I was a lucky child. Neither my sister nor I experienced any major accidents, illnesses or health issues. Our occasional visits to hospital were brief and easily dealt with by our local hospital or local health services.

But some families are not so lucky. Some families have to deal with serious childhood sicknesses that are desperately worrying, may require specialist treatment and can result in short or long stays in hospitals far from home. How hard it must be for parents to handle the extra stress of journeys to and from home and hospital, trying to simultaneously provide love and support to the child in hospital and as normal an environment for their other children, let alone trying to keep on top of work commitments and everyday chores.

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The Sick Children’s Trust provides free, high quality ‘Home from Home’ accommodation as well as emotional and practical support to families who have seriously ill children in hospital. Founded in 1982 by two paediatric specialists Dr Jon Pritchard and Professor James Malpas, the charity has ten houses based at major paediatric hospitals across the UK and it costs them just £28 per night to provide their much-needed service. They currently support around 3,500 families a year and demand is growing, as children must increasingly travel long distances for the specialist treatment they need.

At a recent launch event for the trust’s Big Chocolate Tea Party, I listened first hand to the stories of parents who had stayed in one of the homes, and unsurprisingly, it made a huge difference to each and every one of them. The accommodation allows the parents and any siblings of the sick child to stay together in a location close to the hospital, providing not only a base to sleep but also a place to rest, to unwind and to emotionally recharge during a very tough time.

The Sick Children’s Trust is once again asking supporters to host their own Big Chocolate Tea Party between now and May to help raise funds to support the charity’s work.

They aim to raise £100,000 which will go a huge way in helping them support sick children and their families. Remember, just £28 provides a room in a Home from Home for a night.

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Edd Kimber’s S’more Choux Buns and John Whaite’s Chocolate Teaser soufflé

Paul A Young, master chocolatier and Vice President of the Sick Children’s Trust has been inspired and touched by the charity’s work. The Big Chocolate Tea Party gives him “the perfect opportunity to use [his] love of chocolate to fundraise in a fun and indulgent way while supporting many families who are facing the most difficult of circumstances miles from their home.”

Paul,  Raymond Blanc, Edd Kimber and John Whaite have provided recipes to inspire anyone keen to get involved, you can find ideas and download some of these recipes and fundraising materials here.

Alternatively, email email chocolate@sickchildrenstrust.org for a free party pack, which includes more recipes.

As a thank you for taking part and helping to raise funds to support the charity’s homes, all those who host a party or bake-off during the May 2015 Big Chocolate Tea Party campaign will be entered into a draw for a chocolate tea weekend for two in Paris, including Premium Leisure Eurostar tickets, two nights bed and breakfast accommodation in a five star Paris hotel and a pair of tickets to Salon du Chocolate, the prestigious annual chocolate show.

John Whaite’s Chocolate Teaser soufflé

This recipe is blissfully easy, but more importantly, it’s decadently perfect for a lazy, indulgent brunch. The mayonnaise isn’t a typing error – I use mayonnaise a lot when working with chocolate cakes I need to be gooey. The mayonnaise adds an egg-like texture, which helps create an unctuous inside because it doesn’t coagulate like an egg.

Makes four

Ingredients
2 tsp golden caster sugar
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (60% is fine, don’t go overly bitter)
70g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbsp golden syrup
5 eggs, separated
1 tbsp mayonnaise
200g Maltesers, roughly bashed
For the sauce
100g milk chocolate
100ml double cream
100g Maltesers, bashed to fine pieces
Essential equipment
4 x 200ml ramekins, very well greased with butter
Baking sheet

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.
  • Sprinkle the sugar into the greased ramekins and shake about so the sides and base are covered.
  • Place the chocolates and golden syrup into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Allow the chocolate to slowly melt together with the syrup, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, but not set.
  • Meanwhile, put the egg whites into a mixing bowl and whisk until they are fluffy and stiff.
  • Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate along with the mayonnaise. Gently fold in the roughly bashed Maltesers, before very gently folding in the whisked whites – you want the mixture to be a smooth, even- toned batter, though of course with humps of Malteser.
  • Divide the mixture between the ramekins, cleaning the rim of each with your thumb. Set on to the baking sheet and bake for 10–12 minutes, or until beautifully risen. They may crack on top, but who cares – you’re going to be diving in soon anyway.
  • To make the sauce, simply place the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, allow the chocolate to melt into the cream until you have a smooth, glossy sauce.
  • To serve, tell the eater to take a spoonful out of the centre, then pour in some of glorious, warm sauce.

Thank you to The Sick Children’s Trust for inviting me along to your launch event, and sharing with me the amazing work you do to help sick children and their families. Recipe and images courtesy of The Sick Children’s Trust.

 

It’s been a long time since we had a war that really touched ordinary Brits; a war that threatened us on our home ground. More than 60 years, in fact.  So perhaps it’s easier now than it was back then for people to feel disconnected to our armed forces; out of sight is out of mind. The arenas of war in which our military fight now are far removed and unfamiliar; we see them daily on the TV and in the papers, but it’s hard to really understand what our soldiers are doing, why they are doing it and what they are going through, on our behalf.

But whatever you think about the rights, wrongs or justifications of any given military action; what you think the role of our military ought to be; your opinions on the global socio-economic-political environment in which we (and our military) operate and the best ways to make the world a safer place… none of this should stop you from being thankful to the men and women who put their lives on the line because our country asks them to.

I can’t imagine the life of a soldier, in combat or not.

Nor can I imagine what it’s like, for both serving and retired soldiers (and their families), to discover that your country is unwilling or unable to give you all the support you need during and after your time of service.

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ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is there to fill that gap, whether it’s financial assistance when in need; help in organising and funding training, education and support to secure employment after leaving the army; practical (and emotional) help in adapting to physical disability, including modifications to homes and transport; top up grants to cover the costs of care homes for elderly veterans…

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Great Hall, Royal Hospital Chelsea; Dan, with whom we shared a wonderful chat over lunch

Last month, I was privileged to attend an event to launch ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Big Curry, the charity’s now annual fundraising campaign which invites supporters to host their own Big Curry events across the UK, to help raise money for the charity. The launch event saw an eclectic group of professional chefs, food writers, bloggers and random celebrities attend a wonderful Big Curry lunch with the Chelsea Pensioners. Cooked by Gurkha master chef Pemba Lama (author of The Ultimate Nepalese Cookbook), the feast was served in the Great Hall at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

It was an enormous pleasure to take our places amongst the pensioners and join them for this lunch. I was also delighted to meet Pemba Lama and his publisher Annie Watsham, having posted a review of The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book, sales of which support the Gurkha Welfare Trust .

The Soldiers’ Charity has been supporting our soldiers and their families since 1944. If you’d like to step forward and help them with their work, read more about how you can contribute, here.

If you’re thinking of cooking a big curry feast at home, here are some menu planning tips from Mamta’s Kitchen.

 

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Curry for Change is a fundraising and awareness campaign by charity Find Your Feet.

Find Your Feet is a small organisation currently working in the most remote areas of India, Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe. They help poor rural families improve their agricultural practices so they can grow enough food; support them in finding their voice so they are better able to speak up for themselves when it comes to defending their rights, dealing with injustice and corruption and claiming any meagre grants or benefits that might be available; and help them to create income streams which allow them to find their feet.

The Curry for Change campaign aims to raise awareness of the charity’s projects in India, through a celebration of Indian cuisine and by doing so, hopes to raise £10,000 towards it’s projects in all four countries.

 

The Indian project office is based in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, which is where my mum grew up and where most of her family still live. She had the great fortune to be born into a family that lived in comfort, ate well and could afford to educate all their children to university level and give them the best start in life.

But many in the state don’t share that good luck and live lives of hardship, poor health, grinding poverty, prejudice and injustice.

Find Your Feet, through their Curry For Change campaign, are asking you to help them improve the lives and prospects of communities that are isolated, marginalised and struggling to survive

 

There are two prongs to the campaign:

 

Dine Out

A number of Indian restaurants (including charity patron Atul Kochhar’s restaurants) have committed to asking diners throughout the month of June to add donations to their bills. Visit any of the partner restaurants any time in June, enjoy a wonderful meal and contribute to Curry For Change at the same time.

Other restaurants on the list for 2013 Atul Kochhar’s Benares and Indian Essence, Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho, Cyrus Todiwala’s Cafe Spice as well as Roti Chai and Regency Club. Hopefully, that list will be even bigger by the time June 1st rolls around.

 

Cook a Curry

Find Your Feet is calling on you to organise your own Curry for Change event to raise funds for their many projects.

Bring your family and friends together, ask them to buy tickets or donate during the evening and see how much you can raise.

It’s much easier than you think to cook a fabulous Indian feast at home and share with it family and friends.

When you register online, you’ll receive a bag of Indian spices, some great recipes from Atul Kochhar and Anjali Pathak, invitations and thank you notes for your guests, and a donation form and envelopes to collect contributions. And everyone who hosts a Curry for Change event will be entered into a prize draw for a personal cookery class with Anjali Pathak.

Mum and I have put together some Mamta’s Kitchen menu suggestions for you here. Or you can put your own selection of dishes together, we have hundreds and hundreds at mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

You have until November 30th to take part, so plenty of time to plan, invite, host and return the donations.

 

I’m posting today to give you a heads up and encourage you to get involved, either by visiting one of the partner restaurants during June, or hosting a fundraising curry night between June and November. Thanks for reading!

 

Tools For Self Reliance Cymru collect old and unwanted hand tools, mostly those used by gardeners, and their volunteers clean, repair and sharpen them. They send their refurbished tool kits to grass roots community groups in Africa.

As they explain, "Tools mean work, and the chance to shape their future, just as important to a young person in Tanzania or Ghana today as it is in Britain."

Abergavenny-2003

In addition to sending tools to Africa, TFSR Cymru also buy tools and items made by blacksmiths in Africa, those they have supported in the past, and bring them back to the UK for sale.

TSFR Cymru also sell a large number of tools that they receive for refurbishment but which are not required by their African partners, either because they are easily made locally or are not needed there. These tools are also cleaned and sharpened, fitted with new handles where necessary and often have much more character than modern tools.

Abergavenny-2004

We encountered TSFR Cymru at this year’s Abergavenny Food Festival when their box of rakes, hoes, cultivators, dibbers caught our eye. When we saw how reasonable the prices were, Pete could not resist purchasing a cultivator, which shall be put to good work in the garden and allotment in coming months.

There were also some smaller gardening and other tools available which would be ideal for gardeners, or as gifts for gardening friends.

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Tools For Self Reliance Cymru are an independent registered charity based in Crickhowell in South Wales, and they collect tools from across Wales.

For those outside Wales, if you have friends and family closer to TFSR Cymru  or are planning a holiday, do look at whether you are able to contribute any old and unwanted tools for them to refurbish. TSFR Cymru have four groups in Wales as well as a network of collectors who also help them gather suitable tools.

 

(There is also a separate UK Tools for Self Reliance organisation which does similar work and may have centres near you).

 

With thanks to Abergavenny Food Festival for press passes to attend the festival.

 

Thanks to Fuss Free Flavours, I learned about this lovely way of supporting UNICEF by naming a colour.

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Our perception of colours in the world around us is limited only by the complexity and sensitivity of our eyes.

But when it comes to representing colours on a computer screen, things are much more precise. Helen explains it really well: “computers do things by absolute values and each colour is defined by the amount of red, green and blue it contains on a scale of 0 to 255, making a total of 16,777,216 colours that can be displayed.”

Dulux have come up with a novel way of raising money for children’s charity, UNICEF. For a donation of £1 (or more, if you like) you can choose and name one of these 16.7 million colours. All the money raised will go directly to help transform children’s lives.

The first two colours I’ve picked are the Mamta’s Kitchen logo colours, to celebrate our recent 10th anniversary, not to mention the fun of being featured on the Leon menu. (For those of you who don’t know, Mamta’s Kitchen is the family cookbook website that Pete and I run with my mum, Mamta).

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I’ve called them Mamta’s Kitchen Chilli Red and Mamta’s Kitchen Turmeric Yellow (though eagled eyed among you will notice a missing apostrophe in the yellow – names can be no longer than 30 characters).

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I am definitely going to choose and name some more colours; it’s well worth a teeny tiny pound for the fun let alone supporting a great cause!

I hope you name some colours of your own. Do let me know what colours and names you choose!

 

Mamta’s Kitchen celebrates its 10th anniversary in May 2011. During that time we’ve had over 6.9 million visits and we have over 1,400 recipes on the site, contributed by Mamta, family and friends and our readers.

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For those of you who don’t know, Mamta is my mum. Pete and I designed the site and do all the maintenance and support. Mum is the driving force behind the content.

To celebrate this anniversary, we’re holding a fundraising all-day cookery class in Mamta’s own kitchen, with proceeds going to the Khushboo Welfare Society (see below).

For those who can’t make this date, we hope to offer additional dates soon.

Date: Saturday 14th May
Time: 10 am to approximately 8 pm
Location: Mamta’s Kitchen, Luton, Bedfordshire
Price: £95 per person

Included

  • Lassi and cumin biscuits on arrival
  • A light lunch that you will cook together
  • A tasty dinner that you will cook together
  • Wine and soft drinks with dinner
  • Tea, coffee and biscuits during the day
  • Printed recipes


Provisional Menu

These are the dishes we are planning to make during the day, however the exact menu will depend on availability of ingredients, so we may switch one or more dishes nearer the time.

  • Lunch: Mixed pakoras
  • Lunch: Paneer Cream Tikka
  • Lunch: A Mix of Indian salads
  • Break: Chai
  • Dinner: Meatball curry
  • Dinner: Spiced Fried Fish
  • Dinner: Stuffed Aubergines
  • Dinner: Urad Daal Khada Masala
  • Dinner: Matar Pulao (Pilaf)
  • Dinner: Rotis & Pooris
  • Dinner: Vermicelli Kheer

Of course, we have never run this kind of event before, so we’re making our best guess on how much we can cover in the time. We may not manage to make every dish but we’ll cover as much as we possibly can and we have reserve plans to ensure that dinner shall be a feast, regardless!

Additional Information

The class will start at 10 am and includes a drink and snack on arrival, lunch and dinner, drinks and snacks during the day, and wine and soft drinks with dinner. We’ll aim to sit down for dinner at around 6 pm so finish time will be approximately 8 pm.

We are limiting class size to 5 students. They will be joined for the meals by Mamta’s little helpers, Pete and Kavita and possibly one or two other family members for dinner.

As the class is being held in a domestic kitchen, with a single oven and stove top, students will be working together to create the dishes and will need to take turns to participate. But don’t worry, there will be plenty of hands on experience throughout the day.

The (Luton) address will be provided on confirmation of booking. Plenty of (free) parking is available. Alternatively, you can train to Luton station which is a short bus/ taxi ride from our house. We may be able to collect you from the station if we can coordinate arrival times.

We will donate at least £60 from each student’s fees to the Khushboo Welfare Society. If ingredients costs come in a little lower than budgeted, we’ll be able to better that.

Khushboo Welfare Society is a small, voluntary NGO in Gurgaon (near Delhi), which provides multidisciplinary education for the development and rehabilitation of children, adolescents and young adults with mental and multiple disabilities. This is something that is not widely available in India, even today.

Booking

Please email Kavey@mamtaskitchen.com for further information and to book your place.

 

Please visit my friend, MiMi’s blog to read about how you can help by donating to the Red Cross.

As MiMi points out, “Japan has asked for outside help, and for a country as proud as that to do so, they must be in severe need right now – faced as they are by earthquake, tsunami, nuclear emergency and an erupting volcano.”

Please consider donating what you can.

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