they have or can afford. Experimenting is the way!
I would definitely recommend Eat-What-You-Have weeks like mine as they will help you sort through your cupboards and freezer. Making shopping lists or using the online Love Food Hate Waste App on your smart phone can help you loads with shopping and meal planning. And if you fancy being inspired by seasonal ingredients or what is on offer, why not browse www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for ideas.
One of the most useful tips I could give you to save food and money is to be aware of what you already store in our cupboards before heading back to the shops. Also storing food correctly, e.g. labelling it, using airtight containers or keeping your fridge temperature low will make you yield more meals from what you buy. Using your freezer more and keeping it tidy is another step to help you achieve this by prepping food in advance, storing the right amount of frozen basics or storing extra portions from meals.
The whole process of this project has made me think long and hard about food waste and food poverty. According to the Trussell Trust the number of people using food banks has almost tripled since last year. And whilst this is because of the increase in the number of food banks set up, a noteworthy effort to help an increasing number of people in need, I cannot reconcile this fact with the amount of food still being wasted in the UK. It is estimated that we still throw away 7 million tons of food and drink a year. This is food is costing all of us £12.5bn each year.
Today I was reading about France’s Good Samaritans law which protects those helping someone in need or peril from being sued or accused if something goes wrong. It is important to protect public health and to minimise risk for people in the food sector. But I wonder, would the introduction of a ‘good Samaritan’ legal principle in the UK encourage all of us personally as well as larger corporations or small (food) businesses to do more to address food poverty or to donate food that we would have otherwise wasted?
 Love Food Hate Waste is a campaign that has been running since 2007 and run by WRAP, a well-established not-for profit company that is responsible for a lot of good work in on resource efficiency and waste reduction across the UK.
The last 2014 Lia’s Kitchen pop-up dinner took place on the last full moon of the year . On Sunday afternoon I ‘sat’ tired amongst boxes and paperwork reflecting on the two pop up dinners we completed this weekend. What a success!
Accounted for are a broken box (it happens), a broken gazebo (don’t ask), at least 30 to-S and fro-S between the shed , the living room and the car, hours of cooking , sorting , cleaning, thinking. And also one proud me and endless moments of contentment.
I begun and ended this year’s pop-up dinners at Penylan Pantry a deli/café that has livened up and brightened our area. I have thrown five pop up dinners since May 2014 all exploring foods, cultures and recipe combinations that I love. It’s been quite the journey, fulfilling and always full of surprises.
The next immediate thing on the cards for me is slightly different in that it will involve educational waste awareness workshops to help people reduce their food waste. I will be working with two social venturers I respect a lot. I am very excited and proud I will be using my free time towards such a venture.
As for the future…it holds surprises that I cannot predict but I am sure there will be congregations as beautiful and warm as those of the last two days. So watch this space ! Get in touch! Don’t be a stranger!
Thanks to all who have joined our table and made these pop up dinners so wonderful. It’s the people who appreciate what’s offered to them and enjoy each other that create this wonderful atmosphere that seeps into our life and fuels Lia’s Kitchen.
Thank you old and new friends who help make Lia’s Kitchen happen through your hard work -you know who you are.
Happy birthday to the Penylan Pantry who is one today. Mel and Jo well done you are stars and thanks for hosting Lia’s Kitchen events.
Photos by Jo, Penylan Pantry, Dean Doyle, Lia’s Kitchen and Dan Green.
This time last week we were taking down our pop-up restaurant and packing Lia’s Kitchen for a return home after a successful art and dining fundraiser and one the happiest birthday’s of my life. Thank you so much for overwhelming us with support, we were fully booked with a waiting list and a few spectacular late night reservation ‘wars’ took place for the last few places at our dinner table.
To all our guests I have to say thank you, you made the atmosphere of the night so wonderful. Thank you to our lovely friends some of which travelled from London and Plymouth for this !!! But even though half the people there we had not met before and they did not know each other, when I walked in to greet everyone before we started eating I was welcomed by a relaxed and comfortable vibe. ‘How wonderful’, I thought, ‘it’s worked!’.
So that you know you have helped us raise enough dosh to cover all our expenses for setting up the pop-up restaurant and to contribute to the fundraising for the community art project in Ghana. There will be more events coming up and you can always purchase a Ghana print from Dan Green Photography to support the art project , see here.
I am so moved and impressed that we have set up and delivered this event in our spare time. Jacob’s Market opened their doors to us- thank you Liz, Ian and Mike (for your wonderful bar and cocktails)! Dan Green set up and took an exhibition of prints and pasting of images from Ghana in 24 hours. Our friends worked so hard with us- Martin chopped and cooked tirelessly. Becks was the best maitre’d with her calm assertiveness. Peanut and Dan rocked the floor and were fantastic hosts. Beth was a joy to work with and gelled wonderfully with the team shifting her attention where it was most needed. And my lovely Elpida, was a rock, washing, serving, tidying and being there to the bitter end.
Some people have asked me whether I am mad holding this event on the eve of my birthday. To this I happily respond that I probably am. But this was the best birthday ever because to see people coming together to support art and food ventures, to see them loving the food and the environment we set up in a white walled gallery is precious. And because I shared a sense of achievement so big with new faces and people I love. I guess it is true that joy when shared is magnified by a million.
See you on 26 October at The Pot, Crwys Road, for the next one!
I am joining forces with Dan Green to create a fundraising art and dining experience. As well as supporting my food ventures, we are collaborating to help raise funds for a community art project in Ghana, a project affiliated to our favourite charity , the Safe Foundation, as we have come to know this Ghanaian community through their work and support.
Large scale prints of photos of the Kumasi community and its members will be pasted in the neighbourhood streets and walls of the school Safe Foundation volunteers started building in 2010. We want to empower and pay tribute to a community that builds its own resilience and gives back to the visiting Safe Foundation volunteers as much as they give to it. The artists will collaborate with the Safe foundation to make this project happen but we will need support to fund its completion, and costs such as materials and airfares.
We will soon be sending more information to many of you about our endeavours but we count on your support to make this project happen. So watch this space, get in touch, get involved!
Our first supper club is taking place on Saturday 21 September 2013 at Jacob’s Market Cardiff. You can book a place at the event here:
And you can find out more about the artists here:
Email me at email@example.com.